Before Tim Burton made his Batman movie in 1989, there was another attempt to get a movie made based on the Dark Knight. The movie started being developed in the 1980s after the success of Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie.
Warner Bros. hired Tom Mankiewicz to write the script for the film. He previously worked on polishing up the notoriously bad early drafts of Superman: The Movie. He also worked on the James Bond films Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me.
The Batman film he wrote would have had a similar tone to Superman: The Movie and would have told an origin story for Batman. It also would have featured multiple villains like The Joker and Penguin, and it is described as having "Bond-esque set pieces for the climax."
The studio was looking to bring on Joe Dante to direct the film. He was hot off Gremlins at the time and had previously directed The Howling. During an interview with Psychotronic Cinema, Dante revealed that he wanted to cast John Lithgow in the role of The Joker and explained why he ultimately turned down the offer to direct the movie.
"I wanted to hire John Lithgow for that part 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.'
"I think I was not the right guy to do the movie."
I really wish that Dante had stuck with the project! I think it's great that he gravitated more towards the Joker! You don't think Burton and Christopher Nolan gravitated more toward the Joker when they used the characters in their film? Of course they did!
I would have loved to see what a Batman film directed by Dante would have been like, and I think Lithgow would have made a fantastic Joker! Too bad we'll never get to see what his Joker performance would've been like. Dante doesn't have any regrets about turning it down, though. He says:
"I don’t regret not doing Batman, in the sense that I’m not sure what it would have ended up being like. But I certainly can’t say it was a major career-booster, my decision not to make it."
I'll regret it for him.
Via: Den of Geek