ByTom Chapman, writer at
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Tom Chapman

From Hollywood heartthrob to fading into obscurity, early '00s darling had seemingly slipped off the map. While the 38-year-old Sin City actor is no Brendan Fraser, he is certainly remembered as one of cinema's missing actors (although he experienced something of a comeback in Showtime's Penny Dreadful and has seven projects lined up in 2017!). However, did you know that back when Christopher Nolan was hunting for a lead, Hartnett turned down the part of ? In another case of, "Why didn't I do that?" Hartnett has opened up further about his brush with the bat in turning down the chance to play the Caped Crusader.

In a time when we were still cowering from Batcards, rubber nipples, and Alicia Silverstone's backside, Harnett turned down the opportunity of a lifetime to appear in the franchise reboot and 's Batman Begins. All was going swimmingly and the entire history of cinema could've been a very different landscape, but it sounds like Harnett went and threw a batarang into the works.

Flying Without Wings

After Joel Schumacher and George Clooney had effectively killed off Batman, hopes were high that an eight-year hiatus would help the Caped Crusader leap over Gotham City and the box office once more. Determined to shrug off the naysayers, Nolan successfully managed to craft his Dark Knight universe, which is up there with the original Star Wars and the Godfather films as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

While casting processes were nowhere near as hyped as they are nowadays, Nolan had reportedly whittled it down to just three names: , Cillian Murphy, and Josh Hartnett. Bale went on to nab the part as the titular Dark Knight and Murphy went on to play Dr. Jonathan Crane, but what the hell happened to Harnett?

Speaking to the Associated Press, Harnett admits he dropped the ball when backing out of Nolan's vision:

“I would welcome the opportunity to be in a relationship with a great artist in our film culture, no matter where they’re making films. In that instance, I think my regret mostly was not forming the friendship or the creative partnership with that director, more than it was [not] doing Batman”.

Bale's gravelly grumble took the character through all three films, while is currently the man currently hanging upside down in spandex. With Affleck FINALLY secure in his role, chances are he won't be leaving the Batcave anytime soon, and his upcoming and movies should solidify his place in the . However, at six years his senior, Affleck shows that there could still be time for Harnett to don the cowl yet.

Bat To The Future

Sadly, for the Nolan era, it sounds like it was a wrong place, wrong time situation, which would sure have been different if Hartnett knew what we know now. Ultimately, he cites scheduling conflicts as for the main reason behind withdrawing from the race:

“It wasn’t about not doing studio films. At the time, what I was interested in was… the film that I did instead of that was a tiny film about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome, falling in love with a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was a true story, Mozart And The Whale. It was more a question of what I wanted to do as opposed to what I didn’t want to do, and I always try to look at things that way.”

Despite what Harnett says, I personally think that he was more worried about the backlash that Clooney received after the 1997 fiasco. Whereas Michael Keaton took the franchise to glory in 1989, Val Kilmer's reign in Batman Forever was less favorable, and let's not talk about Clooney. Remember that before Batman Begins, the character was in a state of disarray and was even more lame than his campy '60s era. It may be hard to imagine the character being in any sort of trouble nowadays, but there were dark times for the Dark Knight before, well, the Dark Knight saga.

Hartnett's career may have included highs like Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down, as well as a recent revival thanks to Showtime's Penny Dreadful, but he always feels like one of those actors who just doesn't quite make it. There is no denying that Bale owned the role, and it is hard to imagine Hartnett doing a better job, but it would've been an interesting portrayal I'm sure. Hartnett's portrayal of the cheeky Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful certainly emulates the playboy side of Bruce Wayne that we rarely get to see in Batman feature films, but I guess we will never know.

Previously linked to parts like Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman, Hartnett falls into the Armie Hammer category of someone who just needs the chance to pick up a movie. With Disney, Warner Bros., Fox, and Sony all pushing forward with their superverses, surely someone somewhere can find room for our downtrodden little Joshy?

Check out Bale in action in the Batman Begins trailer and don't forget our poll below!


Do you wish that Hartnett had the chance to portray Batman?

(Source: Associated Press)


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