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Did We Almost Have a 'Wam! Bam! Pow!' Batman Movie in the 1980s?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The first realistic offer to make a Batman movie in the 1980s was one done in the same style as the 1960s Batman TV series.

It is sometimes hard to believe just how hard that Michael Uslan fought to bring about his vision for Batman in film form. CBR recently noted that when Uslan went to buy the film rights to Batman in the late 1970s, one of his old friends at DC (a higher-up at the company) told Uslan (who had worked for DC when he was younger) that he should not buy the rights to Batman, since the 1960s TV series had tainted the character too much as a film property.

Uslan, though, had a specific idea of what Batman should look like that he based on the early work of Bob Kane and Bill Finger...

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then the later work of Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil...

and then most recently (at the time) the work of Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart...

The "Wam! Bam! Pow!" era of Batman was not what interested Uslan...

However, it turned out that he had to really hold tight to stick to his vision. In a recent interview with Byron Burton at the Hollywood Reporter, Uslan explained how hard it was to sell the idea of a serious Batman film and how the first good offer that they received was to make a movie similar to the TV series!

“It really was a high-pressure, ticking clock scenario,” Uslan says. “I had quit my job at United Artists and I went to L.A. figuring that every studio would line up at my doorstep, because they would understand the potential for sequels and animation and toys and games and everything that comes along with it.”

Uslan was stunned when he and Melniker’s pitch for a dark Batman film was turned down by every studio. “Not only did they turn us down, they basically said, ‘This is the worst idea we've ever heard,'” Uslan recalls.

A common practice in Hollywood is to get a star actor attached to a project to gain the studio’s interest. This path was not an option for Uslan and Melniker.

“Batman had been on TV in '66, '67, ’68… reruns were still on the air,” Uslan says. “There was no way a star was going to get on board with this without a full script or a director with a very specific vision as to how this was going to work.”

As a result, it took 10 years from the time they bought the rights to the day that the film was released. Ten very long years that Uslan refers to as a “human endurance contest.”

Surprisingly, Uslan actually turned down the opportunity to make a Batman film prior to Burton’s 1989 film. “We had a company tell us that they would do us a favor and make our movie, but it had to be in the '60s Batman redux with the POW and the WHAMS. I said, ‘No way!’”

At one particular meeting, Uslan recalls feeling particularly dejected and being asked, “Are you sure you don't just want to do it that way? Isn’t getting a movie done better than having no movie done?'”

Uslan replied with, "Yeah I'm sure, I am not going to let it happen that way. We're just not going to do it."

Obviously, Uslan's patience paid off and the Anton Furst design of Gotham City...

and director Tim Burton's view of Batman...

led to a blockbuster "serious" Batman movie.

Uslan had beaten all the odds through his faith in the property! It's the kind of success story that you really can root for.

The legend is...

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film. Click here for more legends specifically about superhero movies!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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