Before Batfleck was a thing (and Christian Bale’s Batgrowl became an infinitely repeatable joke), the trajectory of cinematic Batmen could have looked much different. In an interview with Playboy, Josh Hartnett, who is currently starring in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, discussed how he had meetings with Christopher Nolan about playing the caped crusader in the director’s first take on the hero.
“Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me,” Hartnett told Playboy.
The actor said he had wanted to take more time for his personal life, to spend it with his family and friends rather than jumping into the superhero saga. Unfortunately, that cost him the role of Bruce Wayne—and, the actor believes, a role in Nolan’s The Prestige as well.
In hindsight, Hartnett realizes how integral that first Batman film, Batman Begins, was to forging relationships between its cast members and Nolan.
“I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor,” Hartnett explained as his rationale for turning down the role.
But Hartnett doesn’t seem to begrudge the man who would eventually put on the cowl. Far from it in fact—instead, he thinks he should have been willing to take the risk rather than fear being typecast as a result. “Christian Bale go on to do so many other things has been just awesome,” he said. “I mean, he’s been able to overcome that. Why couldn’t I see that at the time?”
At the very least, Hartnett saved his vocal chords from having to perfect the Batgrowl.
Read the rest of Hartnett’s interview with Playboy to hear the actor discuss more of what went into his decision to turn down the role of Batman and his thoughts about starring in Penny Dreadful.