BSP 2014 Advent Calendar: Day 18

Welcome to Day 18 of Bam Smack Pow’s 2014 Advent Calendar!  Only seven more days left until Christmas, and that means seven more superhero films will be mined for trivia.  For Day 18, we give you …

Batman Returns (1992)

The follow-up to the 1989 hit film is a perfect fit for the Holidays, as Batman Returns is also set during Christmas time.  Michael Keaton once again reprises his role as the titular hero, but this time, instead of one antagonist, he’s flanked by two headlining cast members who were born to play their roles — Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle / Catwoman. Pfeiffer portrayed her role with so much flair that the character of Catwoman is now visualized as owned by her.  So much so that the recent Fox television series Gotham even chose a young actress (Camren Bicondova) who had an uncanny resemblance to the seasoned thespian.

Premiering the summer of 1992, Batman Returns received high praise from critics and audiences for Tim Burton’s visual style and the surreal world of Gotham City.  The film earned over $45 million in its opening weekend and went on to earn over $266 million worldwide.

Batman Returns was directed by Tim Burton, written by Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters, and starred Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer / Catwoman, Christopher Walken as Max Shreck, Michael Murphy as Mayor of Gotham City, Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon, Vincent Schiavelli as The Organ Grinder, Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, Anna Katarina as The Poodle Lady, and Andrew Bryniarski as Chip Shreck.


  • Michael Keaton earned $11 million in reprising his role as Bruce Wayne / Batman.
  • Legendary actors Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, John Candy, Bob Hoskins, and Christopher Lloyd were all considered for the role of Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin.
  • Jack Nicholson, who made a lucrative amount from Batman (1989), urged Danny DeVito to take the role of Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin.
  • Danny DeVito spent two hours a day in make-up and was not allowed to describe to anyone the nature of the make-up.
  • In between takes, Danny DeVito would remain in character as Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin.
  • Danny DeVito refused to have a stand-in when they filmed a scene involving the Penguin being hit by rotten food.
  • Kim Basinger, even though she had already starred as Vicki Vale in Batman (1989), was considered for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman.
  • Sean Young was originally cast as Vicki Vale in Batman (1989), 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.
  • Meryl Streep was considered for the role of Catwoman, but Tim Burton deemed her too old.
  • Raquel Welch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ellen Barkin, Cher, Bridget Fonda, Lena Olin, Madonna, Sigourney Weaver, and Geena Davis were all considered for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman.  Davis was actually offered the part, but she turned it down to star in A League of Their Own (1992).
  • Both Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman were offered the role of Catwoman.  Both turned it down.  Kidman would later star as Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever (1995).
  • Annette Bening was originally cast as Catwoman, but had to drop out due to her pregnancy.  When Michelle Pfeiffer was cast in the role, she was offered $3 million, $2 million more than what was offered to Bening.
  • Because of how easily the Catwoman suit tore, Michelle Pfeiffer went through 60 Catwoman outfits, with each one costing $1000.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer had to be vacuum-sealed into her Catwoman outfit.  Her scenes had to be quickly completed or else she would become light-headed and pass out.
  • In order to film the scene where numerous cats surrounded an unconscious Selina Kyle, tuna was placed on a Selina Kyle dummy, and in close-up shots, Michelle Pfeiffer had tuna on her suit.
  • The studio had to constantly submit new Catwoman posters to various cities because they were being frequently stolen.  The crime became so out-of-hand that police officers had to regularly patrol areas that displayed the poster.
  • When Michelle Pfeiffer was learning how to use the whip, she accidentally cut her trainer’s face.
  • When Michelle Pfeiffer was moving to a new home in 2004, she found the whip she used as Catwoman.  Feeling reminiscent, she went out to her yard and attempted some whip play.
  • The scene where Catwoman threatens to eat a bird and puts it in her mouth, Michelle Pfeiffer was actually doing that for real.
  • The masquerade ball scene was symbolic to the characters of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.  All the guests wore masks at the party except those two, which means that Batman and Catwoman are their real identities and that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are the masks that they wear.
  • This was the first film to give the characters of the Penguin and Catwoman alter-egos and background stories.  Past media outside of the comics never acknowledged the identities of Oswald Cobblepot or Selina Kyle.
  • When Selina Kyle is seated, her eyeglasses cast a shadow that forms the shape of the Catwoman mask seen in the 1960’s Batman television series.
  • Marlon Wayans was supposed to play Robin in Batman Returns and Batman Forever (1995), but after the script was re-written and director Joel Schumacher was hired, Chris O’Donnell was chosen as Robin.  Wayans’s contract was bought out and he was paid for both movies.
  • Burgess Meredith was to play Oswald Cobblepot’s father, but an illness prevented him from doing so.
  • Tim Burton didn’t want to cast Christopher Walken as Max Shreck for the sole reason that Burton was personally scared of Walken.
  • The character of Max Schreck, played by Christopher Walken, is named after the actor Max Schreck — the man who played the vampire in 1922’s Nosferatu.
  • Danny Elfman, the composer for the film’s score, makes a cameo as one of the people in an angry mob throwing rotten food at Oswald Cobblepot.
  • In the scene where Batman straps a dynamite to a strongman and hurls him over a bridge, the audience can hear the famed Wilhelm Scream that’s used in multiple movies and as an inside joke for Hollywood.
  • The note the monkey hands to Penguin was written in Bob Kane’s handwriting.
  • Batman Returns is considered to be the darkest and most violent of the Burton/Schumacher era Batman franchise.
  • When Bruce Wayne rhetorically says to Alfred, “Who let Vicki Vale into the Batcave?”, this was an in-joke and hidden rant directed at Warren Skaarn — the writer who revised Hamm’s original Batman (1989) script.  Hamm never had a scene where Vale was shown the Batcave.  When that scene made it in, Hamm felt that the revision was sloppy at best.
  • The filmmakers wanted to use real king penguins for the shoot, but the only tame ones available were at a bird sanctuary deep in England’s countryside.  To make sure that the penguins were given the best treatment, they were flown to the United States in a refrigerated plane, given their own refrigerated trailer, their own swimming pool with a half ton of fresh ice every day, and had fresh fish delivered straight from the docks every day.  On top of their needs, the penguins also had their own bodyguard, and the set was cooled to 35 degrees even though outside temperatures would sometimes reach 100 degrees.
  • The mechanical penguins created by Stan Winston and his effects team were so real that they found a live penguin snuggled up inside one of their fake ones.
  • This was the first Batman film to use CGI.  The shields on the Batmobile and the operation of the Batarang all employed these new CGI effects.
  • This was the first film to be made in Dolby Digital.
  • McDonald’s was forced to stop its Happy Meal promotions for the film by complaining parents.  The parents didn’t like the film’s gratuitous violence and perceived sexual content.

Make sure to come back each day because we still have seven 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.