A Batman Beyond movie almost happened in the early 2000s, and it would have featured the perfect Batman casting. Years before Christian Bale was cast in Batman Begins, Warner Bros. was still not sure where to take the Batman franchise following the Batman & Robin disaster. Many options were considered, including a Darren Aronofsky’s Year One adaptation and an Alan Burnett, Paul Dini-produced Batman Beyond film that would have been directed by Boaz Yakin.
Batman Beyond was an animated series released in 1999 as part of the DC Animated Universe that names like Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dwayne McDuffie, and Alan Burnett were crafting. The show served as a sequel to The New Adventures of Batman, which in turn was a Batman: The Animated Series follow-up, and told the story of teenager Terry McGinnis discovering the secrets of a retired Bruce Wayne and becoming the new Batman. Interestingly, Batman Beyond is not something that came out of the comics, and it was one of the elements that the DCAU originated for the DC Universe. Anti-hero Harley Quinn, one of the most famous names in DC, was also originally from the DCAU.
Although the Batman Beyond live-action movie never made it through the casting process, the studio was considering Clint Eastwood to play an older Batman. Considering Eastwood’s filmography, his looks, and his age (around 70 years old when the film was in development), there was really no better pick for an older, retired Bruce Wayne. Also, it is interesting to note that the scrapped Batman Beyond movie would also incorporate some elements from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which would fit Clint Eastwood’s Batman even better. While the Batman Beyond animated series focused on Bruce Wayne’s reluctant style of mentoring, The Dark Knight Returns’s Bruce Wayne is a much more relentless, less hopeful individual – a type of character that Clint Eastwood has a wealth of experience playing.
Years after Yakin’s scrapped film, the idea of an older Bruce Wayne in the mold of Batman Beyond or The Dark Knight Returns continues to be present in Hollywood. To create Ben Affleck’s Batman for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, for example, Zack Snyder drew a lot from Frank Miller’s Batman iconography. Curiously, even though Affleck was the oldest actor to debut as Batman in a movie, Snyder dreamed of making a proper The Dark Knight Returns adaptation with someone like Clint Eastwood starring. The Titans TV show also went for an older Bruce Wayne, with Iain Glen portraying the head of the “Bat-Family”. While a Batman Beyond movie with Clint Eastwood never happened, the core of this idea is now being reused with Michael Keaton’s Batman acting as Batgirl’s mentor in the Batgirl film.
The cinematic history of the Dark Knight is full of scrapped movies, but nothing is a bigger missed opportunity than not having Clint Eastwood as Batman in Batman Beyond. Whether the film would lean more on the animated series’ Bruce Wayne personality or in the one from Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Eastwood would have worked perfectly in the role. In the end, neither Batman Beyond nor Aronofosky’s Year One happened, and it was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins that eventually reignited the Batman franchise.