Everyone remembers Jack Nicholson as the perfect villain in the classic 1989 Batman movie directed by Tim Burton. Michael Keaton played Batman and for a lot of kids he is their definitive version of the classic character. Personally Adam West will always be my favorite, but to each their own.
Nicholson played the Joker and he played him very well. The big smile, the goofy dancing, and that iconic laugh. All of it was pretty amazing, but it actually could have been a lot different than we remember.
Sure, Michael Keaton wasn’t the only person Burton had in mind for Bruce Wayne, he actually had a couple other actors who were almost cast instead.
Apparently it could have been Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks or even Bill Murray as the caped crusader, but none of that is as surprising as the news about who was almost the Joker.
The Joker needs a good deal of commitment if you want it to work, the character is genuinely insane and if you aren’t 100% in character it will come out looking stupid. Finding a good character actor like that who could stand out when their face is painted white and their suit is bright purple takes a very special person.
Robin Williams was also in consideration at the time but the surprising news is actually from John Lithgow who has told the story of how he almost became the Joker!
Go to the next page to hear what he has to say about why he didn’t take the iconic role.
John Lithgow is a legend. He has done dramatic roles and comedic, both of which proving that he is a complete genius. But the one role he didn’t so is one that he has actually come to regret.
He recently spoke with Vulture and explained that his “worst audition was for Tim Burton for Batman,” He was actively trying to avoid getting the role, saying that he “tried to persuade [Burton] I was not right for the part, and I succeeded. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. About a week later I heard they were going after Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson.”
Lithgow explained that he had a pretty reasonable excuse for not wanting to do the role. “I was doing M. Butterfly on Broadway and it was an exhausting show. It would have meant leaving that show and going right into a movie, and I said, ‘I just don’t think I can.’”
He does however have some regrets about his decision. He finished off the story by saying, “How about that for stupid? Actors are not necessarily smart people.”
Could you imagine how different the movie would have been if John Lithgow, aka Dick Solomon, was The Joker? I bet it would have been amazing.