Back in the early aughts, Warner Bros. was trying desperately to come up with ways to revitalize the Batman brand after Joel Schumacher’s hideous Batman & Robin. The studio seemed to find the answer in director Darren Aronofsky, who was red hot after Requiem for a Dream hit theaters and stunned audiences everywhere. Warner Bros. quickly hired Aronofsky to give the Caped Crusader a grim and gritty makeover along with writer Frank Miller in a loose adaptation of Miller’s own comic book story, Batman: Year One.
In an odd twist, although Miller wrote the Year One comic and the script for the movie, the two stories had very little in common outside of the name. In the movie, a homeless, newly-orphaned Bruce Wayne finds himself working for a heavyset African American mechanic named Big Al before slowly evolving in the Dark Knight. The movie was also set to feature James Gordon, Detective Flass, and Selina Kyle, all of whom appeared in Miller’s comic, but almost every other detail was radically changed.
In the excellent book Tales from Development Hell, Aronofsky is quoted as saying, "My pitch was Death Wish or The French Connection meets Batman." Even cooler than that, he was looking to cast Clint Eastwood to play an older, grittier Bruce Wayne.
This was going to be a graphic, more intense version of Batman, and the studio simply wasn’t comfortable with that. Where Batman & Robin swung the pendulum to the extremes of camp, Year One was set to drag it back in the complete opposite direction of violence and sex. Putting the brakes on this adaptation was probably a good thing because only a few years later, Christopher Nolan pitched his idea of Batman’s origins and created a multi-billion-dollar franchise in the process.