Tim Burton Reveals The Superstar That Guided His Career Early On

Tim Burton says Jack Nicholson helped guide his career as a young director.

By Chad Langen | Updated

Jack Nicholson as the Joker

Long before Wednesday became one of the most-watched shows of all time on Netflix, Tim Burton had already established himself as one of the industry’s top directing talents. Considering he’s directed over a dozen blockbusters throughout his career, it’s difficult to imagine a time when the filmmaker was intimidated by a high-profile project, but that was precisely the case when he was working on 1989’s Batman. The director recently revealed in an interview with Empire that he was completely overwhelmed during the production of the film, and he credits star Jack Nicholson for helping him through the making of his first big feature.

At the time, Tim Burton was a novice director, and although he’d already begun to make a name for himself by helming features like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, Batman was his first-ever big movie. “It was hard,” he admitted while discussing the strenuous shooting schedule for the film. He went on to say how grateful he was to have Jack Nicholson, “one of the greatest actors of all time,” aiding him through the production.

According to Tim Burton, Jack Nicholson had a lot of pull with the studio, and his overall influence gave the director the confidence he needed to get through the project. “I felt really supported by him in a very deep way,” said Burton. He went on to praise the actor for giving him strength and offering support when he became overwhelmed.

batman caped crusader bill finger

Fortunately, things couldn’t have worked out better for Tim Burton. Batman was a huge success, shattering numerous box office records upon its release. It’s the movie that truly catapulted the director to stardom, and had it not been for Jack Nicholson, the filmmaker likely wouldn’t be where he’s at today.

Tim Burton directed Batman from a screenplay by Warren Skaaren. In addition to Jack Nicholson, who turned in a riveting performance as Joker, the film stars Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Robert Wuhl, and Jack Palance. The film spawned three sequels before the franchise was rebooted by Christopher Nolan with 2005’s Batman Begins.

Speaking of sequels, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton reunited for 1992’s Batman Returns, and although Jack Nicholson didn’t appear in the follow-up, he did have some influence on the project. Danny DeVito, who portrays Penguin in the film, originally passed on the role, and it wasn’t until his good friend Nicholson pointed out the financial benefits of starring in a Batman feature that he agreed to take the part. Although the sequel failed to put up the same numbers as its predecessor, it was still a big hit for Warner Bros.

These days, both Tim Burton and Jack Nicholson are two of the most recognized names in Hollywood. The former has directed dozens of hit features like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, and Alice in Wonderland. Meanwhile, Nicholson is a three-time Academy Award-winning actor with a lengthy resume consisting of acclaimed pictures including The Departed, The Shining, and A Few Good Men.

Oddly enough, even though Tim Burton credits Jack Nicholson for helping him carve out a path to a successful career as a director, the pair have only collaborated on two projects. Following Batman, Nicholson appeared in Burton’s bizarre cult-comedy Mars Attacks! in 1996. Oh, what we’d give to see the two reunite for a movie just one more time.