Jack Nicholson was the Joker in Tim Burton's classic Batman nearly 30 years ago and for some fans, he remains to be the best version of the Clown Price of Crime that we have seen on the big screen. As it turns out, Willem Dafoe was considered for the role before Nicholson jumped on board, according to the actor. It's hard to imagine another actor in that role so far down the line, but Dafoe would have been an interesting choice and according to him, he has the "look."
In a recent interview, Willem Dafoe talked about his lengthy career and even spoke of some roles that he did not get. One of which was the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman. Dafoe was never brought in to tryout, nor was he in any official talks with Burton, but he reveals that Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm told him that he was considered. Dafoe had this to say.
"Hamm said something about how physically I would be perfect for the part, but they never offered it to me."
Willem Dafoe certainly has the look of the Joker with his high cheek bones, but he never got offered the role. Other actors that were considered for the Joker in 1989 included John Lithgow, Tim Curry, and even James Woods. Lithgow calls his audition the worst that he's ever done. In addition, the actor says that he wasn't really interested in the part and had no idea how big it would be. Lithgow went on to say that he later heard that they were talking to Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson to tackle the role of the Joker to star alongside Michael Keaton.
Tim Curry didn't end up with the role either, but he ended up voicing the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and was later replaced because he was literally too good at that role. Producers thought that his voice was too scary and too intense for the cartoon, so he was replaced with Mark Hamill who you might know from Star Wars. Hamill, Jack Nicholson, Caesar Romero, and Heath Ledger are on the Mt. Rushmore of Jokers and it's not hard to picture Willem Dafoe up there as well.
Willem Dafoe went on to play the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and could even be considered to play the Joker in the DCEU if Jared Leto ever steps down for the role. Tim Burton's Batman was going to be a smash no matter what, but it's interesting to think what Willem Dafoe could have brought to the role. Would he have gotten the accolades that Jack Nicholson did? We'll never know, but it is fun to think about. You can read more about what Willem Dafoe had to say about his version of the Joker that never came to be over at The Hollywood Reporter.