Why Michael Keaton didn’t return for Batman Forever

Photo: Batman.. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. / DC Universe
Photo: Batman.. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. / DC Universe /

Iconic Batman actor Michael Keaton does not mince words when it comes to explaining why he didn’t return for Batman Forever.

One of comic book cinema’s biggest missed opportunities is Michael Keaton portraying Batman for three straight films. When 1995 rolled around, and Batman Forever released to theaters, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen.

In the years since, Keaton has explained why he made the choice not to come back for the third movie and he doesn’t hold back. The actor said in a 2017 Hollywood Reporter interview [H/T: CBR] his reason was the script he was given just “sucked,” plain and simple.

He added he wasn’t looking forward to the creative clashes he sensed he’d have with new director Joel Schumacher over the tenebrous tone and feel reintroduced to the Bat by Tim Burton. It was clear Keaton found the campier, colorful flair injected by Schumacher as anathema as some fans still do, commenting that he knew the film would hit trouble as soon as the director said, “‘Why does everything have to be so dark?'”

Keaton has always proudly championed what Burton brought to the table with his Batman movies, speaking about it at a press event for Birdman:

"“What Tim Burton did really reinvented how those modern day superheroes are done… He started a whole thing, and I was part of his pioneering venture.”"

Interestingly, Keaton was all in at first to star in Batman Forever when it was in development as Batman Continues with Burton at the helm. Plans were in place, reportedly, for Billy Dee Williams, ultimately becoming Two-Face, to reprise the role of Harvey Dent and Robin Williams to play The Riddler while a new Batsuit with a light grey palate was being made for Keaton.

He admitted to The Guardianalso in 2017, he held on as long as he could because he was in it for the long haul but gave up out of fear the film would be bad. And in his eyes, Batman Forever was a product of its time in all its bad taste and excess:

"“[The film] just wasn’t any good, man. I tried to be patient, but after a certain point, I was like, I can’t take this anymore, this is going to be horrible. But, look, there was some really horrible taste in the ’90s, and I probably contributed to that, unfortunately. It was a time of nouveau riche excess… And the truth is, I’m not boasting, but I was correct. There are a whole load of people who ran things that are long gone.”"

Long story short, “what could’ve been” fell through and the rest is history, though not all is lost. A longer, much darker version of Schumacher’s film might exist. All the “Schumacher Cut” needs is for Warner Bros. to retrieve a print from the vault if they are so inclined.

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As for Val Kilmer, his outing as the Caped Crusader was notoriously one and done. Proving too difficult to work with based on the testimony of Joel Schumacher and others, he was replaced by George Clooney in Batman & Robin, a much more notorious effort that the Oceans franchise star and director Schumacher both regretted.

Keaton will get a chance to make up for the lost time when his Bruce Wayne/Dark Knight is brought back to screens in The Flash, starring Ezra Miller and directed by Andy Muschietti.

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Do you agree with his reasons or are you a defender of Batman Forever? Tell us below and at our social addresses. Let us know too if you are excited for Keaton’s return to Batman in Flash.