Thursday, January 20, 2011

Batman in 1990's: Val Kilmer & George Clooney

Akiva Goldsman: I tried to infuse characters with a little more pathos (Anthology)

There are several versions as to why Michael Keaton didn't reprise his role as Batman. Keaton says that he wasn't interested in the brighten up take on the character and in the new direction the series was taking, Schumacher claims that he was fired. One thing that's certain is that the movie was indeed greenlit with Micheel Keaton attached to the project.

Not only does Schumacher have Burton's blessing (''I wouldn't have approached it if Tim wasn't supportive of the idea,'' he says), but he has Michael Keaton's as well. ''Schumacher can make Batman sexier and more heroic,'' says Harry Colomby, a partner in Keaton's production company. ''Burton is not the hero type. His heart beats for the outsider-look at Edward Scissorhands.'' Keaton, who made $5 million for Batman and $10 million for the sequel, could earn as much as $15 million this time out of the Batcave. ''The predisposition for Michael is always to do Batman,'' says Colomby. Also watch for Keaton, who had to share the spotlight with those cute penguins in Batman Returns, to be more of a player in the next installment.(Entertainment Weekly Oct. 1993)

There are many versions as to what happened next though

Despite the success of the first two Batman movies, Michael Keaton passed over Batman Forever, convinced that there would be little reward in reprising the character again. Now, he is intent on moving on (Film Review Special #12)

Michael Keaton: To lighten up and brighten it up and be a cartoon was of no interest to me (Batman:The Complete History) 

He also did acknowledge that he was in talks at one point 
Michael Keaton: I knew we were in trouble in talks for the third one when certain people started the conversation with ‘Why does it have to be so dark?’ ‘Why does he have to be so depressed?’ ‘Shouldn’t there be more color in this thing?’ I knew I was headed for trouble and that it wasn’t a road I was going to go down.” (La Times 2011) 

Keaton talked about everything including why he "walked away" from "Batman Forever": "Apparently not for me." He said he has "personal" things to do, like time with his young son, as well as wanting to pursue "more interesting roles." (Variety Nov. 1994)

According to one source close to the production, Keaton, who starred in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns (which earned a combined $414 million), was making some thorny demands. ''He wanted $15 million,'' says the insider. ''He wanted a chunk of the gross, he wanted a chunk of merchandising.''
The Keaton camp strongly denies the showdown was about salary alone. ''Money was never the issue,'' says Keaton's producing partner, Harry Colomby. ''Not doing this movie means he probably gave up $30 million, based on his back-end deal.'' According to a source, Keaton was concerned that the Batman juggernaut was rolling without any input from its star.
Making matters worse was an increasingly tense relationship between Keaton and the film's new kingpin, Joel Schumacher, who replaced Keaton's friend Tim Burton as director. ''[After one meeting with Schumacher] Michael was not feeling confident,'' says the Keaton source. ''Creatively, it wasn't happening. He was worried that the character he'd lived with for two films wasn't going to be developed the way he wanted it to be developed.'' As the script was being revised, ''no one ever called [Keaton] to say, 'Wait! You've got to see this!' Or, 'Wait 'til you see what we've got for Batman!''' (Film Review July 1994)

O: Did you have the option to cast Michael Keaton in the third one?
Joel Schumacher: Yes. We were actually making it with Michael Keaton, but his demands were so ridiculous that Warner had to fire him. I inherited him. I was given Michael. By the time he was fired, I was saying, "Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer." I was saying, "Let's go younger." I'm always saying "Let's go younger" on my movies.
O: What do you think Val Kilmer brought to the role of Batman?
 Joel Schumacher: Well, he was a very handsome Batman. I think that Batman Forever was an excellent Batman comic book. (AV Club int 2003)
Joel Schumacher: Bruce Wayne has always been glamorous and attractive and charming on one level and then dark and tortured underneath and I knew Val could play all those sides (Anthology)

Joel Schumacher's movies were more so a reboot rather than a continuation. The series was only linked to the original  movies by two supporting actors (Pat Hingle and Michael Gough) and one sentence alluding to Catwoman.

Batman Forever's  take on Batman is in some ways similar, but in many more ways vastly different then the character presented by Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. One of the similarities is the character's internal pain and pathos, which was a target of discussion even before the script has been written between the writers, Joel Schumacher and Tim Burton who served as one of the producers on the movie.

Val Kilmer: Hes traumatized from his youth and its certainly a fundamental fear you're gonna lose your parents, raised by someone else,' lonely, angry and theres a goodness in him he wants to right wrongs (Anthology)

Joel Schumacher: I wanted to add mythic qualities to our story of batman and so there is a struggle for Bruce Wayne to find his identity (Anthology)

Val Kilmer did a good job in projecting a character that's deeply depressed the time. Goldsman said that the character was driven by guilt, blaming himself for the death of his parents

Mike Mignola: You look at Val Kilmer and you think what the hell is that guy thinking cause certain actors had this thing when you look at them and you know the wheels are turning in there (Anthology)

This Batman is also a very good detective who works with his mind using intelligence and deductive thinking (he solved Riddler's riddles instantly and along with Chase figured out very fast why Two Face attacked this particular bank on this particular day). He also seems to be skilled in many different areas including technology.

However, this is where the similarities end and where a completely different take on the character comes to light. This take on the Batman world is completely different - it isn't a Gothic story, nor is it a fairy tale kind of approach. According to the producers, Joel wanted a new style for Batman and that was Pop. As one of the producers, explained it:

Peter Scott (producer) : It's Saturday Night Fever on acid (Anthology)

Joel Schumacher: My job was to put everything new that I could (Anthology)

Schumacher eschewed the dark, dystopian atmosphere of Burton's earlier films. Instead, he drew inspiration directly from the source: the Batman comic book he admits to loving as a kid [the late 1940's/early 1950's Dick Sprang run]. (...) "What you see is color, great graphics, exciting action sequences and humor." (Variety 1997) 

While Bob Kane worked on Batman Forever as well, he also thought that Batman Returns was a bit too dark even for his tastes and agreed that a brighter direction should be taken

Elizabeth Kane: Bob thought that because the second one perhaps had moments a little too dark, then the third one should be a little more upbeat, not like the TV show by any means, but a little bit more lighter, brighter (Anthology)

Michale Gough: Tim is more a psychological thriller and Joel is more viewing thriller (Anthology)

With the extravagant, pop approach, it was just natural that not only the tone but the characters will change too. Since Gothic element was dropped completely, so were the characteristics of Gothic literature
First of all, Batman was no longer mysterious and puzzling, and is now a conventional main character .He wasn't psychotic anymore either. As oppose to Keaton's portrayal, this Batman wasn't a psycho consumed by the monster he was holding within who was taking him over whom he tried to fight, he was doing what he was doing because it was his choice

Joel Schumacher: He has a choice as a man now whether to continue to be Batman or not (Anthology)

Val Kilmer: He's disgustingly wealthy (...) what he chooses to do with his free time is fight an impossible battle against the crime of the city that is corrupt (Anthology)

From the script:
Poor, Edward. I had to save them
both. You see, I am Bruce Wayne and
Batman. Not because I have to be.
But because I choose to be.

This Batman was simply a hurt Bruce Wayne who was putting on a costume to fight crime

Gough & Millar (Smallville producers): Val Kilmer felt more haunted but heroic. He was comfortable with his wealth, Michael Keaton's interpretation was he was never comfortable in his own skin and never comfortable with all of this stuff which has basically come from his parents (Anthology)

This Bruce also wasn't a loner or a creature of the shadows. As already mentioned, he was simply a depressed and hurt crime fighter in a bat costume. This time he had no problems at all landing and talking in the middle of the crowd in full light in costume...

...and as oppose to his previous incarnation, didn't mind the crowds outside of the costume either inviting Chase to a big, loud and crowded event that is Gotham's Hippodrome Circus and to Nygma's party.

He was also a public persona this time, overlooking Wayne Enterprise and appearing on official galas and on many magazine covers

This Bruce and Batman is very open and there's no anger in him at all, just sadness. He isn't a creature of few words anymore, but a caped and cooperative crime fighter - after all, the signal was now on top of Gordon's quarters implying that the two are collaborating together. This Batman is not only talkative in and outside of the costume, but has a knack for cheesy jokes as well  - "You trying to get under my cape?", "It's the car, chicks dig the car", "I'll get drive through", "Try a fireman. Less to take off." It's interesting to note that Kilmer's Batman is more open then his Wayne side

For Kilmer's part, he makes as good a case for himself as did Roger Moore in his first Bond movie. Keaton may have had the edge in psychological complexity, but Kilmer has nicer lips, and lips are important to a masked Batman.
Keaton's was a quirky, middle-aged, almost unreachable Bruce Wayne. Kilmer's Bruce Wayne is younger and more handsome, and though he's morose and unsmiling, you get the feeling most of his problems would be solved if only he got with the right girlfriend.
(Film Review 1995)

While the previous Batman was a loner who wanted to be alone all the time and even stayed away from Alfred, this Batman, while originally receptive to the idea, accepted a young man as a crime fighting partner and welcomed him as a teammate.

In Dick he saw a young version of himself, and someone driven by pain who wants revenge. Still, he was rejecting the idea of endangering Dick by making him a teammate based on the danger factor and the boy's anger driven motivation, but as soon as he recognized his physical abilities and newly found focus he welcomed him in the "bat family"

He welcomes a partner as Batman and he also welcomes one as Bruce Wayne. He was willing to get involved with the seductive Chase, giving her a considerable amount of attention and being clearly affected by her charms. After he first saw her as Batman he was already enthralled by her and booked a visit in her office. Then even kissed her as Batman and accepted her night invitation, trying to connect with her as both batman and Bruce Wayne (by inviting her on a date)

Kilmer's Batman also had a thing for extravagant and flashy designer gadgets. This time his cave isn't a cold, wet, bat filled cave with a couple of rusty catwalks and a console, it was fully customized, filled with neons , customized construction and flashy gadgets like the rotating platform displaying glowing, logo filled Batmobile like at a car show

This Batman also has a very strong moral code which heavily goes against killing. He explains to Dick that if you kill once and you cross that line, there's no going back

From the script:
We don't kill. Killing is what damns you

At the end, Bruce is willing to spent his life with Chase and he's able to put his demons behind him, giving Chase her doll back saying that he's not gonna be needing it anymore. He made a peace with himself


Michael Uslan (producer) George Clooney played a warm and fuzzy Bruce Wayne, kind of a guy next door. It was a completely different interpretation (Anthology)

Akiva Goldsman: What got lost in Batman & Robin is the emotions aren't real. The worst thing to do with a serious comic book is to make it a cartoon. (Reelz channel 2009)

Everything in the movie multiplies what was created by Batman Forever bt two, and the designs, action and campy dialogue is taken to an even bigger extremes then in it's already extreme predecessor

Val Kilmer however, did not return to protect Gotham again. As it usually is in cases like these, there are different version of events explaining why he did not reprise his role

Val Kilmer: Warner Bros offered me the next Batman, and the only reason that I didn't do it was because of The Saint. Warner Bros made a mistake. That was rushed, so they didn't tell me or my agent. They just went in and started pre-production, and I'd already committed to another movie. But Joel, I think, just thought that it looked bad for him professionally. It really didn't have anything to do with me. (UGO 2004)

Joel Schumacher: I’ll never work with Val Kilmer again, even if it’s to make The Val Kilmer Story.
Val is the most psychologically troubled human being I've ever worked with. The tools I used to work with him--tools of communication, of patience and understanding--were the tools I use on my five-year-old godson. Val is not just high-strung. I think he needs help. I say this to you only because I have said it to him (Premiere, April 1997)

According to sources close to the new production, Kilmer's outspoken nature gave the studio and Bat director Joel Schumacher pause. As one former Kilmer producer says, ''Working with him...[is] like working with nitroglycerin. [It] can blow up on you.'' While filming New Line's Island of Dr. Moreau in Australia last fall, Kilmer instigated script rewrites and occasionally clashed with crew members. Kilmer's agent would not comment, and New Line's president of production, Michael DeLuca, who helped find a new director (John Frankenheimer) for Moreau after Kilmer and costar Marlon Brando ran roughshod over Richard Stanley, insists that Kilmer merely ''has uncompromising artistic integrity.'' (Entertainment Weekly March 1996)

George Clooney was brought in to play a new take on Batman, which would go back to the 1960's Dick Sprang era which was Schumacher's introduction to Batman mythos. 

Joel Schumacher: There is a humanity to George, a kindness , a warmth that I think is new and I think very much needed. I thought he'd be a handsome, charming Batman (Anthology)

This Batman is presented as a regular next door guy, someone completely different from his previous incarnations. This time he was like a next door dad playing halloween and catching criminals with his boy. The decision to turn Batman into a regular, warm and kind guy in a suit was both Schumacher's and Clooney's

Joe Leydon: Your Batman seems to be a bit ...shall we say well adjusted
George Clooney: Yes, he's well adjusted. The one thing I talked to Joel about and he agreed was that we get rid of a lot of the flashbacks about his parents being dead (...) Its time to grow up, its time to move on a little bit. Most people I know who have had really bad pasts perform pretty well in day to day life
(Joe Leydon int 1997)

George Clooney: We talked about this because there were some pages originally written dealing with his parents being dead again and I said "You know he's a 35 year old guy who lives in a giant mansion and has billions of dollars and goes out with the most beautiful women in the world has the coolest toys and hes batman and I don't think anybody's gonna feel sorry for him".(Anthology)

Joel Schumacher: Because we were suppose to make am more family friendly movie i would make a gentler kinder...maybe not as depressed, not as tortured Batman (Anthology)
Michael was terrific, and Val was terrific, but I think George is the best Batman of all. He has brought a humanity to the piece that is fresh, and we've stepped away from a more brooding, self-centered Batman to a more mature, accessible Batman (Variety 1997)

This Batman was not only a kind and a gentle one, but he also had a big sense of humor and was very often smiling

Peter Scott (producer): Joel wanted him not to be too serious in the Bat role (Anthology)

He also never acted any differently outside of the suit then he did in the suit and even appeared at official parties in the suit. Clooney's Batman also never even changed his voice while in the suit. He was simply Bruce Wayne in a blue-black Halloween suit

George Clooney: Batman never gets excited, you'll never hear him yell, so the problem is in high energy scenes you have to keep the energy in the scene but your voice has to stay like this all the time (not changing voice) and that's tricky to do (Joe Leydon int 1997)
I wanted to make him sound like a doctor (Anthology)

Clooney's Batman is seen expanding is Bat Family by easily accepting Barbara Wilson as Batgirl, without any kind of opposition. 

This take on Bruce/Batman is that of a normal guy, so just like any other normal person, he has a steady relationship with a regular woman which is implied to be strong and long lasting. After all, there's a talk about getting engaged already. 

Never has Batman been less believable or human. It's not actor George Clooney's fault -- he gives it a game try, but, really, his function is to provide a body to put into the costume. We see even less of Bruce Wayne's heart than we do of his face. Gradually, over the previous three movies, bits and pieces of Batman's character began to surface. Not so here. All attempts at development are obligatory, perfunctory, and not terribly convincing (ReelViews 1997)

He has an even bigger knack for customized designing then he ever had before, turning his batcave into a high tech, flashy and colorful base

George Clooney: "I think we buried that franchise," (via



  1. I appreciate Schumacher's attempt with Kilmer but Batman as a regular superhero doesnt work for me

  2. Clooney totally missed the character. Batman was raised by alfred alone in a mansion in separation thinking about the murder so obviously he didnt just "get over it" and "move on". Duh Georgie, its not like his parents died and he had new ones or a family to take care of him. And you know, Bales batman is rich drives Lamborghini and goes out with supermodels but we DO feel sorry for him. Clooney was the worst thing that happened to Batman. Him and Schumacher

  3. "Glamorous? Charming, handsome"? Schumacher was the worst person to handle Batman. He should be doing Princess on Ice, not Batman

  4. I cant believe how totally different this character was from Burton's movies. It really was like a reboot. Didnt the writers constantly referred to Forever as "the first movie" and to B&R as "the second movie"? I say its a full reboot. And after all, Dent turns from black to white

  5. When I see those shots of Schumacher's Gotham I cringe. Burton's Gotham looked like a cross between Gothic medieval city and 1930s Industrial America. Schumacher's look like Barbie Doll house

  6. No wonder Batman was so miscast in Schumacher's movies if he was just picking the actors for because he found them handsome and because they were "glamorous"

  7. Very well written and well-researched article, GothamAlleys.

  8. "Glamorous? Charming, handsome"? Schumacher was the worst person to handle Batman. He should be doing Princess on Ice, not Batman

    Quoted for truth ...

  9. LOL sad indeed. Then sculpted a rubber ass and nipples on a Bat-suit, and literally threw an actual sculpted dick onto Bane's chest. If I was a studio exec @ Warner's at the time ... I would have said what the hell man? Don't force your sexuality onto what would amount to a generation of young audiences. Putting in subliminals through his mass marketed movies. SMH haha

  10. The dick on Bane's chest always makes me laugh

  11. Kilmer and Clooney would have been really good Batmen... thats if Schumacher wasn't directing

  12. ""Joel Schumacher's movies were more so a reboot rather than a continuation. The series was only linked to the original movies by two supporting actors (Pat Hingle and Michael Gough) and one sentence alluding to Catwoman.""

    In a flashback scenes of Batman Forever- the shooter of Wayne's parents appears in the same pose of Jack Napier in the first movie. I do not think a reboot.

    1. I consider Batman Forever as more of a standalone MTV generation movie inspired from Burton's Batman or at the very least the Superman III of the Batman film series.

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  14. Batman didnt kill Joker. Circumstances did. He just tied Joker to the statue so he wont escape, nobody could predict it will break off and bring him down

    1. 1. "Your parents were avenged". Alfred in a deleted scene of Batman Forever.

      Dick says "You parents weren't killed by a maniac." Bruce replied, "Yes they were." reference to Jack Napier "The Joker".

      Batman Forever is a continuation to the Burton's films.

  15. "This Batman also has a very strong moral code which heavily goes against killing. He explains to Dick that if you kill once and you cross that line, there's no going back"

    This scene makes it clear that Batman killed the murderer of his parents (Joker), being more a connection to the 1989 film.

  16. Batman didnt kill Joker. Joker fell when the statue broke off and put too much weight on him

  17. I dont think theres much disputing about whether Schumacher's movies are sequels or not, they were intended to be, but while they have the connections and offically are, theres much much more that separates them than unites them. I didnt claim they were a reboot, I said they were MORE SO like a reboot

  18. This is because of the change of director. But the narrative does not ignore the first two films, unlike Batman Begins.

    And Batman Returns had no direct connection with the 1989 film. The only reference is clearer quote Vicki Vale. We had no reference to Harvey Dent. Would you consider more like a reboot because of it?

  19. Its not about references alone, thats the least of the problem. The biggest shift is the look of Gotham and complete , and I mean complete change of personality and character of Batman character. Then we have stuff like Dent changing from black to white, and the fact that in Burtons universe Arnold Schwarzenegger exists and is an actor (look at Shreck's office).

  20. Avilos - I agree, there is a change in Batman's character. It could be argued this is a progression. After the death of the Joker and realizing in BF that he has chosen to be Batman, he became more accepting of his life. Also ass you have said Batman's public acceptance and appearances fit the publishing history. He was an outlaw who was gradually accepted. Also any mystery is diminished over time. He was really a guy in a suit, not a supernatural creature. The longer he operate the more that would have been clear. At some point he may have seen it to his advantage to be more public. Got to say I LOVE your site. A lot of thought has been put into your articles.

  21. It would have been fascinating if Michael Keaton would have continued in the role and would have more seriously explored these changes. Fans were suspicious of him because of his comedy roles in the beginning. Imagine if it was shown this distant Bruce/Batman had a litter side. Keaton certainly could have handled it. He would have had more screen time in Batman Forever than in either of his own films

  22. Val Kilmer was the second best better Batman. But must watch the deleted scenes of Batman Forever, You can watch a tormented Batman like Michael Keaton. Well you must watch this scenes, probably in YouTube or Batman Forever in it's Special Edition in DVD.

  23. Batman Forever is supposed to be a continuation to the Burton batman films. Tim Burton was going to direct this movie, but WB didn't want him to because, parents were saying that the previous film Batman Returns was too dark for their younger kids. Michael Keaton was supposed to play Batman/Bruce Wayne in this movie (it is a sequel) but he left the project because, he didn't really like the new lighter direction it was going. Both Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton are my two favorite best Batmans ever! Kilmer doesn't sound like Keaton that much but he certainly talks like Keaton.

  24. Batman Forever is the only Batman movie by Joel Schumacher that stays a little closer to Tim Burton's Batman movies It may be Schumacher's film, but it's still Burton's series. If they made Batman Triumphant, then that movie would have been even more closer to Burton's movies.

  25. Kilmer should be thankful he dodged a major bullet; Clooney took it head-on and it bounced off him like teflon!

  26. How people can consider "Batman & Robin" to be one of the worst big-budgeted studio blockbusters ever made and not realize that things have not improved at all since then with dreck like "Star Trek Into Darkness" is really beyond all of us...

    Truly, these dumb films are mass-produced to keep the 1%-ers in power and the rest of us programmed as dumb, TV-programmed, sheep. :(

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