Josh Hartnett never wanted to play a superhero.
Back in January, the 42-year-old Pearl Harbor actor told Variety that he had turned down an offer to play Superman in the 2006 film Superman Returns and was on Christopher Nolan's short list for Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. Now, in an interview with UK newspaper Metro, Hartnett recalled why he decided to pass on both roles.
"At the time it didn't seem like the sort of decision I would be talking about 15 years later," he said. "There were a lot of powers that be that wanted me to pursue those films, but I have always been interested in stories about people and I didn't want to be boxed into that superhero type. Back then a lot of actors had to fight really hard to get their career back after they played those characters."
Hartnett said, "At that age it is very easy to become someone else's tool or someone else's puppet. I was very aware of the choices I was making and I wanted them to be my choices."
Brandon Routh ended up playing the lead in Superman Returns, which was a box office failure in the United States. Meanwhile, Christian Bale starred as Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy, which was a global box office smash and greatly elevated his film career.
In a 2015 interview with Playboy, Hartnett talked about what happened to his career after he decided not to pursue a role in the Dark Knight trilogy. "I've definitely said no to some of the wrong people," he said. "I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family. That's frowned upon in this industry. People don't like being told no. I don't like it."
"I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman," he continued. "I decided it wasn't for me. Then he didn't want to put me in The Prestige. They not only hired their Batman for it, they also hired my girlfriend [Scarlett Johansson] at the time."
In 2001, a Vanity Fair story titled "The Making of Josh Hartnett" changed the actor's views on Hollywood and his own career. He told The Guardian last month that "people got a chip on their shoulder" about him after the VF article, adding, "They genuinely thought I'd been thrust on them...I was being compared to Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts and that's insane. It was a set-up-to-fail moment.
"They looked at me as someone who had bitten the hand that fed me," Hartnett told The Guardian. "It wasn't that. I wasn't doing it to be recalcitrant or a rebel. People wanted to create a brand around me that was going to be accessible and well-liked, but I didn't respond to the idea of playing the same character over and over, so I branched out. I tried to find smaller films I could be part of and, in the process, I burned my bridges at the studios because I wasn't participating. Our goals weren't the same."