Released 10 years ago today, The Dark Knight Rises was originally going to be very different
Warner Bros. originally discussed having one of the world's biggest stars playing a completely different villain to the one we got.
After the immediate success of The Dark Knight in 2008, director Christopher Nolan wasn't sure that he wanted to come back for a third movie.
This was compounded by the death of Heath Ledger, who had tragically passed away a few months before the Batman sequel had arrived in cinemas.
In 2010, in the run-up the release of Inception, it was announced that Nolan felt he had cracked the story for the trilogy closer, and was committed to returning to see it through.
Released in cinemas on 20 July 2012, The Dark Knight Rises would go on to be a massive box office triumph ($1.081 billion from a reported $300 million budget), but a slightly dipped critical response (78% on Metacritic, down from The Dark Knight's 84%).
In the decade since, the movie has only managed to widen the gap between its defenders, who consider it to be one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, and those who find it to be an overlong damp squib after the raw-nerve brilliance of the The Dark Knight.
And to think, it all could have been so very different...
When he was writing The Dark Knight, David S. Goyer had written a few different variations of the script, but they all ended with The Joker (Heath Ledger) captured, and his state of imprisonment being a central plot point in the third movie.
Following Ledger's death, Nolan stated that he wouldn't recast the Joker, or even mention the character, out of respect for his performance. There were rumours that there might be a scene in which Bane (Tom Hardy) would come across the Joker's cell during the prison break scene, but decides not to release him, for fear of the chaos it might bring. However, that scene seems to be nothing more than an urban myth, with Goyer telling The Hollywood Reporter the following:
"Obviously, that would have completely changed the polarity of the third film. And it’s true we didn’t discuss the third film until two or three months after The Dark Knight had come out. Chris [Nolan] wasn’t interested [in discussing] what might happen in the next film. He always wanted to focus on the film in hand. He didn’t want to lay any groundwork for something that may or may not happen. But it’s a logical assumption that the Joker would have been released, and it’s certainly interesting to think of what would have happened if we had done that."
Goyer was working on the script for the third movie, but left the project to focus on Man Of Steel, with Christopher and his brother Jonathan Nolan finishing off the screenplay.
Their first draft of the screenplay topped out at 400 pages long - which would've made for a six-and-a-half-hour long movie - while producers had a very particular villain in mind to replace the Joker, and a particular actor to play him.
Having worked together so well on Inception, the folks at Warner Bros. pushed for Nolan to cast Leonardo Di Caprio as The Riddler, suggesting that his psychological warfare could have a similar impact as the Joker did in The Dark Knight.
Nolan wanted a completely different vibe for his next big baddie though, with Jonathan Nolan telling Empire the following:
"The fact is that The Joker is an anarchist. He has a plan, but not really, but kinda sorta he does... And the question that energises The Dark Knight is: does he really wanna kill Batman or not? And the twist is that he doesn’t. He wants to kill everybody else. That opened up the possibility for a third film in which you have a more literal villain. This is a much more driven character. Bane is a resourceful, cunning and committed villain who knows exactly what he wants. He wants Batman dead and Gotham in ruins. That’s fitting for a third film."
Hardy was Nolan's only choice for Bane after they worked together on Inception, but other characters weren't as initially nailed down:
Selina Kyle was screen-tested for by Jessica Biel, Eva Green, Kate Mara, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Gemma Arterton, Keira Knightley, Vera Farmiga, Olivia Wilde, Emily Blunt, and Blake Lively.
Robin Blake could have went to Ryan Gosling, Shia LeBeouf, Mark Ruffalo and (when the Riddler part didn't work out) Leonardo Di Caprio.
And finally, the role of Miranda Tate was considered for Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts.
We finally got two Inception alumni - Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard - and a future Interstellar star - Anne Hathaway - in those roles, and Nolan essentially closed the book on his turn with Batman...
Until, during the press tour for Thor: Love and Thunder, a journalist asked Christian Bale if he would return to the Dark Knight series, and Bale responded saying that he would, but only if Nolan did, too. But don't get your hopes up, because it will take some very careful negotiations behind the scenes (read all about that here) for it to become a reality.
The Dark Knight Rises is available to watch on Sky and NOW right now.
Clip via Warner Bros.