The comic book movie franchises, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros’s DC Extended Universe, or even Fast & Furious, owe gratitude to superhero films of the ’80s and ’90s, which paved the way for modern releases. And while the newer big-budget releases mostly dominate box offices, massive franchises pose the most significant investment risks for their respective studios, one issue of which is that massive fandoms often tend to be more critical than small ones. Introducing spin-offs to the mix is usually an excellent way to expand a cinematic universe, grow a loyal fan base, and even earn a few extra millions in the process. Unfortunately, not all spin-offs see the light of day – Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman being among one of them.
Warner Bros.’ Batman series that started in 1989 changed the superhero genre forever, proving that comic book movies can earn hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. Tim Burton’s Batman Returns was an exceptional masterpiece, and one of the best Batman films of all time, with Michael Keaton as the lead, Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle, Danny DeVito as The Penguin, and legendary Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. The movie was a critical and commercial success (earning 300% of its budget), prompting Warner Bross to order a sequel film, Batman Forever, and, according to Den of Geek, a Catwoman spin-off with Pfeiffer reprising her role as Selina Kyle.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. decided at the time that a more light-hearted approach to Batmen Forever would appease the mainstream demand for family films. As a result, Burton, who had no interest in directing such a sequel, remained with the project as the upcoming film’s producer, though his absence from the director’s seat was noticeable. However, Burton was still attached as a director to the announced Catwoman spin-off movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer, with Denise Di Novi as a producer and Daniel Waters as a scriptwriter. Waters turned in his version of the script, which followed the grim setting of 1992’s Batman Returns, in 1995 – the same day Batman Forever was released.
Batman Forever was an absolute fun-for-the-whole-family cinematic hit. However, it left a bitter aftertaste to the fans of 1992’s previous film – which affected the film’s performance to a degree (though it still made a 260% return). Not to mention Val Kilmer’s dreadful experience as Batman. Regardless, Waters’ version of Catwoman with Michelle Pfeiffer definitely wasn’t scripted as a family film.
The story of the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman would have focused on Selina Kyle having amnesia and retreating to the Las Vegas-like city of Oasisburg. The twist here is that it is a big desert resort town that is run by superheroes. This allowed Waters the opportunity to poke a lot of fun at the typical male superhero archetypes and stereotypes. Eventually, the superheroes are revealed to actually be pretty bad people, and Selina has to reawaken her Catwoman persona to take them all down. Supposedly, the tone was going to be something like a dark comedy and would have been a little more sexualized than audiences might have expected from a comic book movie.
Warner Bros decided to ax the idea since it wasn’t the kind of tone they wanted after the response to the much darker Batman Returns. Instead, Burton and Waters’ vision ended up as a critically panned Catwoman from 2004, starring Halle Berry, which wasn’t produced by Warner Bros. though the company did distribute the film.
But that wasn’t the only failed idea for a Catwoman spin-off film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Though Burton’s idea fell through and became a subject of mockery among the fans who also dreamt of a parallel universe in which Halle Berry’s version of the film never happened, John August also pitched his idea of Catwoman to Warner Bros. August, best known for his work on 1999’s Go and 2019’s Aladdin, shared his Catwoman pitch on Twitter under a hashtag called #ShareYourRejections, revealing the details of his idea for a spin-off.
August also imagined Michelle Pfeiffer in his iteration of Catwoman, set after the events of Batman Returns, in a film in which Selina Kyle has no idea that she’s was ever Catwoman. However, the “villainess” would emerge at night to commit nefarious deeds, only to wake up as an unsuspecting Selena Kyle in the morning. Of course, this is just a snippet of his original pitch idea, which sounds not only interesting but as something that an actress like Pfeiffer could pull off. Unfortunately, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. had different ideas, so his version joined Burton’s idea of a Catwoman spin-off, piled atop a giant heap of “what if’s” as it relates to the superhero genre.