ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

When it comes to classic comic book characters, there're always some seriously surprising almost-castings that seem almost impossible to picture in retrospect.

Nicolas Cage as Superman, for instance, is about as jarring an idea as it's possible to conceive of - but that's what we almost saw in Superman Lives. Similarly, it's now near-impossible to imagine anyone other than Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, but back when X-Men was in pre-production, Dougray Scott had very much been hired to play the role, before production delays on Mission Impossible II forced him to pull out.

There are, however, some almost-castings that are even harder to imagine than those.

Like, for instance:

The Harley Quinn We Almost Saw

Now, with Margot Robbie (above) having seemingly been so perfectly cast as the unhinged Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, it's easy to imagine that her playing the role on the big screen was meant to be - and yet, she very nearly wasn't the first Harley Quinn to appear in theaters.

Y'see, back in 1997, while Batman & Robin was entering post-production, and widely expected to be a massive hit, Warner Bros. approached screenwriter Mark Protosevich to begin work - alongside director Joel Schumacher - on a sequel, tentatively titled Batman Unchained.

And, in many ways, it sounds like it would have been spectacularly insane, in the best possible way. Alongside the return of Jack Nicholson's Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman and Danny DeVito's Penguin, the film would've seen Nicolas Cage take on the role of Scarecrow, in what could well have been the most magnificently out-there supervillain performance of all time.

It was the potential casting for Harley Quinn, though - who was set to play a key role in the plot - that might seem the most bizarre to a modern audience. Y'see:

Harley Quinn Could've Been Played By...Courtney Love

Yup. That Courtney Love.

As Protosevich puts it, Love was apparently very interested in the role, to the extent that she met the writer for lunch:

"I think she had heard about the possibility of Harley Quinn being in the new Batman and was thinking she would be good for it...But we didn't really talk about that. We talked about a lot of other things. It was certainly one of the better lunches I've ever had in my career in show business."

Which, back then...would've actually been a pretty interesting casting decision. The decades since haven't been too kind to Love's reputation or career, but back in 1997, she was fresh off of a Golden Globe nomination (and several other award wins) for her role in The People vs Larry Flynt...

... giving her a similar level of buzz to that which Margot Robbie is enjoying right now.

So, Why Didn't it Happen?

Well, long story short - the movie didn't get made.

After handing in his first draft, Protosevich reveals, the response was largely deafening in its silence:

"A few days later, I'm getting a call from Joel, whose main comment was that I had written maybe the most expensive movie ever made. Then I remember I never heard from the executive at Warner Bros. I called many times, never got any kind of response...This got into a period of weeks and then a month, and my agent pestering Warners. And the next thing I knew, they were pulling the plug on the whole project. They were going to wait and see what they were going to do with Batman. The Joel Schumacher-driven Batman train was taken off the rails."

And so, we never got to see Courtney Love play Harley Quinn.

Which, in retrospect, is almost as sad as not getting to see Jack Nicholson return as the Joker, or Nicholas Cage maniacally cackle his way through playing the Scarecrow...

What do you reckon, though?

via THR


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