In a new interview with Psychotronic Cinema, director Joe Dante claims that he came this close to making his own Batman movie...and that his plan was to cast John Lithgow as the Joker.
I wanted to hire John Lithgow for (the Joker) because I had met him on The Twilight Zone movie. And for whatever reason, I started to gravitate more towards The Joker than towards Batman. And I actually woke up one night and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this movie—I’m more interested in The Joker than I am in Batman, and that’s not the way it should be.’ So I went and told them that I couldn’t do it, and they looked at me like I’d completely lost my mind. But in the end, I think I was not the right guy to do the movie.
What would Dante's Batman have been like? Dark, but not necessarily Chris Nolan dark:
...The Batman that I was going to do would have been completely different from what (Tim Burton) ended up making. This was right after Gremlins, and Tom Mankiewicz, who had written a lot of James Bond movies, had done this take on Batman which was certainly not Chris Nolan-dark, was certainly darker than the TV version. It started with his parents being killed, and it was a revenge story. But it was very outlandish, had a lot of giant props in it.
It accomplishes nothing to daydream about a Joe Dante Batman that never was, but I'll be damned if I haven't spent the last ten minutes doing just that. Lithgow Joker? Giant props? A revenge tale? I grew up with the Burton Batman, so I'm happy enough with what we got. But, man, what I wouldn't give to see Dante's bonkers take on the same characters (I wonder if the Dante version exists in script form? Lemme know if it does and you've got a copy).
Head on over to Pyschotronic Cinema to read the rest of their sprawling interview with Dante. It's definitely worth a peek.
(By the way, H/T to the good folks at Slashfilm for pointing this interview out to us)