These days, it would be unthinkable for an up-and-coming actor to reject a lead role in a superhero franchise. Yet, that is exactly what Josh Hartnett did in the early 2000s. The actor was fresh off the success of Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down when he was successively offered the roles of Superman and Batman. In an interview with Metro UK, Hartnett revealed his thought process behind rejecting the roles.
“At that age it is very easy to become someone else’s tool or someone else’s puppet. I was very aware of the choices I was making and I wanted them to be my choices… There were a lot of powers that be that wanted me to pursue those films, but I have always been interested in stories about people and I didn’t want to be boxed into that superhero type. Back then a lot of actors had to fight really hard to get their career back after they played those characters.”
Despite starring in a few blockbusters, and being billed by many as the new Leonardo DiCaprio, Hartnett knew the path he wanted to travel did not involve big-budget films, and most definitely not ones where he would have to wear spandex and a cape. The early 2000s saw the beginning of the modern superhero movie boom, but it still took almost a decade for comic book movies to be taken seriously by Hollywood. Veteran actor Willem Dafoe has recalled his actor friends looking down on his decision to play Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film.
It was the critical success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that made the industry wake up to the fact that superhero movies can be serious films, with meaty roles for the cast. As it was, Hartnett was offered the chance to play the Dark Knight in Batman Begins. In an interview with Playboy, Hartnett had expressed his regret over passing on the role, and how his stance changed towards such projects as a result.
“I’ve definitely said no to some of the wrong people. I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige. I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor … Watching Christian Bale go on to do so many other things has been just awesome. I mean, he’s been able to overcome that. Why couldn’t I see that at the time?… I know now that I wouldn’t turn something down just because it’s a superhero role.”
While the actor has turned down some major blockbusters, Hartnett is happy with his current status as an indie A-lister. He can currently be seen in Target Number One, a ‘based on true events’ thriller involving a petty drug dealer who gets framed by the police and sentenced to a hundred years in a Thai prison. This news comes from Metro.