Frank Miller on Darren Aronofsky's unmade Batman film
'My Batman was too nice for him.'
After the box office failure of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. decided it was time to reboot the Batman franchise in a bold new direction. Everyone knows what happened next: The studio hired a dynamic young filmmaker, who crafted a dark-and-gritty origin story derived from the Batman stories by Frank Miller. That dynamic young filmmaker was Darren Aronofsky, an ascendant indie director rising off the critical success of π and Requiem for a Dream. Aronofsky actually hired Frank Miller to co-write a screenplay loosely based on Batman: Year One, Miller’s gritty-origin collaboration with David Mazzucchelli. The film would reboot the Caped Crusader in the far opposite direction from Batman & Robin‘s plastic excess: Aronofsky has stated on many occasions that he envisioned an R-Rated superhero film.
Year One never happened. Aronofsky spent the next decade almost directing blockbuster movies (like RoboCop and The Wolverine) while minting his career as cinema’s High Weird auteur with The Fountain, Black Swan, and Noah. Miller experienced a Hollywood renaissance with Sin City and 300 adaptations, followed by frequent controversies over his political views.
Miller is currently basking in a career victory lap. His first Batman-centric masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (We discussed it in the Entertainment Geekly podcast a few weeks back.) And this month sees the release of Batman v Superman and the new season of Daredevil, two major works derived from Miller’s Hall of Fame run across ’80s comics history.
In a new interview with Borys Kit at the Hollywood Reporter, Miller discusses several aspects of his career. He also discusses Donald Trump and the rights of comic book artists. The whole thing is worth reading just for the part where Miller talks about the difference between fascism and libertarianism, but the key line comes when Miller talks about his unmade Aronofsky collaboration.
“It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine,” says Miller, who once drew a comic book panel where Batman breaks the Joker’s neck. “My Batman was too nice for him,” Miller continues. “I’d say, ‘Batman wouldn’t do that, he wouldn’t torture anybody.'” Given that Miller spent the back half of the 2000s planning a story about Batman fighting Al-Qaeda, the only conclusion to draw is that Aronofsky’s version of Batman was a full-fledged sadist.
Perhaps understandable, then, that Warner Bros. didn’t wind up greenlighting the project. “The executive wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to,” Miller says. “This wasn’t it… the Batmobile was just a tricked-out car. And Batman turned his back on his fortune to live a street life so he could know what people were going through.”
It’s intriguing to note how the Aronofsky/Miller Batman makes Christopher Nolan’s eventual Batman Begins seem positively mild. Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader was justly praised for reconsidering the character away from Schumacher-era decadence, but Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne still had his expensive toys and his mansion. (Year One‘s Batman would’ve had a Batcave in the subway.)
Read the full Frank Miller THR interview here.