Robert Downey Jr. revealed that he met with Christopher Nolan to audition for the role of Scarecrow in "Batman Begins" (2005).
Christopher Nolan rejected Downey for the role and cast Cillian Murphy instead.
At the time, Downey was a troubled actor who had lost standing in Hollywood due to drug problems and a criminal record.
Robert Downey Jr. made a startling revelation recently during a screening of Oppenheimer at the American Cinematheque. In a Q+A session, he revealed that he met with Christopher Nolan during casting for Batman Begins (2005) to appear as Scarecrow. Wowzer! That’s some news, Mr Downey Jr. Could you imagine Downey as Scarecrow? That’s something worth pondering.
Much as the idea of Downey as Scarecrow sounded great, and it was indeed a good casting call, Christopher Nolan wasn’t feeling it. He rejected Downey for the role, going instead with Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy, who also lost out to Christian Bale for the role of Batman. One wonders how different the character of Scarecrow would have been if Downey had gotten to play the part.
Let’s remember that at the time, Robert Downey Jr. was a troubled actor who had lost much of his standing and respect in Hollywood due to drug problems and a criminal record. Before all his personal problems got the better of him and put a stranglehold on his career, the man was hot property and in demand. The celebrated actor was known for being one of the most accomplished young talents in the business for his roles in films such as Chaplin (1992), where he portrayed iconic silent film star Charlie Chaplin, and Air America (1990) alongside Mel Gibson, and the romantic comedy, Only You (1994) featuring his co-star, Marisa Tomei.
These and other movies made Downey a star, but the actor lost it all due to drug addiction and a reckless lifestyle. After jail time and a few years out of the limelight, Downey made his first real comeback with 2005’s crime comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The actor was drug-free and looking to return to the silver screen. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a small indie film, but it was the perfect vehicle for Downey to show the world he was back and that he still had the charisma to be one of Hollywood’s best talents.
Looking to establish himself anew, Downey auditioned for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins as Scarecrow. Where would the world be if Nolan decided otherwise and chose Downey over Murphy? Thankfully, Nolan had other plans that day. Speaking about the casting meeting, Downey told the audience at the American Cinematheque,
“And then I remember meeting him for tea and I was like, he doesn’t seem like he’s really leaning in on this interview. And he was polite and all that but you can tell when someone is kind of like, it’s not gonna go anywhere.”
Someone must corner Nolan and find out what made him pass on casting Robert. That would be fascinating information. Thankfully for us, Nolan’s rejection was our gain. Despite losing out as Scarecrow, Downey soldiered on and went knocking at Marvel’s doors, auditioning for Iron Man, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Come to think about it, maybe Nolan was too hasty; perhaps he should have cast Robert in another role, Batman, maybe? It’s crazy to suggest such a thing, but it’s not a bad idea if you think about it. Bruce Wayne is quite similar to Tony Stark; both are eligible bachelors with mammoth fortunes, heading billion-dollar corporations. They’re tech-savvy and love tinkering with gadgets while fighting crime and stopping bad guys. Robert Downey Jr was great as Tony Stark and played the troubled, spoilt, rich guy to a tee. He would have been fantastic playing Bruce Wayne.
Becoming Batman, yeah, he could pull it off, but maybe his Bruce would have been better than his Dark Knight. Christian Bale has a dark broodiness, which Downey lacks, and that grim and broody quality is who Batman is. Bale was a great Bruce Wayne, but the Dark Knight trilogy never revels in Bruce’s exploits; we barely see him as Bruce Wayne, the party boy and philanthropist. We see him as Bruce just enough to be convinced that he has a split persona, but then the films cleave more to Batman and his dark adventures as the Caped Crusader.
Tony Stark and Iron Man are not as divorced from each other as Bruce and Batman are. Iron Man is Tony Stark, and Bruce is not Batman. Tony features as much on-screen as Iron Man; no, he dominates the conversation; Iron Man features less than Tony Stark, while the opposite is true with Bruce and Batman. Still, Robert Downey Jr. could definitely pull off a Batman. The actor is talented enough to dig into his darker side, becoming more stoic and less upbeat like he did playing Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer.
Even though we know him as the spunky, upbeat actor, Downey can play different characters. Nolan could easily have cast him as Batman, but then again, that would unravel the Multiverse. We would never have enjoyed Downey as Iron Man, which would have impacted the success of the MCU, which possibly never would have gotten off the ground if Downey were Batman and followed a path away from joining Marvel. Downey not being cast as Scarecrow was fate; while it closed one door, his rejection also opened another, and his Oscar-nominated performance as Lewis Strauss can be traced back to Nolan’s rejection of Downey as Scarecrow.
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