Batman: Michael Keaton on Leaving Once Dir Joel Schumacher Took Over

There's something to be said about Batman actors and the directors they're synonymous with, as in the case of Michael Keaton and Tim Burton. Both worked with each other in the 1989 film and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns. When Burton declined to be in what became 1995's Batman Forever, plans were originally to include Keaton to reprise the role with Joel Schumacher to direct. Unfortunately, a creative clash between the two led to Keaton's exit and the subsequent casting of Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader (who wasn't fond of the experience himself). Making his triumphant return in the role for the upcoming The Flash and Batgirl while promoting his latest project Dopesick on Hulu, Keaton opened up to In the Envelope: The Actor's Podcast (via Comic Book Resources) about it was never going to work with the late director.

The Flash: Michael Keaton on Marvel, DC, and Revisiting Batman
Image courtesy of Warner Bros

"It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman," Keaton 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]?" The Oscar nominee admitted Schumacher's inflexibility was the last straw.

Michael Keaton is Reportedly in Talks to Return as Batman in The Flash
Michael Keaton at the World premiere of 'Dumbo' held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, USA on March 11, 2019. Editorial credit: Tinseltown /

"And then when the director who directed the third one [came on] I said, 'I just can't do it,'" Keaton explained. "And one of the reasons I couldn't do it was—and you know, he's a nice enough man, he's passed away, so I wouldn't speak ill of him even if he were alive—he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize doing it and hopefully talking him into saying I think we don't want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction. And he wasn't going to budge."

With the release of Forever and its 1997 sequel Batman & Robin (with George Clooney taking over the starring role from Kilmer), the films went in a far campier direction in contrast to the Burton films. "I remember one of the things that I walked away going, 'Oh boy, I can't do this,'" Keaton said. "He 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.'" The actor returns in the upcoming Andy Muschietti's The Flash slated for a November 4th release date.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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