Batman Unchained was the planned sequel to Batman & Robin being written by Mark Protosevich under the direction of Joel Schumacher. It was cancelled after the negative reception of Batman & Robin. Some themes and imagery from this script were later used in Batman Begins.
- George Clooney as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin
- Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl/Barbara Wilson
- Nicolas Cage as Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow (role offered)
- Courtney Love as Harley Quinn (actress never hired)
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon (expected)
- Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey as Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face and the Riddler respectively (they would return in Batman's mind as a result of the Scarecrow's fear toxins)
During the filming of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies. This prompted them to immediately hire Joel Schumacher to return as director for a fifth film, but writer Akiva Goldsman, who worked on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin with Schumacher, turned down the chance to write the script. In late 1996, Warner Bros. and Schumacher hired Mark Protosevich to write the script for a fifth Batman film. A projected mid-1999 release date was announced. Titled Batman Unchained, Protosevich's script had the Scarecrow as the main villain and it would bring back the franchise in a more serious and darker direction, unlike the previous two films.
The script dealt with Batman learning to conquer fear and to confront the demons of his past. The Joker would return as a hallucination in Batman's mind caused by the Scarecrow's fear toxin, along with Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face and the Riddler, all together to judge the hero on trial. Harley Quinn appeared as a toymaker, written as the Joker's daughter trying to get revenge on Batman for the Joker's death. Crane discovers Batman's identity and forms an alliance with Harley to lead him to madness and lock him in Arkham Asylum.
In the script, Robin abandons Batman for disagreements, but he returns during the final battle to help his mentor. After defeating his enemies and his demons, Bruce makes a trip to Bali and enters a cave full of bats, with them flying around him, as a proof for having conquered his fears.
Schumacher offered the part of the Scarecrow to Nicolas Cage while filming Face/Off and Courtney Love was proposed for the role of Harley.
However, when Batman & Robin received negative reviews and failed to outgross any of its predecessors on its release, the idea was to continue the big budget spectacle but Warner Bros. were unsure of their plans for Batman Unchained and George Clooney vowed never to wear the cape and cowl again. Director of the previous two films Joel Schumacher claimed that he turned down the chance to return stating that he lost his "passion" for Batman in film and didn't want to turn the passion into just a job. In reality it seemed the studio was unwilling to to gamble on his vision.
In the aftermath producer Peter MacGregor-Scott was relegated to making OnStar commercials featuring Bruce Thomas as Batman. Surviving costume pieces like Clooney's Batsuit and Kilmer's Cowl as well as the Batcave set were re-used in the television spots. The studio favored bringing back the Michael Keaton Batmobile and Danny Elfman theme to distance them from the Schumacher ephemera.
Impact on further screenplays
WB executive Greg Silverman was tasked with helping develop a new script featuring Scarecrow by Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise, called Batman: DarKnight. The new approach to a fifth movie focused on more physiological nuance and building a more subtle dark atmosphere, keeping the budget more reasonable to address criticisms of the previous movie. Ultimately the studio decided it was best to consider something completely different rather a fifth sequel.
A live-action Batman Beyond film and an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One were both developed. Warner Bros. would hire Darren Aronofsky to direct Year One. Realizing it had deviated so far from the source material it was abandoned as well. Christopher Nolan pitched a similar take in 2003 which resulted in Batman Begins, the final film features numerous influences from both scripts for the fifth movie using Scarecrow.
- The 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight seems to indirectly draw some inspiration from the unused script to Batman Unchained, as the game features Scarecrow as the main villain and the Joker appearing to Batman in hallucinations.