Can you imagine a world in which Pierce Brosnan is better known for saying “I’m Batman” rather than “Bond…James Bond”? According to the retired 007, that reality almost came to pass.
Promoting his latest movie, The November Man, Brosnan revealed that he met with Tim Burton back in the late ’80s about the possibility of donning the Dark Knight’s cape, cowl and utility belt. But the conversation more or less ended before it began. “I just couldn’t really take it seriously,” the Ireland-born actor wrote. “Any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously. That was my foolish take on it. It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I? Don’t get me wrong, because I love Batman, and I grew up on Batman. As a kid in Ireland, we used to get our raincoats and tie them round our neck and swing through the bicycle shed.”
Brosnan wasn’t the only actor who was considered for the role before Burton’s Beetlejuice buddy, Michael Keaton, claimed it. Mel Gibson was one of the leading candidates, but Warner Bros. needed to keep his schedule clear for Lethal Weapon 2, which hit theaters two weeks after Batman in the summer of ‘89. Newly minted superstars like Kevin Costner and Alec Baldwin were also in play, along with such left-field candidates as Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray. (In a Late Show with David Letterman appearance earlier this year, the Ghostbusters star — who was randomly suited up as an early 20th century superhero, Peter Pan, at the time, saying “God, I would have been an awesome Batman.”
In the end, Burton wound up selling the studio on Keaton, though his casting headaches continued beyond the movie’s hero. Sean Young came and went as Vicki Vale, while Robin Williams missed out on a chance to play the Joker, not to mention earning Jack Nicholson’s record-setting payout. For his part, Brosnan only had a mere six years to wait until his date with Bond was finally confirmed, by which time both Keaton and Burton had flown the Batcave anyway.