Re: A theory about an alternate TDKR with the Joker
Yeah, I think it's pretty clear that Goyer's original outlines for 2 and 3 were condensed into what became TDK because Nolan wanted to make a complete film, and not dangle Two-Face as sequel bait. When Goyer gave EW his trilogy outline in 2005, he definitely did not have the full vision of what TDK was going to be, seeing as the rise and fall of Harvey Dent is a big part of what makes that movie what it is.
Now, of course, if Heath had lived, we'd be in a tangent universe where The Joker returned in film 3, even if only for a cameo. Nolan just has too much precedent for wanting to work with the same people again to not at least write him a small part, especially considering how amazing he was in that role.
But I really, really doubt Nolan had a chance to give it much thought (he was knee-deep in post when Heath passed), nor do I believe there was any concrete plan about what film 3 was going to be prior to Goyer proposing Bane as the film's villain. The only thing I do believe is that there was an interest in doing Catwoman, which had been reported prior to TDK's release.
And I also think the rumors about the studio wanting The Riddler are absolutely true. There were just way too many reports for there not to have been some buzz about that, and it makes total sense if it was coming from WB all along.