Michael Keaton Reveals The Secret To Playing Batman

By Robert Scucci | Published

When Michael Keaton was originally cast for the titular role in Tim Burton’s Batman, comic book fans were not pleased with the prospect. In fact, Warner Bros. was inundated with 50,000 letters of disapproval over Burton’s casting choice because the idea of a comedian taking on such a dark role was, in Keaton’s words, “a ballsy move.”

Through The Eyes Of Bruce Wayne

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But Michael Keaton did one thing that allowed him to win over fans with his portrayal of Batman: he focused primarily on Bruce Wayne’s character, and not his anti-hero alter-ego.

Drawing inspiration from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic miniseries, Michael Keaton always approached the role of Batman through the eyes of Bruce Wayne. Keaton was right to take this approach because when he first started preparing for the role, he didn’t even know how to move or act as Batman.

Understanding The Backstory

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Michael Keaton knew it was important to fully understand Bruce Wayne’s backstory in order for him to truly understand Batman’s motives.

This approach makes sense because Bruce Wayne has a troubled past, and Michael Keaton knew he had to fully understand what was at stake while working on Batman.

Without fully exploring the darker aspects of Bruce Wayne’s childhood, in which his parents were murdered, Batman would quickly fall apart because the lore behind Bruce Wayne’s upbringing is what truly drives the story.

Took It Seriously

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By focusing on the man behind Batman, Keaton was able to graciously transition into a role that most comic book fans disapproved of at first. But they now celebrate because he took the source material seriously and truly understood what made Batman’s character work on a granular level.

Working The Suit

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Michael Keaton also talked about getting used to the actual Batman suit during production, which he considered to be an isolating experience.

Suggesting that “working the suit” will get you “three-quarters of the way there,” Keaton reflected on how he first took the wrong approach by hitting the gym so he could be fit enough to play the role.

When asked by Batman co-star Jack Nicholson why he was focusing so much on the physicality of the role, Keaton realized he didn’t have an answer to the question, and reconsidered how he was focusing his energy.

Stop Bulking Up

michael keaton batman

Stating that it was easier to move around with a slimmer physique, Michael Keaton revealed that there was more room to breathe inside of the Batman suit when he decided to stop bulking up and focus more on developing his character.

Upon the realization that the suit itself would do most of the work for him, Keaton’s energy was freed up to focus on delivering iconic line after iconic line as Bruce Wayne (“You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!”).

Embracing Complexity

Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns work so well because of Michael Keaton’s willingness to embrace the complexity of Bruce Wayne’s character in way that hasn’t been replicated since.

Michael Keaton’s comedy chops also elevated both films because his deadpan delivery makes sense in this context.

While there are never any true laugh-out-loud moments in Tim Burton’s Batman films, Keaton brings in a dry sense of humor that adds a level of depth that even Chistopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series fails to capture.

Source: JoBlo