Tim Burton may have set the ball rolling with Batman in 1989 and continued his legacy with Batman Returns in 1992, but with change on the horizon, a third movie threw a spanner (and a batarang) in the works. As well as finding a new lead to play Bruce Wayne/Batman after Michael Keaton’s departure, incoming director Joel Schumacher had the pressure of Warner Bros. wanting something new while fans longed for the good ‘ol Burton days.
Val Kilmer eventually nabbed the part as Batman and Chris O’Donnell joined the colorful party as Robin, but alongside great performances from Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey as Two-Face and the Riddler, many felt that Batman Forever lost its way amongst codpieces and rubber nipples. With a lighter tone and homages to the camp tone of the ‘60s series, Burton’s darker days became a distant memory.
Despite this, Batman Forever has gone on to become something of a cult movie that is perfect for lazy morning viewing. However, just when you think you know everything you could possibly know about the Batsuits and bust-ups of Schumacher’s movie, here are 15 Crazy Secrets Behind Batman Forever.
Just think, it could always be worse - it could’ve been Batman & Robin.
15 Who Would Replace Michael Keaton?
It is no secret that playing the Dark Knight is one of Hollywood’s most illustrious roles. With Michael Keaton out after two movies, Warner Bros. had to find a new Bruce Wayne. Val Kilmer eventually landed the part and reportedly found out while in an actual bat cave conducting research for The Ghost and the Darkness.
Keaton met with Schumacher but didn’t like the direction the movie was going in, meaning that Kilmer was cast just days later. However, it could’ve been so different. Before Kilmer slipped into the cowl, some major Hollywood names were linked to playing Batman.
Potential castings included Daniel Day-Lewis, Kurt Russell, Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, and even Billy Baldwin.
All have had big roles in Hollywood, but ironically, only Russell has starred in a comic book movie so far.
14 Billy Dee Williams gets recast
As the forgotten Two-Face, Star Wars legend Billy Dee Williams had a bit of a rough ride as Harvey Dent. Briefly appearing as the District Attorney in Tim Burton’s Batman, Williams didn’t get a chance to come back for Batman Returns. Early drafts of the script had Dent appear until rewrites gave the part to Christopher Walken’s Max Shreck. However, with Burton planning a trilogy, Two-Face was always scheduled to be part of a third Batman movie.
Williams had been contracted to play the Two-Face version of Dent, but as the next installment changed hands, the role was recast as Tommy Lee Jones.
There was a long-standing rumor that Williams’ contract would mean he had to get paid for Forever, however, the man himself said that it never happened. Thankfully, Williams managed to return to the role to voice Gotham’s “White Knight” in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie.
13 Michael Jackson's Failed Riddler Campaign
Michael Jackson didn’t exactly have the most impressive acting CV before his death in 2009, so just imagine a world though when he wasn’t only in the likes of Men In Black II and starred as the Riddler in Batman Forever.
Jim Carrey may have given a typically over the top performance as Edward Nygma, but he wasn’t the only choice to play the puzzling psychopath.
Matthew Broderick was also circling the role, but with news that the Riddler was coming to Batman Forever, Jackson lobbied for the chance to play Nygma. He was reportedly ignored by the studio, and although having the “Thriller” singer as part of the cast may seem completely out there now, it doesn’t sound too far off something Schumacher would’ve considered.
12 Leonardo DiCaprio As Robin
Chris O’Donnell took arguably the second most important role in a Batman movie. The race to Robin was closely fought, with Marlon Wayans being heavily linked in the Burton years. However, before O’Donnell suited up, Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to play the Boy Wonder.
DiCaprio got as far as meeting with Schumacher, but never actually tested for the part. Similar to Keaton, reportedly DiCaprio didn’t like Forever's more colorful tone and campier take on the source material. Not playing Robin makes a trio of blockbuster that Dicaprio turned down, with the others including Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith and Peter Parker in James Cameron’s scrapped Spider-Man.
Reflecting on Batman Forever, the Titanic star now admits that he didn’t really want to play Robin anyway.
11 Rene Russo Was Too Old
Ranking Bruce Wayne’s love interests since Batman '89 isn’t that hard to do, usually putting Pfeiffer’s tragic Selina Kyle at the top and working down from there. Nicole Kidman’s performance in Batman Forever was something of a mixed bag, with Dr. Chase Meridian being a minor character.
Created solely for the movie, Chase had no comic book backstory and unfortunately didn’t get much of one from Schumacher either.
The character was badly written enough, but could someone else have done a better job? When Keaton was briefly supposed to return, Thor’s Rene Russo was confirmed as Chase. However, when Kilmer took over, Russo was reportedly deemed too old for the part. It’s all a little confusing when considering she is actually only six years older. Entertainment Weekly reported that Warner Bros. wanted someone younger, and beating off the likes of Sandra Bullock, Kidman eventually got Kilmer’s Batman in her psychiatrist’s seat.
10 Jim Carrey's Questionable Hair
Long before Heath Ledger took Batman method acting to the extreme, Jim Carrey was willing to go a little too far for a comic book movie. Nygma is known for being particularly unhinged, but to really get into the part, Carrey reportedly wanted to shave a question mark onto his own hair.
The final Riddler costume was suitably garish and camp, but imagine that red hair shaved into a “?” with the dot at the top of Carrey’s spine.
Thankfully, the star was going through with divorce proceedings with Melissa Womer at the time, meaning that he couldn’t exactly appear in court with such a mad hairstyle. Also, there was a worry that he couldn’t grow out the look before he needed to showcase Ace Ventura’s signature quiff. Instead, fans were treated to what was described as "Bozo the Clown meets buzzcut."
9 Robin Williams Got The Last Laugh
Carrey certainly brought his zany edge to the part of Nygma, but just imagine the madness if Robin Williams had got hold of the part? Thanks to his out-there parts including Good Morning, Vietnam, Mork & Mindy, and Aladdin, Williams’ improvisational style of comedy helped make him a household name.
Originally linked to the Joker back in Burton’s Batman ‘89, Williams reportedly parted ways with Warner Bros. on bad terms. After Williams was offered the part it was then given to Jack Nicholson, aparently leaving Williams annoyed that he was used as bait to lure Nicholson into his legendary role.
As for the Riddler, there are varying reports that Williams didn’t like a rewritten version of the script, but most claim that when Schumacher offered the part to Williams in Forever, he told the studio no.
8 Chris O'Donnell's Painful Sacrifice
Chris O’Donnell may not be the Hollywood megastar you’d think after playing a part as iconic as Dick Grayson, but let's remember that he was the talk of the town in the mid-90s. Beating some pretty big names at the time, O'Donnell got to take over from Burt Ward as Robin. Forever's version is largely remembered for Robin's odd outfit.
Looking back at his time in the franchise, O’Donnell recalled how the Robin mask had to be physically glued to his face every morning and his eyes painted black.
Speaking to ET, he explained how uncomfortable it felt: “It was so hot, you would touch the mask and water would just run down your face.”
Well Chris, who said playing the Boy Wonder would be all Batarangs and joyrides in the Batmobile?
7 Don't Mess With The Lead Actor
It is well-known that Tommy Lee Jones despised working with Jim Carrey, but there was an even bigger problem brewing reports came out that Schumacher had fallen out with the movie's lead star. Production began in 1994, and it was clear from the start that there would be problems with the director and his new Batman. Inquisitr reveals Schumacher's thoughts on a major argument between the pair: “[Val Kilmer] was being irrational and ballistic with the first assistant director, the cameraman, the costume people. He was rude and inappropriate. He was childish and impossible. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me but it was bliss!”
Not talking to a director for two weeks can be something of a problem when filming a movie. Given their differences on the set of Forever, it is no surprise that Kilmer turned down Batman & Robin to head to Moreau’s doomed island instead.
6 Bob Kane's Thoughts On The Chest Plate
It may be Batman & Robin that is largely remembered for that in-your-face Bat-chest plate, but as previously mentioned, they made their debut in Batman Forever.
For a series that had prided itself on superb costumes like Nicholson’s Joker and Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from the Burton era, Schumacher was happy to embrace the camper tone of the ‘60s series.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn't just the audience that was miffed by the chest plate. Jim Carrey told Den of Geek, that Batman creator Bob Kane also unimpressed.
Schumacher has always defended the decision saying it was “his” Gotham and that the likes of Kane should get with the ‘90s. The costumes remain a controversial decision and Schumacher has even joked it will be on his tombstone.
5 Christian Bale's Robin Audition
DiCaprio definitely circled the role of Robin, but a big name from the Dark Knight’s future was also once thought to be part of Batman Forever. Long before he was practicing his growl as Bruce Wayne himself, there was a long-standing rumor that Christian Bale could’ve played the Boy Wonder. However, that was it, it was just a rumor.
After the car crash that was Batman & Robin, the franchise lay in limbo until Bale put on the cape and cowl for Batman Begins. It isn't hard to imagine young Bale as Dick Grayson, but Now Magazine reports that he rejects those claims: “Most of the time I never bother trying to put anything right because I’m an actor, and the whole point is it doesn’t matter what’s the truth. But I do have to take a stand on that because I would never have bloody auditioned to play Robin.”
Hey Christian, what’s wrong with playing Robin?
4 A Puzzling Predicament
Carrey’s Nygma became famous for teasing Batman (and the viewer) with his own rhyming riddles that were a highly-intelligent inclusion in the otherwise lowbrow script. Sadly, neither Schumacher or Carrey can claim the brainpower to come up with the Riddler’s devilishly hard puzzles, but the movie had someone on hand who can.
As the crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times since 1993, Will Shortz certainly had the credentials to craft the Riddler’s wordy conundrums. Also founding the World Puzzle Championship in 1992 and co-founding the World Puzzle Federation in 1999, Shortz was the perfect choice to have Batman, Alfred, and the fans scratching their heads in confusion.
Shortz has starred in episodes of The Simpsons and How I Met Your Mother, but there’s no denying that his biggest claim to pop culture fame is being known as Batman Forever’s puzzle master.
3 The Batmobile's Joyride
Who wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of the Batmobile and take it for a spin? It turns out that Chris O’Donnell was no exception and wasn’t willing to let the stunt drivers have all the fun. Grayson drove the Batmobile in Forever and went on a joyride, but with O'Donnell reportedly behind the wheel, the car hit the curb and badly dented the front.
Although the real car actually shoots blue flames, it isn’t allowed to be driven on the road unless going for repairs. Over the years, Batmobiles have sold for an insane amount of money, but whether it be the O’Donnell accident or the movie’s mixed-reception, Forever’s (surviving) Batmobile only sold for $165,000 as part of an agreement with Warner Bros. It’s no wonder Schumacher gave O’Donnell a motorbike for Batman & Robin.
2 Gossip Gerty cameo
She may not have been a major part of the Batman series, but Elizabeth Sanders went on to appear in three of the first four movies. Apart from acting in 1987’s It's Alive III: Island of the Alive, the wife of Bob Kane has only appeared in Batman movies. Credited as Gothamite #4 in Batman Returns, she had a slightly expanded role as Gossip Gerty in Forever and Batman & Robin.
There are rumors that her role as Gothamite #4 was a young Gossip Gerty, but Schumacher has never confirmed the trivia.
With her Dame Edna-esque glasses, Gerty was an entertainment columnist in Gotham City. Kane would often pop by the sets to see how the movies were going, and it is thanks to him that Sanders starred in the movies. As Kane’s second wife, the pair were married up until his death in 1998.
1 It Could've Been Totally Different
With his neon-clad, rubber-nippled Gotham City, Schumacher’s creation was a million miles away from the gothic Burtonverse. Schumacher gets a hard time for turning the once beloved series into nothing more than a way for Warner Bros. to sell toys to kids, but it wasn’t always supposed to be that way.
Back when the studio was deciding where to go after Returns, Schumacher pitched his own equally dark take on Batman lore. The director reportedly wanted to tackle a gritty movie based on Frank Miller’s acclaimed Batman: Year One, however, Warner Bros. wasn't interested in a prequel and wanted to move towards a more family-friendly franchise.
Given Schumacher’s tense movies like The Lost Boys and The Client, it isn’t too hard to imagine what a grisly version of Batman Forever could’ve been like. Sadly, it never came to be and the rest, as they say, is history.
Which is your favorite secret about Batman Forever? Sound off in the comments below!