Josh Hartnett Claims He Turned Down Batman, Superman And Spider-Man

At 35, Josh Hartnett is a far-wiser man than most of his peers in show business. The star of such classic films as Pearl Harbor, Hollywood Homicide and 40 Days and 40 Nights sat down with Details this month to talk about all things celebrity, from the woes of dating his sexy co-stars to the time that he almost gave up on his career because of a little thing called artistic integrity. But now he’s starring in the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and he’s able to look back at the roles that he chose over the years and those that he passed on and laugh about what could have been.

For instance, did you know that Hartnett could have basically had his pick of any major superhero role he wanted, from Superman Returns to Batman or Spider-Man? It’s true, but he was smart enough at age 22 to realize that those roles were just big dead ends to an otherwise promising and fruitful career.

DETAILS: You’re 35 now, but in your twenties, you got offered pretty much everything. You turned down Superman Returns, and you were in talks to play almost every other superhero.
Josh Hartnett: Spider-Man was something we talked about. Batman was another one. But I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger.

DETAILS: Your agents must have been slitting their wrists.
Josh Hartnett: I didn’t have those agents for much longer after that. There was a lot of infighting between my manager and agents, trying to figure out who to put the blame on. It got to the point where none of us were able to work together.

DETAILS: What would you say if Warner Bros. called you tomorrow and said, “Josh, we’d still love you to wear the cape. We’ve got a great new concept . . . “?
Josh Hartnett: I’d say, “Let’s talk about how it would be done, see if we can get on the same page.” Compromise doesn’t scare me anymore. (Via Details)

We could mock Hartnett’s decisions all we want, but only he and those agents and managers who fought over his career truly knew what was best for him. Maybe if he had played Spider-Man instead of Tobey Maguire, we wouldn’t have leaped from the awesomeness of Spider-Man 2 into the emo crapfest and poorly-written villain overload of Spider-Man 3. Or maybe if he had been Superman instead of Brandon Routh, Superman Returns wouldn’t have been laughed at so hard that it became a one and done. As for Batman, well, we all saw what that did to poor Christian Bale’s career. I’m surprised I could even spell that guy’s name after all this time.

In the meantime, I’ll say the nicest possible thing that I can about Hartnett and his strange career – Lucky Number Slevin was a pretty f*cking good movie, you guys.