It’s not a secret that Michael Keaton was always against suiting up a third time to play Batman in Batman Forever. In fact, he has been pretty vocal about his displeasure with how Joel Schumacher had wanted to portray Batman in the third installment of the franchise. Back in 2017, Keaton was less than cordial about his feelings towards the film. He said the film “was never really good” and the script “sucked.” Now, on the precipice of playing The Caped Crusader again, Keaton was gone more in-depth about how creative differences made him walk away from Batman Forever.
Michael Keaton spoke with the In The Envelope podcast. He went in-depth about the creative differences that he had with Joel Schumacher and how that essentially caused too big of a rift between them. According to Keaton, “I remember one of the things that I walked away going, ‘Oh boy, I can’t do this.’ 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.'” It’s obvious from this quote alone that Schumacher never had the intention to showcase Bruce Wayne as more than just a superhero in Batman Forever. That was obviously the case, as the film centered around Batman’s theatrics more than his past and dealing with the trauma that turned him into Batman.
Michael Keaton went on to explain that in his view, the story isn’t about Batman, but Bruce Wayne. “It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman. 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]?”
In the end, Michael Keaton left the project. It’s not a shock that most actors would want to walk away from Batman Forever and Joel Schumacher’s style. The simple fact of that matter is that his style was always more colorful and campy. Batman Forever and certainly Batman & Robin were way on the side of the more 1960s style Batman with the quippy one-liners and how Bruce Wayne portrayed himself in the films. That was one of the biggest issues that Michael Keaton had with the film and the script. He wanted to keep portraying the more brooding style of Bruce Wayne and have the film focus on the juxtaposition of Bruce Wayne attempting his double life as Batman. Funny enough, that is what Christopher Nolan captured in his trilogy.
The great thing is that Michael Keaton had always wanted to return to playing Batman and now he will get his chance as he is slated to reprise his role for DC’s new The Flash film, which will deal heavily with DC’s version of the multiverse. The Flash is meant to travel back in time or rather, to another reality where he will ultimately meet the Keaton Batman. It has also been recently announced that Keaton is going to be appearing in Batgirl as well. It’s truly great to see one of the best to ever play Bruce Wayne return to his role.
Michael Keaton always talked fondly in interviews about the times in which he got to be Batman, it was just that Batman Forever wasn’t the Tim Burton style to which he was so accustomed. Burton always has a flair for the macabre so it makes sense that Schumacher and Keaton were never going to see eye-to-eye on the character. Thankfully, we will get to see how the new and older Michael Keaton is going to be portraying Batman and Bruce Wayne again.