How 'Ghostbusters' Director Ivan Reitman Almost Made A Bill Murray 'Batman' Movie
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There's a dark synchronicity to the fact that influential filmmaker (and one-time pornographer) Ivan Reitman passed away a couple of weeks before the release of a movie called The Batman, considering that Reitman spent a long time attached to a script of the same name that ended up languishing in development hell. There are a few differences between this '80s project and the new version, though: the main bad guy was the Joker instead of the Riddler, the love interest was dolphin-arouser Silver St. Cloud and not Catwoman, and instead of Robert Pattinson, Bruce Wayne would have been played by ... Bill Murray.
Now, before you call BS on this whole idea, keep in mind that when this script was written, the only Batman in the general public's mind was jolly old Adam West. This was before Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns re-popularized the idea of a Dark Knight who is actually dark among casual fans -- and, more importantly, Hollywood producers. So, it made sense to make an action-comedy aimed at getting some nostalgia bucks from the 20- and 30-somethings who grew up watching West hanging over a vat of acid every other week.
The script, by Tom Mankiewicz (who wrote the first two Superman movies and some of the silliest Bond films), sets the tone right away by having the soon-to-be-murdered Dr. Thomas Wayne refer to his son's pet hamster as a sex maniac.
Oh, and little Bruce invents a hologram machine at age 10, which he later uses to replay a memory of his parents. Tony Stark ain't $#%@.
After he becomes an orphan, whiz kid Bruce Wayne doesn't have much time for brooding because he's busy telling the stockbrokers managing his trust fund to invest in something called "computer chips" and a "new little place called McDonald's" -- implying that the Wayne fortune is made possible by the homemade time machine's he's got stashed somewhere.
Next, we meet adult Bruce, who actually is a suave womanizer instead of just playing one for the paparazzi. Even though Bruce has spent years training his body to peak condition, the idea of fighting crime hasn't even crossed his mind. He only starts dressing up as a bat and punching muggers at night because he's bored, basically. The earliest police reports of his activities describe him as "a transvestite prowling the subway system."
But, pretty soon, Batman wins over the Police Department and becomes far more social than the taciturn caped crusaders we're used to. This Batman has no problems speaking at public events or even accepting the keys to the city.
Over the course of his Bat-adventures, Bruce meets the Joker, the Penguin, secret crime boss Rupert Thorn, and, almost as an afterthought, Robin -- who could have been played by Eddie Murphy, in the unlikely case that he accepted the tiny part.
Things get darker towards the end when Thorne injures (or, in the first draft, kills) Bruce's girlfriend, and Bruce kills him. But even that gruesome death scene is told in a pretty freaking Looney Tunes way: Batman stabs Thorne with a giant thumbtack and throws him into a massive pencil sharpener.
This script is like a middle point between Adam West and Michael Keaton's Batmen: silly, but also violent and frequently weird. Despite the dark parts, which probably would have been rewritten anyway, it's not that hard to imagine Reitman and Murray pulling it off -- if they could finance a movie about a group of nerds who hunt ghosts (which occasionally give living people BJs for some reason), literally anything is possible.
Top image: Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros.