Michael Keaton on why he quit Batman Forever, returned for The Flash

When narrating about Batman, maybe the very first concern any developer would have has to do with who or what specifies Batman. Is he Bruce Wayne in a bat outfit, or a vigilante masquerading as a billionaire? This concern of dueling identities has actually been at the core of the character given that his earliest days in Investigator Comics in 1939. The character has actually gone through a wide range of improvements given that Bob Kane and Costs Finger’s day, and Michael Keaton’s Batman provides among those crucial minutes.

While on the Backstage podcast, Keaton talked through his efficiencies in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, and why he decreased to move forward with Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. The chatter is pure ’90s, however the concerns Keaton had at the time stay essential for comprehending the character.

The podcast, which was very first identified by The Playlist, consists of these information around the 50 minute mark, when Keaton gets inquired about functions coming cycle in his long profession. One example is the thematic connections in between the 1988 film Tidy and Sober, which concentrates on dependency, and the current Hulu miniseries Dopesick, in which Keaton plays a physician who ends up being addicted to pain relievers. However more straight, his function as Batman has actually returned once again, with his casting in The Flash along with Batgirl.

Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns

Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns
Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Burton played a large function in making Batman “artistically iconic,” Keaton says. As for the actor’s view on his performance as Batman, he says, “I always knew from the get-go, it was Bruce Wayne. That’s the secret. I never talked about it. [People would say,] ‘Batman does this,’ and, you know, y’all are thinking wrong here. It’s about Bruce Wayne. Who’s that guy? What type of person does that?”

Batman Returns was a hit both financially and critically, but that came with cultural caveats. Neither Warner Bros. nor corporate partners like McDonald’s were happy with the mature nature of the movie. As one anonymous rival studio exec told Home Entertainment Weekly in 1992, “If you bring back Burton and Keaton, you’re stuck with their vision. You can’t expect Honey, I Shrunk the Batman.”

McDonald’s was widely criticized for promoting a PG-13 movie to younger audiences, even earning the ire of a New York Times editorial that read, “despite its comic-book origin, this summer’s Batman sequel, Batman Returns, isn’t a film for young children,” and that the fast-food restaurant chain had made an “annoying marketing misjudgment” in promoting collector cups and toys.

Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) in Batman Returns were two reasons why critics felt the movie was inappropriate for kids

Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) in Batman Returns were two reasons why critics felt the movie was inappropriate for kids
Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment

After claiming that the toys weren’t “intended to encourage young kids to see the movie,” the company eventually cut the promotion. Entertainment Weekly wrote at the time that Batman Returns had “displeased both poles of its audience — the flood of juvenile tie-ins has undermined its appeal to adults, while its kinky weirdness turns off some kids.” Still, though, EW’s coverage theorized that “the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for Gotham-related tchotchkes all but guarantees that Warner will keep spinning out follow-ups through the end of the century.”

Entertainment Weekly was right about Warner Bros., which sought to course-correct by bringing on Joel Schumacher, who had recently made waves with his dark comedy Falling Down. But Keaton said that after meeting a few times with Schumacher, the actor could tell he wouldn’t be bringing a similar attitude to the next Batman movie.

“I remember one of the things I walked away from thinking, ‘Oh boy, I can’t do this,’ [was] where [Schumacher] said, ‘I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and so sad.’ And I went, ‘Wait a minute. Do you know how this guy got to be Batman?’” Keaton cites Frank Miller’s work on the character, as well as Burton’s vision, as aligning with his own.

That vision didn’t mesh with Schumacher’s, whose Batman Forever saw Val Kilmer don the cowl instead. Similarly to what had transgressed with Burton, that movie’s success led to a sequel, but that follow-up was widely seen as veering too strongly in one direction. While Batman & Robin ended up knocking the World’s Greatest Detective out of theaters for some time, eight years later, a new reboot called Batman Begins started asking those same questions about Bruce Wayne and who exactly was behind the mask.

Keaton’s version wasn’t all dark and brooding, though. He states he saw Bruce Wayne as “quirky,” “not always sure of himself,” and “kind of an odd, unusual guy.” He also describes trying to find the humor in the character with Burton, something that doesn’t resonate highly with most contemporary live-action representations. In his upcoming functions as the character, he’ll have an opportunity to reveal existing audiences what they’ve been missing out on.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.