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John Lithgow Turned Down The Joker Role Twice

John Lithgow Turned Down The Joker Role Twice


John Lithgow persuaded Tim Burton he wasn’t right for the role of The Joker in Batman.

The 71-year-old ‘Shrek’ actor was wanted to play the arch-nemesis of The Caped Crusader by Burton in his 1989 movie based on the DC Comics character.

Burton personally contacted Lithgow to ask him portray The Clown Prince of Crime but he told him that he wouldn’t be able to do the character justice, but he admits he may have underestimated what a huge film Batman was going to be.

Speaking to Den of Geek, he said: “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.”

The role eventually went to Nicholson who won numerous plaudits for his portrayal of The Joker opposite Michael Keaton as Batman.

Lithgow also turned down Joe Dante in the mid-80s when he asked him to be The Joker in his proposed superhero film.

Speaking to Vulture, he said: “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’.”

Dante’s Batman movie never came to fruition and The Howling filmmaker has stated it got shelved because he was more interested in The Joker than Batman.

Speaking with Psychotronic Cinema in September, Dante said: “I wanted to hire John Lithgow for that part of The Joker because I had met him on ‘The Twilight Zone’ movie. And for whatever reason, I started to gravitate more towards The Joker than towards Batman. And I actually woke up one night and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this movie – I’m more interested in The Joker than I am in Batman and that’s not the way it should be.’ I think I was not the right guy to do the movie.”

Emma Loggins Emma Loggins is the Editor in Chief of FanBolt. As an internationally recognized "Geek Girl", Emma updates daily on the latest entertainment news, her opinions on current happenings in the media, screening/filming opportunities, inside scoops and more.  She’s been writing on the world of geekdom and pop culture since 2002 and is also considered to be one of the top Atlanta bloggers and influencers!


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