Michael Keaton was the first to play Batman in cinematic form in Tim Burton’s 1989 film and reprised the role once more in Burton’s 1992’s Batman Returns. The movies were so popular that a third movie, Batman Forever, was soon in the works with Joel Schumacher at the helm.
In a recent interview, Keaton revealed that he considered starring in Batman Forever but bowed out due to creative differences with Schumacher; the new director wanted to make Bruce Wayne/Batman less dark and brooding, and Keaton wanted none of it.
In an interview on the podcast In The Envelope (via The Wrap), Keaton shared that he and Schumacher had different ideas about how emo The Dark Knight should be. “I remember one of the things that I walked away going, ‘Oh boy, I can’t do this,’” Keaton said. “[Schumacher] asked me, ‘I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,’ and I went, ‘Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple.’”
Schumacher didn’t budge on wanting the film to be more bright and bubbly, and Val Kilmer became the Bat instead. Schumacher then went full bubble gum goofiness in Batman & Robin with George Clooney as the caped crusader. That movie… didn’t do so well and we didn’t get to see Batman on the big screen again until Christopher Nolan rebooted the franchise in 2005.
While Keaton hasn’t been Bruce Wayne for thirty years, he’ll soon be reprising the role in the upcoming DCEU movie, The Flash. During the interview, Keaton also shared his take on portraying the part:
“It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman,” he said. “To me, I know the name of the movie is Batman, and it’s hugely iconic and very cool and [a] cultural iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic. I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. [Everyone would say,] ‘Batman, Batman, Batman does this,’ and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Y’all are thinking wrong here.’ [It’s all about] Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?… Who becomes that? What kind of person [does that]?”
You can check out Keaton in The Flash when the movie premieres in November 4, 2022 or give Burton’s two Batman films a rewatch at your leisure.