Michael Keaton is currently making the rounds to promote his new film, Birdman, which is currently earning rave reviews and is being touted as one of the Oscar contenders for this year. One of the biggest selling points for the film is the fact that Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is essentially living out the actor’s career; as he looks to reclaim the former glory he earned playing a world-renowned superhero.
What makes Birdman so meta, of course, is the fact that Keaton was once a big screen Dark Knight, portraying Bruce Wayne/Batman in Tim Burton’s two installments - Batman and Batman Returns. Due to the similarities, Keaton has been asked several questions about his time as the Caped Crusader, and he’s said that he is “proud” of the work he and Burton did together.
Another day, more Batman questions for Keaton, this time inquiring his decision to forego reprising his role in Batman Forever, which saw Joel Schumacher take the director’s chair and Val Kilmer don the cape and cowl. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Keaton revealed that he was offered $15 million for the film, but turned it down because “it sucked.”
When asked to expand upon that assessment, Keaton said:
"Yeah, it just was awful!"
By now, everyone is well aware that the shift from Burton to Schumacher proved to be quite disastrous for the Batman brand. While the former did an admirable job embracing the character’s inherent darkness to deliver some solid character stories, the latter adapted (seemingly at the studio’s wishes) a more campy and family friendly style in order to make the films appropriate for youngsters. That decision killed Batman on film for a while, until Christopher Nolan came around with Batman Begins in 2005.
Like other actors who get cast as Batman, Keaton faced a storm of negativity when Burton first selected him, but in the end he ultimately earned the fan’s good graces. That’s in part due to the strength of the material. We doubt many would appreciate Keaton’s take if he was running around with Batnipples on his suit. It’s nice to see that the actor possessed a filter that his would-be director did not.
Keaton’s days in the Batcave are long over, but Batman remains a viable force in the movie industry; with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy earning critical praise (along with boffo box office returns for its second and third installments) and Ben Affleck being set to play the character in Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. With superheroes all the rage in the movies these days, would Keaton ever consider returning to the world?
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (via ComicBookMovie), Keaton said he would under one condition:
“If it was Tim Burton directing? In a heartbeat. Tim, in the movies, really invented the whole dark-superhero thing. He started everything, and some of the guys who have done these movies since then don’t say that, and they’re wrong.”
Keaton’s comments will no doubt reignite the debate about the “proper” tone that superhero movies should strive for (which we won’t reopen here), but his quote is interesting for his apparent willingness to come back should his old friend Burton return to the chair. It’s been a while since he protected Gotham, but Keaton obviously has strong emotional ties to the character.
However fun this may be for fans of the original films, we doubt this reunion will ever happen. Affleck seems set to be in the role for a while, with his appearance in Snyder’s Justice League still to come and rumors of a solo vehicle (allegedly to be directed by him) for 2019. It looks like Keaton will just have to be Birdman for now.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters March 25, 2016.
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