UHMC: Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One
Back in the year 2000, Darren Aronofsky was hired by Warner Bros. to collaborate with Frank Miller and write a live-action adaptation of Miller’s masterpiece graphic novel, “Batman: Year One.” Aronofsky was signed on to direct. Warner Bros. ended up rejecting the script because-for starters-they believed it veered too far from the original source material despite it being co-written by the original author. Warner Bros. and Aronofsky parted ways-no hard feelings-and the world ended up with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m exceedingly happy with 2/3 of the Christopher Nolan adaptation. We got from it the performance of a lifetime-literally-that will go down as the greatest comic book character interpretation ever. But what if things had gone differently? Or better yet, what if we were given the best of both worlds and Batman and movie nerds like myself could’ve spent our lives debating it?
A while back, I had heard rumor that the elusive Batman: Year One script intended for Aronofsky to flesh out was still floating around.
Well I found it!!
As you read it, you will notice lots of elements from the graphic novel and the Batman origin as you and I know it that are very unique. But it works. The other warning I’d give you is that this draft is clearly an early one. It’s riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes (but you can make it out if you use common sense) and if you’re a trained screenwriter, you can probably guess which scenes would’ve been cut or omitted during production.
Since we’ll likely never see this actually happen, I have no choice but to write this post under the category of UHMC (Ultimate Hypothetical Movie Casting.) If you actually read the script before reading through my suggestions, the casting choices will make a lot more sense.
How I chose my cast is a little strategic. I looked at Aronofsky’s most recent and most popular films and found several actors that have worked with Aronofsky on multiple films. Then I considered what younger/newer actors I think would work well in the very trippy, almost Dalían world Aronofsky is famous for creating. As always, if you have any suggestions or objections, bring it on.
Bruce Wayne/Paul Dano: A stupendous actor with a very impressive resumé of a wide range of characters. I’m immediately reminded of his performances from the under-appreciated thriller “Prisoners” and his surprise performance from “Little Miss Sunshine.” In Aranofsky and Miller’s interpretation, Bruce Wayne is in hiding still having not claimed his parents’ inheritance, is intensely frustrated and depressed with the state of Gotham City, while suffering from horrible night terrors.
Detective Gordon/Bryan Cranston: Cranston actually already played this role. He was the voice of Detective Gordon in the 2011 animated adaptation of “Batman: Year One.” (The animated version is almost frame-for-frame of the graphic novel.) In Aranofsky’s version, just like the graphic novel, Gordon, is exceedingly stressed with a child on the way and trying to figure out how to gain control of Gotham as newly-transferred detective while working alongside a corrupt commissioner and politicians. I can already so clearly in my mind the first scene of Gordon sitting on the toilet of his cramped bathroom with a revolver in his mouth daring himself to pull the trigger.
Harvey Dent/Hugh Jackman: I am of the generation that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine first and foremost forever. But if Michael Keaton can crossover, why can’t Jackman? As what appears to be the only clean politician brave enough to try to take on the mob, who else would you want? Because of filming “Prisoners” together already, there is clearly already a rapport there that I would welcome seeing again.
Commissioner Loeb/Mark Margolis: A veteran of at least 4 Aranofsky films (“Pi,” “Requiem For A Dream,” “Black Swan,” and “Noah”), Margolis is clearly an actor Aranofsky trusts and enjoys working with. Margolis is known for playing horrible characters with no moral compass and barely a soul. He would be perfect to embody the extremely corrupt police commissioner constantly at odds with Detective Gordon.
Little Al/Forest Whitaker: So if you actually took the time to read the script, here you have probably one of the most glaring differences from the original graphic novel and overall Batman folklore. Instead of Alfred being a former member of British intelligence and butler extraordinaire, you have Little Al, a black, second-generation bodyshop owner. There are mentions of medical training from former Army days long gone, but clearly nothing to the accolade that we know Alfred Pennyworth to have. All this notwithstanding, I believe Forest Whitaker is a fine choice to play the quiet and strong, but at the same time apprehensive father figure that the character of Little Al appears to be. An awkward but caring relationship that he clearly has for Bruce and wanting to see him get passed his demons and find inner peace, however that may be.
Selina/Lupita Nyong’o: Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o can do it all. A stunningly beautiful and strong actress, Nyong’o would physically and psychologically embody Selina Kyle perfectly. Alongside her trusted Holly, the two are a smart and strong duo constantly trying to outsmart and outlast their pimp and whoever else that tries to get in their way of their next big score.
Holly/Millie Bobby Brown: What would undoubtedly be considered a controversial character to create in a movie. Has there ever been a 13 year old prostitute in a movie since Jodie Foster in “Taxi Driver?” I’m telling you right now, this girl will win an Oscar at some point in the next 10 years or less. She can pull off anything.
Joker/T.J. Miller: Although a non-speaking cameo tease, when I read in the script that there is a character with “greenish hair in a straight jacket,” my inner 12-year old self jumped for joy. All you need is about 3 seconds of screen time just laughing. Put some pale makeup and have him smile wide and let T.J. Miller go.
As I said, an Aranofsky vision of Batman will likely never happen. But if it did, who would you imagine to be the actors to bring these characters to life? As always, I’m open to comments and suggestions.