Michael Keaton on why he walked away from Batman Forever

Michael Keaton as Batman
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Michael Keaton had meetings with Joel Schumacher about continuing in the Batman franchise – but it wasn’t to be.

After two films playing Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Keaton was very much in line to follow up his work in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns. Even when the director of those two films, Tim Burton, confirmed that he wouldn’t be back for a third, Keaton was still the incumbent.

Of course, Warner Bros selected Joel Schumacher to take over the controls of the Batman franchise, with a remit to lighten things up a bit. Keaton met the new director to have a conversation about the direction of what would become Batman Forever, and in a conversation on the In The Envelope podcast, he’s opened up nearly three decades later about why he walked away.

“It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman”, he said as to why he took the role on in the first place. Others may have focused on the Bat, he focused on Wayne. “That was the secret. I never talked about it. Batman, Batman, Batman does this, and I kept thinking to myself ‘y’all are thinking wrong here.’ Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?…Who becomes that?”

Keaton is respectful in the way he talks about the late Schumacher, and there’s no hint that he’s spreading unpleasantness. He just explains that Schumacher reportedly said to him “I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad”. Keaton’s response to that was “do you know how this guy got to be Batman … I mean, it’s pretty simple”.

It became clear fairly quickly that the pair had different ideas for which way the third Batman movie should go, and it was Schumacher driving the project. They had a couple of meetings, “and he wasn’t going to budge”, Keaton explained. And thus he walked away from the role and the film.

In his place would come Val Kilmer, and it’s well worth checking out the terrific documentary Val that’s now available, where he opens up a bit about his time in the Batsuit.

Keaton meanwhile will be back as Batman in The Flash movie at the end of this year.

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