BSP 2014 Advent Calendar: Day 12

Welcome to Day 12 of Bam Smack Pow’s 2014 Advent Calendar!  Only thirteen more days left until Christmas, and that means thirteen more superhero films will be mined for trivia.  For Day 12, we give you …

Batman (1989)

If you thought Ben Affleck was the first actor to be snubbed by fans when he got cast as Batman, think again.  The initial announcement of Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight was met with laughter and fan derision.  It got so bad that Tim Burton and Warner Brothers agreed to release a preliminary teaser to quell hostile fans, and it was the right move.  With Burton being inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and his usual flair for dark characters, the teaser whet the audiences appetites for the summer of 1989.  The film was met with critical and financial success, and it took in $43.6 million on its opening weekend.  It went on to collect $411 million worldwide, and is considered a seminal film in the revival of the superhero blockbuster franchise.

Batman was directed by Tim Burton, written by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren, and starred Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier / The Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, Robert Whul as Alexander Knox, Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, Jack Palance as Carl Grissom, Jerry Hall as Alicia Hunt, Tracey Walter as Bob the Goon, Lee Wallace as Mayor Borg, and William Hootkins as Lt. Max Eckhardt.


  • This was the first Batman movie to win an Academy Award.  Anton Furst and Peter Young won it for Best Art Direction.
  • This was the highest grossing movie of 1989.
  • David Cronenberg was originally offered a directing role, but turned it down.
  • Michael Keaton’s initial casting as Michael Keaton / Batman caused so much controversy that a petition of fifty-thousand signatures was sent to Warner Brothers.  Batman creator Bob Kane, screenwriters Sam Hamm and Michael Uslan also questioned the casting.
  • Mel Gibson was the first choice to play Bruce Wayne / Batman, but turned it down due to his commitment to Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).
  • Michael Gough was cast as Alfred Pennyworth because Tim Burton was a fan of Gough’s past work in horror films.
  • Originally, Robin was to make an appearance.  An animated storyboard had already been prepared which depicted the Joker murdering the Flying Graysons.
  • The trailer that was used to quell fan negativity became such a hit that people would pay the price of admission for another movie just to see it.  It was also heavily bootlegged at conventions.
  • When Jack Nicholson hesitated to take the role of The Joker, Robin Williams gladly accepted it.  The producers then went back to Nicholson and told him that Williams was taking it.  Upon hearing of this, Nicholson accepted the role and Williams was dropped.  Williams was so angered at being used in this fashion that he refused to play The Riddler in Batman Forever (1995), and also refused to be associated with Warner Brothers in any way until they apologized.
  • Other actors considered for the role of the Joker were Alec Baldwin, David Bowie, Jeff Bridges, Matthew Broderick, Pierce Brosnon, Kevin Costner, Tim Curry, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert Downey, Jr., Emilio Estevez, Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Bill Murray, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Selleck, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis, and James Woods.  Arnold Schwarzenegger would later go on to play Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin (1997).  And Robert Downey, Jr. would go on to play another billionaire-turned-superhero as rival Marvel Comics’ Tony Stark / Iron Man in the Iron Man franchise.
  • Don Johnson and Dale Midkiff were approached for the role of Harvey Dent.  Billy Dee Williams eventually won the part and had a clause in his contract that stated he would return to play Two-Face.  When Batman Forever started production, Warner Brothers decided that they would rather have Tommy Lee Jones, so they bought out Williams’s contract.
  • Adam West, who played Bruce Wayne / Batman in the 1960s Batman television series, was disappointed that he wasn’t offered the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman for the film.
  • Kiefer Sutherland was offered the role of Dick Grayson / Robin, but turned it down.
  • This was the first Batman movie to show an origin story for The Joker.
  • The name “Eckhardt” was not a creation for the film.  In Detective Comics, Dr. Eckhardt was the plastic surgeon of Harvey Dent / Two-Face.  In a strange coincidence, Harvey Dent / Two-Face in The Dark Knight (2008) was played by Aaron Eckhart.
  • Bob Kane was originally set to cameo in the film, but fell ill.  He was supposed to be the artist that present Knox with the drawing of a bat in a suit.  Kane would later cameo in Batman Returns.  The drawing that Kane created is still present in Batman.  With a close enough inspection, viewers can see Kane’s signature.
  • When Vicki Vale receives a gas mask as a gift, the note for the gift was handwritten by Tim Burton.
  • Overseas, in the Italian version, Giancarlo Giannini dubbed Jack Nicholson’s lines.  Years later, Giannini’s son, Adriano Giannini, would dub Heather Ledger’s Joker lines in The Dark Knight (2008).
  • Sean Young was originally cast as Vicki Vale, but broke her arm when she was filming a horse-riding scene with Michael Keaton.  The scene was then written out and Tim Burton suggested Michelle Pfeiffer for the role of Vale.  Michael opposed that decision due to him dating Pfeiffer at the time.  It would’ve been too awkward.  Pfeiffer would later win the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992).  Kim Basinger was then chosen as Vale.  The casting of Pfeiffer as Catwoman also caused Young to perform some strange acts in retaliation.  She made her own Catwoman costume and made a public confrontation on the Joan Rivers Show.  She also wore the costume and tried to confront Tim Burton and Michael Keaton directly during the production of Batman Returns.
  • As part of the compensation package for Jack Nicholson, he was given a percentage of the film’s gross.  He ended up taking home $60 million.  The record still stands today as the most an actor has ever earned for a single picture.
  • At the end, when the Joker kidnaps Vicki Vale and enters Gotham Cathedral, he uses his walkie-talkie to call for transportation within ten minutes.  From the entrance to the arrival of the helicopter, the action takes place in real-time.
  • The film was released on Batman’s 50th Anniversary.
  • Vicki Vale in the comics has red hair even though Kim Basinger portrayed her as a blonde.  Her comics counterpart was supposed to have blonde hair, but was changed to red because of a coloring error.
  • The surgical tools seen being used by the street surgeon to reconstruct Jack Napier’s face were the same ones used in Little Shop of Horrors (1986).  Coincidentally, Jack Nicholson was also in Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
  • Christopher Nolan, the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy, was impressed with this film.
  • Michael Jackson was originally asked to write and perform songs for the soundtrack, but turned it down due to his concert commitments.  Prince was later chosen to write and perform songs for the soundtrack.
  • Batman’s boots were actually made out of Nike sneakers with a boot shaft attached.  This was done as a subtle way to give Nike product placement.
  • Michael Keaton used his claustrophobia inside the Batsuit as a way to fuel his portrayal of Batman.  Years later, Christian Bale would use his discomfort inside the Batsuit to also fuel his portrayal of the Dark Knight.

Make sure to come back each day because we still have thirteen more days worth of superhero film trivia for you!

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A special thanks to Eric Dufresne for his amazing geometric superhero art that’s being used as the background for the advent calendar.