Batman Begins

While we appreciate that you're probably focused on this Friday's release of Daniel Auteil's directorial debut "The Well-Digger's Daughter," this week also sees the release of another little film: "The Dark Knight Rises," the third and final chapter of Christopher Nolan's reinvention of the Batman character and world. The most critically acclaimed superhero franchise to date, the films have seen Nolan (who before turning to the series had only made three movies, all relatively small-budgeted thrillers) take a grounded approach, tackling the on-the-surface silly premise of a man dressing up as a bat to fight crime, and making it psychologically plausible in a way that's proven endlessly influential on tentpoles ever since.

We've got all kinds of content planned in the run up to the release on Friday, but we thought we'd kick off by going back to where it all began, 2005's "Batman Begins." Written by Nolan with "Blade" scribe David Goyer, the film reenvisioned the character's origin tale as a globe-trotting adventure, as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), reeling from the death of his parents in lawless Gotham, falls under the influence of the sinister League of Shadows, before returning to Gotham City to face off against the mob, in the shape of Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), as well as Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) a mad psychiatrist with a gas that can induce your worst fears, and his old mentor Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson). Below, we've assembled five things you may not be aware of about the production and development of "Batman Begins" -- check back tomorrow for more about its even more acclaimed and successful sequel, "The Dark Knight."

 Batman Beyond
1. A fifth "Batman" movie went through many, many incarnations before Christopher Nolan got involved.
In the mid 1990s, "Batman" was a serious crown jewel for Warner Bros. As such, even as the fourth film in the first series, "Batman & Robin" geared up for production, the studio hired Mark Protosevich (who'd go on to write scripts for "I Am Legend," and "Thor," among others) for a fifth movie, which became known under the name "Batman Triumphant." The film, due for release in the summer of 1999, would have featured The Scarecrow as the main villain (director Joel Schumacher told us last year that "I was talking to Nic Cage" for the role), with Harley Quinn featuring too, and a cameo appearance for Jack Nicholson's Joker also planned, as part of a toxin-induced hallucination. However, the vicious reaction to "Batman & Robin," along with the disappointing box office results, found the studio putting those plans on ice, with Schumacher shunted away from the project. By 2000, two parallel takes were in development.

Firstly, there was "Batman Beyond," an adaptation of the futuristic cartoon series (which sees an elderly Wayne training a younger Batman), with "Remember The Titans" helmer Boaz Yakin in the director's chair, series creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett writing a script, and cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson (whose seminal novel "Snow Crash" is now being adapted by Joe Cornish) serving as a consultant. Then there was "Batman: Year One," inspired by Frank Miller's gritty re-envisioning of Batman's origins. Schumacher had actually been the one to pitch the idea to Warners, not long before "Batman & Robin" released, and the Wachowskis flirted with the idea, before Darren Aronofsky, the wunderkind behind low-budget mindbender "Pi," was hired. Aronofsky brought on the comic's creator, Frank Miller, to work on the script with him, and the duo turned in a gritty, R-rated take that was swiftly rejected by the studio.

Around this time, in August 2001, "Seven" writer Andrew Kevin Walker pitched a "Batman Vs. Superman" movie to the studio, who jumped at the chance to reinvigorate two major franchises in one blow, and appointed Wolfgang Petersen ("Air Force One," "The Perfect Storm") to direct the project. Walker's script, later rewritten by "Batman & Robin" scribe Akiva Goldsman, sees the Joker gunning down Bruce Wayne's wife, causing him to don the Batsuit again in vengeance, and clashing with Superman, who he blames in part for the death, only for the pair to discover that the whole thing is a plot by Lex Luthor. Josh Hartnett was linked to the Superman role, with Colin Farrell the favorite for Batman, and the film was set for a 2004 release, but a J.J. Abrams script for a "Superman" stand-alone film became a priority (that film later collapsed after director McG dropped out, due to a fear of flying to the Australian location), and Petersen swiftly departed the project for "Troy." At around the same time Nolan, who'd just worked with the studio on "Insomnia," had his Howard Hughes film, which was to have starred Jim Carrey, fall apart because of rival project "The Aviator," and became intrigued by the prospect of a Batman movie.