5. Heath Ledger
In 2005 before he was cast as The Joker, before even Christian Bale was cast as Batman, the late actor Heath Ledger was one of Warner Bros.’ top prospects to play Bruce Wayne for Christopher Nolan’s then-upcoming film Batman Begins. Ledger was amongst a group of young actors that included Cillian Murphy, Joshua Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Billy Crudup who were vying for the role, that ultimately went to Bale, who had himself already been in talks to play Bruce Wayne for Darren Aronofsky’s failed Batman: Year One film. After not getting cast as Batman, Ledger went on to star in Brokeback Mountain, which gave him widespread acclaim and set him up as a serious actor and for his later casting as the The Joker for 2008′s The Dark Knight.
4. Armie Hammer
The well-known actor behind the Winklevoss twins in 2010′s The Social Network was very close to playing the Caped Crusader in a 2007 Justice League film by director George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet). Hammer had even signed on the dotted line to play the role–well before he was a well-known actor I might add–but the project was ultimately shelved over disagreements between Miller and Warner Bros. and complications due to the Writers Guild strike.
3. Charlie Sheen
No, the Charlie Sheen that was almost cast as Batman isn’t the modern one spouting off about tiger blood. Back during the casting phase for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, the Charlie Sheen they considered was the lead actor of Platoon, Young Guns, and Wall Street. Burton was heavily pressured by Warner Bros. to cast a big star like Sheen was at the time, but Burton lobbied hard and eventually got his choice, Beetlejuice‘s Michael Keaton, to take ownership of Wayne Manor.
2. Johnny Depp
Speaking of Michael Keaton, after he abandoned the original Batman film franchise in 1993 the space was open for a host of Hollywood’s top stars to ply their trade. Burton, who had been pushed out of the director’s chair and into an advisory producer role for the third film, pushed incoming director Joel Schumacher hard to consider another frequent star of Burton’s films: the then 30-year old Johnny Depp. In this interview from back in 2009 at ComicBookMovie.com, Depp himself confirms the long-swirling rumors that he was in line to play Batman before Val Kilmer came aboard. Apparently, Warner Bros. didn’t think Depp was bankable enough at the time.
1. Bill Murray
Say it ain’t so, but it almost was. Back when Tim Burton was casting around for someone to fill the tights for his 1989 Batman flick, Murray was one of the options the director was mulling. You might think it odd, but considering the heavy comedy background Michael Keaton had before Batman with Mr. Mom and Night Shift it might not seem so strange. Also, I can see studio heads, possibly unsure of the dark direction Burton had planned, considering Murray given Batman’s comedic roots from the Adam West television series of the 1960s.