Batman. The name alone is likely to immediately conjure up images of the caped and cowled crusader grappling across the rooftops of Gotham City, or feeding criminals knuckle sandwiches in a dark Gotham back alley. He’s one of the most iconic characters in the entirety of pop culture, but has to date only been played on-screen in a live-action setting by a mere six actors: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and most recently, Ben Affleck.
In the hierarchy of cinematic Batmen, there are camps who commonly make the case for either West, Keaton, or Bale as the best on-screen Dark Knight, with Affleck’s current portrayal in Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad also earning some good reviews so far. The two odd men out in the group tend to be Kilmer and Clooney, who both only played Batman a single time, and are generally regarded as the least memorable actors to portray the iconic hero.
Still, the thought of what Kilmer might have done with the role going forward is fun to think about, especially had he been placed within the insanity that was Batman & Robin. While it’s now been over 20 years since Kilmer donned the Batsuit, during a Reddit AMA session yesterday, the actor was asked whether he would be willing to return to the role if it was offered to him. The answer Kilmer gave?
On one level, it makes sense that Kilmer would want to reprise the Batman role, despite him opting out of participation in Batman & Robin. More than one reason has been given publicly over the years for why he turned that film down, but one of the most likely of them posits that Kilmer and director Joel Schumacher clashed creatively on the set of Batman Forever, enough that they didn’t want to work together again. Kilmer has expressed fondness for the experience of playing Batman itself in the past, and one wonders if he would have stayed on had Schumacher left. For what it’s worth Schumacher, would refer to Kilmer as “the best Batman” years later.
Looked at from a more cynical viewpoint, Kilmer’s career is hardly what it used to be, with a lot of his recent work taking place in the direct-to-video realm. Playing Batman again would offer him a chance to try and return to the heights of fame he enjoyed in the 80s and 90s, and could only help his career trajectory. That said, one wonders if he could handle the physical demands of getting back into Batman shape at age 57. Realistically, the world will probably never find out. Still, it’s an interesting prospect to ponder.