MOVIE NEWS – The actor who played the dark knight twice: Michael Keaton revealed why he didn’t return for the third Batman film directed by Joel Schumacher.
Michael Keaton is one of the most recognizable faces alongside DC Comics’ iconic character, Batman. The actor was the first to play the brooding vigilante in the legendary Batman (1989) film. The film, directed by Tim Burton, departed from the more light-hearted live-action series with Adam West from the 1960s, and painted a darker picture of Batman and Gotham City. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman joined Keaton’s Bruce Wayne in the actor’s second time in the role, in Batman Returns, which offered an even more intense look at the crime-ridden Gotham City. However, Batman Returns did not find the success that its predecessor did. Batman Returns was more divisive than 1989’s Batman, and had a lower total box office. These factors led to the decision to replace Burton with director Joel Schumacher, and Keaton did not return as the dark knight for Schumacher’s Batman Forever.
Keaton left the role, as he himself revealed in an interview with Backstage early last year. Keaton said he met with the 1995 Batman Forever director, Schumacher, about continuing in the role of the dark knight, even if Burton did not return. However, the two could not agree on the basic story elements. Keaton wanted the film to continue with Burton’s darker tone, while Schumacher was the studio’s choice to bring Batman into a more family-friendly atmosphere after the divisive Batman Returns. Keaton wanted the film to retain the accurate depiction of Batman from Burton’s duology and the Batman comics, and would not budge, with Schumacher even going so far as to tell the actor “I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad.” Keaton then recalled answering this idea: “Wait a minute, do you know how this guy became Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s very simple.”
In the end, the director was hired to take the franchise in a more vibrant direction, which differed greatly from Burton’s films and Batman comics, and which Keaton had no interest in being part of. Who replaced Michael Keaton as Batman After Keaton’s rejection, Schumacher had to find a new actor for the role. The part eventually went to Top Gun star Val Kilmer. The actor had a childhood dream of playing the character, which contributed to Kilmer signing up for Batman Forever without even reading the script or knowing who the film’s director was (according to the biographical documentary Val) – a very different level of meticulousness than what Keaton showed when deciding whether to stay in the role.