David S Goyer, who wrote the three Batman adaptations alongside Nolan, revealed in a new interview with the Happy Sad Confused podcast that the success of Heath Ledger’s Joker villain in The Dark Knight (2008) had prompted the suggestion for the final entry, The Dark Knight Rises.
According to Goyer, the head of Warner Bros film studio suggested at the premiere of The Dark Knight that Nolan should cast DiCaprio in the third entry – playing the puzzle-obsessed villain known as The Riddler.
The Riddler had previously been portrayed by Jim Carrey in 1995’s Batman Forever, and would later be played by Paul Dano in 2022’s The Batman.
However, Goyer said that the suggestion was quickly shut down, explaining that the themes of the film would dictate which villains appear, rather than the other way around.
“We had all these pitches,” he recalled. “I remember at The Dark Knight [premiere], the head of Warner Bros said, ‘You gotta do the Riddler. Leo [DiCaprio] as the Riddler.’
“That’s not the way we work – not to take anything away from him.”
DiCaprio would work with Nolan shortly after the release of The Dark Knight anyway, playing the lead in the Warner Bros-produced thriller Inception in 2010.
The Dark Knight Rises, meanwhile, would see Tom Hardy cast in the role of the villain Bane, while Marion Cotillard also appeared as an adversary.
Goyer also revealed in the interview that Jake Gyllenhaal had nearly been cast in the Dark Knight trilogy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, a role that ultimately went to Christian Bale.
“We would chat about all sorts of things,” he said. “There were a number of people who had screen-tested, and I had advocated for Gyllenhaal.
“I mean, Gyllenhaal is amazing, Christian Bale is amazing, so who knows what.”
According to the screenwriter, there exists footage of Gyllenhaal auditioning for the role in full Batman costume.
Earlier this year, Goyer revealed that studio executives had attempted to get him to add in scenes to The Dark Knight that would have explained the origins of Ledger’s Joker.
He claimed that bosses at Warner Bros ”were worried” about the lack of context to the character, and had initially opposed the idea before being won over.