In the realm of DC superhero movies, there are two versions of Superman. The baby refugee who learned the value of hard work and helping others from his adoptive parents, and the Man of Steel who killed Zod with his bare hands, making humanity wonder what would happen if he turned on them. In 2013, Zack Snyder explored that story in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But that wasn’t the first time the studio toyed with the idea of another hero preparing to face-off against the Son of Krypton, and Johnny Depp of all people was almost involved.
A Batman vs. Superman movie was actually on the cards in the early 2000s with Wolfgang Petersen set to direct. According to Hollywood legend, the mythical screenplay still lives in the Santa Monica office of The Perfect Storm director. The Batman vs. Superman draft, which very few people have seen, is filled with hand-written notes and is guaranteed to make any collector’s dreams come true. The epic team-up movie was first reported by Entertainment Weekly in 2002.
Apparently, Warner Bros was desperately trying to revive the Superman franchise following the success of television series’ like Lois and Clark and Smallville. And after Batman and Robin failed at the box office the studio wanted to see if they could add the Caped Crusader to the mix too. Inspired by a forgotten DC Comics project, the story would begin when Batman and Superman team up to stop a common enemy but disagree on the approach. While Superman stands for clear, bright, noble, and just outcomes, Batman leans toward a dark, obsessive, and vengeful one.
A screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker (of Seven fame) had already been completed, but no actors had been cast. However, a search was underway for actors in their late 20s or early 30s to take on the coveted superhero roles. The director was searching for someone who could portray the complexity and serious emotions in their acting, while still having fun and being an awesome superhero. At the time he had his eye on Matt Damon, who he liked but hadn’t approached. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Jude Law, and Paul Walker were also considered. Petersen was also supposed to cast three major female roles and some still-undisclosed bad guys.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the project (via The New York Post) Peterson said, “Because they are so different, they will inevitably end up clashing. It will be a battle of the titans.” The story was also said to be character-driven and not just an action spectacle. “We are not going to go with typical action stars but great actors who will do an action-oriented part.” So it makes sense they were looking to people like Johnny Depp and Jude Law for the film. According to Collider, the premise began with the death of Alfred Pennyworth. Bruce Wayne lost his wife to The Joker – which he eventually blamed on Superman who was dealing with the break-up of his own relationship. This would cause the pair to resent each other.
It would have been really cool to see Wolfgang Petersen’s Batman vs. Superman story come to life. Especially since so many fans didn’t care for the Dawn of Justice. However, BuzzFeed says the Ultimate Edition fixes the confusing story by filling the plot holes. This includes Lex Luthor’s plan to destroy the Man of Steel, and how he framed him for the Nairomi murders. The villain is also seen communicating with Steppenwolf – setting up the war with Apokolips in Justice League.