Sean Penn’s first foray into literature is being so discussed on social media right now, it’s hard to recall the time when he was an actor (he retired last week), as opposed to being a boundary-pushing author who really loves alliteration and getting on people’s nerves.
But when he was a thespian, one of the big rumours surrounding his career involved Penn being Chris Nolan’s first choice for the Joker in The Dark Knight, a role he turned down.
Penn’s finally put the rumour to rest, telling the Happy, Sad, Confused podcast that Nolan didn’t approach him with the role.
“I don’t recall that. If he did, he never told me himself. Between the indelible one that Jack [Nicholson] did, and then when Heath Ledger came along and made it a new kind of rock and roll.”
“Listen, yes, over the years I’ve been offered a couple of things that became extremely successful genre pictures, and in most cases when I looked at them I think we me in it, they would not have been extremely successful genre pictures.”
He’s probably right – Penn’s only dipped his toe into franchise filmmaking only once, and while it was his most successful film at the box office, it didn’t exactly break records, and we’re not entirely sure his voice-work in The Angry Birds Movie is the first thing he brings up at dinner parties.
Heath Ledger, meanwhile, delivered the defining performance of his career in The Dark Knight, winning a posthumous Oscar for his stunning performance as Batman’s greatest foe.
Jared Leto’s the latest actor to play the character, in David Ayer’s badly received Suicide Squad and the less we say about that performance, the better, but if you haven’t seen it, be warned, it’ll hurt you, really, really bad.
Who knows what Penn’s Joker would have been like, but we’re going to go ahead and assume it would have been better than his writing.