Robin Williams Was Going To Play Two Iconic Batman Villains

Robin Williams was on the shortlist to play the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman and the Riddler in Batman Forever, but he lost out on the first and turned down the second following Tim Burton leaving the project.

By Mark McKee | Updated

robin williams

Robin Williams was one of the most charismatic actors of his generation with wholesome and comedic roles in films like JumanjiMrs. Doubtfire, and Hook. But he was also someone capable of an immense amount of range and depth that he was able to put on display in films like Good Will HuntingDead Poets Society, and Patch Adams. That range almost got an earlier display as, according to Startefacts, Robin Williams was considered for and almost portrayed two of Batman‘s most fearsome villains in Joker and Riddler. 

According to legend, Williams was given the opportunity to audition for the role of Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 and was even offered the role when Jack Nicholson turned the part down. While it is speculated that Williams’ desire to portray the clown prince of crime was primarily centered around his desire to work with Tim Burton, his acceptance of the role seemed to turn out to be the leverage the studio needed to convince Jack Nicholson to sign on. As the story goes, Robin Williams losing his chance to go toe to toe with Batman was enough to send him into a rage, and seeing Nicholson deliver an Academy Award-worthy performance had to sting. 

That wasn’t the end of the road for the Jumanji actor in the franchise, as he went down a similar road years later for the third film, Batman Forever. It is unclear if the next opportunity to appear in the DC franchise was a way for the studio to make amends or if he was similarly passionate. But by the time Robin Williams was approached for the project, it was for a different director and a different Batman. 

Jack Nicholson as the Joker

The second half of this legend begins when the first iteration of the Batman franchise ends. According to legend, the studio approached the Aladdin actor again to appear as Edward Nigma, AKA the Riddler, in Batman Forever. Unfortunately for Robin Williams, Tim Burton had left the project, and Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman, causing Williams to turn down the project and move on to other things. 

Turning it down might have been a very wise career move, as in the same year that Jim Carrey’s version of the character hit the screen alongside Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face in a very different and lighthearted installment of the franchise, Williams appeared in Nine MonthsTo Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and one of the biggest hits of his career, Jumanji. Jim Carrey’s rising star saw him have one of the best single years of any acting career in 1994 with The MaskDumb and Dumber, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, dropped heartily with his role in the poorly received third Batman film. 

Robin Williams had every bit of acting chops to pull off whatever role he wanted in Batman and could have arguably made Joker better (if that is possible) or saved Batman Forever (maybe even more impossible), but unfortunately for fans, he never got the opportunity to bring it to life. And his tragic death over a decade ago closed the door on any chance he could have ever been a part of the new multiverse trend and returned with Michael Keaton