When Michael Keaton returns to his famous Batman/Bruce Wayne role in the upcoming Warner Bros. tentpole “The Flash,” it will mark 29 years since he last played the Caped Crusader on the big screen.
Keaton walked away during the development of “Batman Forever,” which saw Joel Schumacher taking over directing duties from the actor’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns” director Tim Burton. Schumacher and Keaton clashed over the lighter, more campy tone of “Batman Forever.” Keaton did not want to give up the darker feel of Burton’s films, as the actor recently discussed at length on the “In the Envelope” podcast.”
“It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman,” Keaton said of what drew him to the comic book role. “To me, I know the name of the movie is ‘Batman,’ and it’s hugely iconic and very cool and [culturally] iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic. I knew from the get-go it was Bruce 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?”
“When the director who directed the third one, I said, ‘I just can’t do it,’” Keaton continued. “And one of the reasons I couldn’t do it was — and you know, he’s a nice enough man, he’s passed away, so I wouldn’t speak ill of him even if he were alive — he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize doing it and hopefully talking him into saying, ‘I think we don’t want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction.’ And he wasn’t going to budge.”
According to Keaton, he told Schumacher that he could no longer play Batman if the tone was moving away from the dark nature of Burton’s movies. Schumacher allegedly told Keaton, “I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,” to which the actor responded, “Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple.”
Keaton’s performance in “The Flash” will hit theaters Nov. 4. The actor will continue to reprise the character in “Batgirl,” the HBO Max original movie that’s also set to debut in 2022.