In 1989, the movie scene was very different from today. Superhero cinema was not the economic engine of the industry and Matt Damon was a complete stranger of 16 or 17 years who was looking for his first roles. Why not appear in Batman (1989)?
In an interview with Josh Horowitz for the Happy Sad Confused podcast, the actor has told how it was that first casting in which he aspired to play Robin. Although the Tim Burton project was prepared with such secrecy that Damon probably did not know what he was doing.
The first time I did the casting for Robin, we went to New York in 1987, or maybe it was 1988. I was 16 or 17 years old at the time. I remember we had no one to reply to us, and it didn’t look like you were reading a scene with Batman. It was all so secret that you could have been interpreting the dialogue from any other movie.
Would Tim Burton have selected the actor who would become one of the most recognizable faces of the two thousand? Impossible to know. The role of Batman’s companion was eventually removed from the film’s script and would not reappear until the third part, Batman Forever. Matt Damon would try again.
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By 1995 things had already changed a bit. The Batman of Michael Keaton had shown that the success of Superman, the movie, was not a rarity. and that a superhero film made with care by a director with a personality like Burton could sweep the box office. This time it would be directed by Joel Schumacher instead of the author of Eduardo Mannostieras, and with Val Kilmer as the bat man. Schumacher, Val Kilmer … in 1995 it was not so easy to predict disaster. And it was yet to come Batman y Robin.
Matt Damon wasn’t the 16-year-old of 1989, either. He had joined Brendan Fraser and Chris O’Donnell on the exhilarating Private school, but he was still a long way from becoming a star. So there he came back. To fight for the role of Robin in a losing battle beforehand:
Chris O’Donnell already had the part, but they were negotiating his salary. The studio put pressure on him and his agents by casting other actors. They wanted Chris, but for a certain price. I remember at that stage in my career, you would go in and read, even if you knew you weren’t going to get the job.
Remember that the also very young Chris O’Donnell (what happened to Chris O’Donnell?) Had taken off much better than Damon after Private school. He had just chained the hits of Essence of woman and The Three Musketeers and the leap from D’Artagnan to Robin seemed natural.
Matt Damon did not know what he had gotten rid of until two years later, the same 1997 in which he took off a career of hits such as El indomable Will Hunting, Chris O’Donnell’s Robin crashed with Batman y Robin, that film so camp and disastrous that you always have to vindicate, although George Clooney, the Batman on duty, considers it the worst of his films.
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In a parallel world, Damon may have managed to play Robin and right now Chris O’Donnell was a star capable of selling his California home for $ 21 million. But things were otherwise, and Matt Damon chained world hits like the Bourne and Ocean’s saga with some of the best independent cinema films: Gerry, Margaret… And just released Question of blood, with the director of Spotlight.
According to Horowitz, Damon even had his chance to definitely return to the Batman universe. This time he didn’t have to go to a casting, they offered it to him. But the actor refused to have a role, which he did not want to clarify, in The dark knight by Christopher Nolan. This time it couldn’t be Robin, who didn’t appear until the next movie in the trilogy.
Where the actor did appear was briefly in Thor: Ragnarok. More than 30 years have passed since Matt Damon and his friend Ben Affleck attended their first castings. A new generation has emerged that is taking over. Robert Pattinson is going to be Batman in the next Gotham hero movie and some think Timothée Chalamet should play Robin. Is Chalamet the new Matt Damon? Better that than following the luck of Chris O’Donnell.
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What if Matt Damon had been the Robin from Batman?