If we were to take a straw poll of the worst Batman movie ever made, I’m willing to bet that Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin would take the top spot. George Clooney as Batman might have worked, but not in the odd and campy Gotham City Schumacher concocted. The film went on to become the lowest grossing film in the series (although it still turned a profit) and received countless Razzie Award nominations. The funny thing? Warner Bros. was so excited about the film when they viewed the dailies that they commissioned a fifth film before Batman & Robin was completed.
The new installment was set to be titled Batman Triumphant, and Schumacher was hired to return as the director. Mark Protosevich was hired to write the screenplay, which would feature The Scarecrow as the main villain. The idea was that The Scarecrow would release a “fear toxin” into Gotham City and Batman would have to stop him. The film was set to also feature the introduction of Harley Quinn and a return (in hallucination form) of The Joker. Nicholson was still under contract to play the character, meaning he would have donned the make-up once again.
However, Warners got cold feet after seeing Batman & Robin underperform at the box office and the film was scrapped. Schumacher recently spoke to IndieWire about the aborted project, and he dropped quite the bombshell: he wanted Nic Cage to play The Scarecrow.
““I was supposed to do a fifth one,” Schumacher tells the site. “I was talking to Nic Cage about playing the Scarecrow. I had begged the studio for [the Frank Miller comic] The Dark Knight [Returns], but they wanted a family friendly, toyetic thing.”
After the deal fell apart, Schumacher and Warners' relationship followed suit. The director admits that he lost money over the deal, but doesn’t seem too concerned about it. “I have awards for selling more Batman toys than anyone in the world.” Seems like a small consolation, but hey – you gotta find the silver linings where you can.
One thing that does seem to weigh heavily on Schumacher is the fact that he disappointed the fans. He admits that the path Batman & Robin took was “the wrong choice,” but adds “I did my job. It was more family friendly and it sold a lot of toys, and it supported the Warner Bros. stores. But I did disappoint a lot of fans.” You sure did, Joel.
And perhaps those sentiments are the most compelling reasons why it’s a good thing that Batman Triumphant never made it to the big screen. Schumacher may have had his heart in the right place, but he seems like the kind of guy who was all too willing to acquiesce to what the bosses wanted even if it wasn’t in line with his own vision. Had Batman Triumphant been made and done even moderately well, it probably would have altered the direction of the franchise completely – meaning that comic fans would have never gotten to see Christopher Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight. In the grand scheme of things, that would have been the bigger tragedy.