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Nolan was known for being protective of his Dark Knight trilogy, wanting it to stand apart from any spinoffs or larger plans at DC. Yet as Snyder recalls it, in the early days of developing the property after he was hired in 2010, it wasn’t totally out of the question for Man of Steel to take place in the same universe.
“It was not 100 percent off the table. We did talk about it a little bit,” Snyder told MTV‘s Josh Horowitz on Wednesday’s episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast.
The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan’s 2012 conclusion to his Batman trilogy, ended with John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) taking over as Batman for Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). That would have complicated things, as audiences likely wanted to see Bruce Wayne slug it out with Superman, not an alternate version of Batman.
“Maybe that’s why we didn’t do it,” said Snyder. “It would have been Joseph. Which could have been cool.”
Ultimately, Nolan’s The Dark Knight films remained siloed off.
“I don’t blame him. I like that his thing doesn’t get muddied by these other touches,” said Snyder.
Man of Steel became a hit, and after its release in 2013, Snyder electrified San Diego Comic-Con with a simple tease that packed a major punch. The filmmaker told the 6,500 people packed into Hall H that a Superman sequel was in development.
Then he brought out Man of Steel actor Harry Lennix to read a passage from The Dark Knight Returns, the 1986 Frank Miller miniseries that saw an aging Batman take down Superman. That confirmed to the world that the next film would see Batman and Superman fight it out. At the time, it was unclear who would play Batman, with Ben Affleck boarding several months after Comic-Con. Snyder acknowledges that he had another Bruce Wayne in the wings if Affleck said no: Belgian actor and filmmaker Matthias Schoenaerts.
“I was talking to him a lot about it,” said Snyder. “He never got in the suit, but I did do a bunch of mock-ups of him, because Ben was on the fence. And I don’t blame him. Everyone should be on the fence when you’re asked, ‘Do you want to play Batman?'”
Schoenaerts, who was in his 30s at the time of these conversations, has said he felt he was too young to play a mid-40s Batman.
While Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice took inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns, Snyder says doing a straight adaptation of the comic is still on his wish list, and he envisions a film with new actors, not Affleck or Cavill.
“I think it would just be its own thing. I would do it 100 percent Watchmen style,” said Snyder, referencing his 2009 adaptation of the graphic novel. “I don’t even think it’d be that expensive, to be honest. It’s pretty gritty.”
Snyder went on to direct (and leave) Justice League, before getting the opportunity to release his own cut earlier this year on HBO Max. He is currently back on screens with Army of the Dead, his zombie heist movie starring Dave Bautista.
Listen to the full Happy Sad Confused podcast here, where Snyder also delves into the time he flirted with joining the Star Wars galaxy.
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Sterling K. Brown