Josh Hartnett has been doing a lot of TV and indie movies in recent years, but there was a time when he was a Hollywood heartthrob and was landing a-list opportunities. Among those opportunities was the potential to play Batman in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, an offer that Hartnett ultimately passed on. He recently revealed it wasn't a dislike for superhero films that kept him out of the project; instead, he simply had another offer on the table he like better. The actor said:
Of course, it wasn't about not doing studio films, it was just what I was interested in was the film that I did instead. It was a tiny film about a guy with Asperger Syndrome falling in love with a woman with Asperger Syndrome. A true story; it ended up being called Mozart and the Whale. It was just a question more of what I wanted to do as opposed to what I didn't want to do and I always try to look at things that way.
So, the idea of potentially harnessing a major moneymaking movie and playing an iconic character just didn't interest Josh Hartnett as much as playing a character in a much quieter movie, in terms of budget and press, etc. Mozart and the Whale ended up costing around $12 million to shoot and the movie only brought in a paltry $84,447, but Josh Hartnett still seems pretty happy with the decisions. If you don't have the Batman bug, I guess you really shouldn't be doing a Batman-centric movie.
He also told the AP that he does have regrets about passing on Batman Begins, most notably that he wasn't able to develop a relationship with Christopher Nolan, who has made a slew of other popular movies including Inception and Interstellar outside of his Batman trilogy.
In that instance, I think my regret mostly was not forming a friendship or the creative partnership with that director. More than I was not doing Batman.
At the time, I guess Josh Hartnett could have been a big enough name to take on a role like Batman. More recently, he had a role in Showtime's wonderfully gothic Penny Dreadful series, but back when Batman Begins was coming together around 2005, he was building a career out of prominent movies like Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. Hartnett reveals in the past that he had conversations with the studios to play both Spider-Man and Batman, but he was getting tired of the pressures of tentpole movies and fame at the time. He wanted to do something else. So he did Mozart and the Whale.
Instead of Hartnett, Christian Bale famously went in and tried on Val Kilmer's Batsuit and did the gruff voice that has now made his version of the character iconic. The rest is history. You can catch the latest incarnation of Batman back in action when Justice League hits theaters this November. Here's more on Ben Affleck's take on the character.