Did you know that 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dexter star John Lithgow almost played The Joker opposite Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman? Well, he did, and it seems like he blames himself for not landing the iconic role that was famously portrayed by Jack Nicholson.
At the Tony Awards this past weekend, the two-time Oscar-nominatee and two-time Golden Globe-winning actor told Vulture that he actually convinced Burton not to hire him. He is the story as told by the man himself:
“My worst audition was for Tim Burton for Batman. I have never told anyone this story, but I tried to persuade him 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.”
To make matters worse, this wasn’t even the first chance the actor had to play the role of The Joker. Before Tim Burton signed on, director Joe Dante was attached to make a Batman film and had planned on casting Lithgow in the villainous role, having met the actor on The Twilight Zone movie. Just as he did the second time, Lithgow also passed on this first opportunity. The actor explained:
“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.’ How about that for stupid? Actors are not necessarily smart people.”
Who knows just how things would have turned out if Lithgow had taken the role in the DC Comics based film. It certainly worked out well for Nicholson, who is said to have made more than $50 million playing the role, having negotiated for a percentage of the film’s earnings, including merchandising, which included Joker toys and other items.