Batman Returns celebrates its 25th anniversary on June 19. As the movie’s stars look back, they share some great insight into the making of this comic book classic.
I was 12 years old when Batman Returns came out and I remember sitting in the theater watching it in awe. I’d been at the theater with my parents as an eager nine year old to see Batman, so the prospect of a sequel featuring Catwoman and Penguin was thrilling. I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, it was dark, much more so than the 1960s Batman television show my parents grew up with, but it was just the right amount of dark, with Tim Burton’s trademark humor sprinkled in for effect. Now, as the movie celebrates its 25th anniversary, the cast shares behind the scenes secrets about the film.
The Hollywood Reporter had a chance to talk to the cast about the movie, and what they shared will change the way you watch the film in the future. Michelle Pfeiffer wasn’t the original actress hired to play Catwoman but it all ended up working out. That scene with Catwoman and the bird in her mouth? Real. The penguins had their own dressing rooms. Composer Danny Elfman composed the original Batman score on a plane, and one of his favorite scenes in Batman Returns was Penguin’s death scene.
Michael Keaton made several changes to the script in Batman Returns after seeing Batman on screen in the first movie. “Once I realized how powerful the suit was in terms of an image on screen, I just used it,” Keaton explained, referring to his desire to cut Batman’s dialogue. Screenwriter Daniel Waters penned speeches for Bruce Wayne and Batman but Keaton cut them, preferring limited dialogue. When he saw the final cut of the film, he realized that Keaton had been right about keeping Batman’s lines to a minimum.
Director Tim Burton talked about how the word “franchise” started popping up with the second film, something that didn’t happen before. And with the second film Burton also started hearing from companies worried about merchandising and marketing. “On the second one, we started to get comments from McDonald’s like, ‘What’s all that black stuff coming out of the Penguin’s mouth?’ So, people were just starting to think of these films in terms of marketing. That’s the new world order.”
The penguins on set had their own dressing rooms, a pool, and the set was kept chilly for their well-being. Danny DeVito says he was the only one who wasn’t cold: “I was the only one really comfortable, because I had pounds and pounds of face prosthetics and the body padding, not to mention the heavy coat.
Christopher Walken enjoyed working with the birds. “There were three different kinds of Penguins. There were the big ones, the Emperors. They were very docile and sweet. They would walk up to you and you could pet them like a cat. Then there was a middle size, who were a little more active. The smallest ones were very busy and aggressive, they’d give you a peck.” If the mental image of Christopher Walken petting penguins doesn’t make you smile….
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It’s hard to believe that Batman Returns premiered 25 years ago, but it has amazing staying power. It’s as relevant today as it was back then, and that’s precisely why the movie holds such a high place in the annals of Batman movie history.