Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding 'Batman Forever' 25 years later
Batman (Val Kilmer) poses in the Batcave next to the Batmobile in Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
25 years ago this week, the Caped Crusader ruled the box office when Batman Forever - the third entry in the Bat franchise in the 1990s - broke a record $ 53 million gross on the opening weekend and in 1995 the top earner was $ 184 million. Dollars in his supply belt. Not bad for a film that, according to director Joel Schumacher, should not be successful. "There was no tremendous expectation from anyone," said Schumacher in a retrospective DVD featurette from 2005. "Nobody wanted another Batman film. Back then we were told that by so many people. "
Batman Forever's commercial success is even more impressive given the many feuds that have been reported to have occurred before, during, and after the film was produced. While most of these disagreements were not visible at the time, details emerged in the following decades that depict an image of the set as a less fortunate place. Maybe that's why Batman Forever didn't age very well. Though it was praised for giving the franchise some lightness after the darker Batman Returns in 1995, it feels like the franchise's low point today, filled with shattering tone switches, an unnecessarily tortuous plot, and questionable casting decisions.
In fact, Batman Forever could be worse than Schumacher's much-touted follow-up Batman & Robin - the 1997 bomb that buried the Bat films until Christopher Nolan met Batman Begins in 2005, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this week. Here's an introduction to the different Batman Forever battles behind the scenes and how they shaped the film you saw in cinemas a quarter of a century ago.
Tim Burton vs. Warner Bros.
Tim Burton directed Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman on the set of Batman Returns. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
Tim Burton, who emerged from films like Pee-wees Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, seemed an unlikely choice to direct a superhero film, but the director's Bat blockbuster from 1989 wasn't just starting a franchise - he was leading an era of the comic book a film. Of course, Warner Bros. Burton gave free creative domination over 1992 Batman Returns, one of the most weird sequels ever made. Unfortunately, it was too strange for some: McDonald's was reportedly angry with the film's dark tone, while Warner Bros. withdrew over the excessive production costs and overwhelming box-office results.
When the conversation turned to a third film, Studio Burton didn't push out the door so gently. "It was a strange reaction to Batman Returns because half of the people thought it was lighter than the first and half of the people thought it was darker," the director told Yahoo Entertainment in 2014. I think the studio just found it too weird - you wanted to go with something more child-friendly or family-friendly. In other words, they didn't want me to do another one. "
Burton remained in the mix as executive producer and signed the studio's choice of replacement: Joel Schumacher. Burton also helped shape the story of the film with writers Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, although he definitely had no hand in choosing the title. "I always hated these titles like Batman Forever," he noted in the book "Burton on Burton". "It sounds like a tattoo that someone would get if they took drugs or something. Or something a child writes in the yearbook." ”
Michael Keaton vs. Joel Schumacher
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman returns. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
After Burton left the Batcave, his handpicked hero Michael Keaton didn't stop too long. Although Warner Bros. offered the actor $ 15 million to play Bruce Wayne and Batman again, Keaton decided to bail after reading the script and meeting Schumacher. "It was shit," the actor remarked to The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. "The script was never good. I didn't understand why [Schumacher] wanted to do what he wanted to do. I held on to many meetings and, to a point, was polite to say, "Look ... do you understand that and do you understand?" But I knew it was in trouble when he said, "Why does everything have to be that way?" dark? I said, "Okay, he witnessed his parents' death. “Not only that, it had to be lightened physically. It got to the point of "Let's make colorful cameos!"
With Keaton, Schumacher had a long list of possible substitutes, including Alec Baldwin, Johnny Depp and Kurt Russell, who had just hit the box office with the 1993 Western Tombstone. After seeing Tombstone, Schumacher became more interested in Russell's co-star Val Kilmer. "Val has shown a really staggering performance," the director told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. "When they were all walking down the street together." I said to one of my friends, "God, he'd make a great Batman, wouldn't he?" I thought that could never happen. "Maybe it would have been better if it hadn't ...
Joel Schumacher against Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer and Nicole Kidman in Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
Schumacher and Kilmer all smiled during the Batman Forever promotional tour, but it turned out to be just really good. The director was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 - a year before the film was released - and described a strained relationship on the set that culminated in an actual push match. "He was irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people," said Schumacher. "He behaved badly, he was rude and inappropriate. I had to tell him that this would not be tolerated for another second. Then we had two weeks when he didn't speak to me, but it was bliss. “When talking to Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even clearer:“ I didn't say that it was difficult to work with Val [Kilmer] on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic. "
For his part, Kilmer didn't say much about his relationship with Schumacher. When he performed at a comic convention in Chicago in 2012, he limited his comments to the uncomfortable costume and disappointment that Batman Forever was no longer like Batman Begins. But the fact that he didn't return for Batman & Robin - George Clooney wore the hood instead - speaks volumes. In an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, Kilmer blamed planning conflicts with other projects, but Schumacher was more direct in his 1996 interview with Entertainment Weekly. "He quit somehow, we kind of fired him. It probably depends on who is telling the story. "
Tommy Lee Jones vs. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones as Riddler and Two-Face in Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
In an alternate universe, Kilmer's Batman could have fought Robin Williams as Riddler and Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face. The Star Wars icon appeared briefly in Burton's 1989 film as Crusader Attorney Harvey Dent, who becomes Batman's terribly scarred enemy. Later, however, Williams said he was only signed for a film, and the studio made the decision to hire Tommy Lee Jones instead. In the meantime, Mrs. Doubtfire star, who died in 2014, reportedly complained that he was "unscrewed" from two plum Batman roles: the Joker played by Jack Nicholson and the Riddler who freshly played Jim Carrey Success came from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. On the DVD Forever DVD commentary track, Schumacher said he remembers Carrey from his struggling stand-up comic while he was working with Jones on the John Grisham adaptation of The Client in 1994.
Though they band together to face the Dark Knight, Riddler and Two-Face are never really best friends. And life definitely mimicked off-screen art. In his vulture interview, Schumacher said his mistake was to play two well-known scene stealers against each other. “Tommy, and I say that with great respect, is a scene stealer. Well, you can't steal the scene from Jim Carrey. It is impossible. And I think it annoyed Tommy. He wasn't nice to Jim. He wasn't acting towards Jim like an Oscar-winning star with a star on Hollywood Boulevard, who is the oldest member of the cast and has such an outstanding career and associated awards, should have acted towards Jim. But what happens on the set stays on the set. "
Carrey shared more details about his argument in a 2014 interview with Howard Stern, and reported a meeting they had before they shot their biggest scene together. "I went up to say hello and the blood ran from his face ... He got up, trembled and hugged me and said, 'I hate you. I really don't like you. "And I said," Wow, OK. Now what's up man? "And he said:" I cannot sanction your antics. "He didn't want to work with me at that point." Or ever again: Carrey and Jones haven't been together in a movie since.
Marlon Wayans against Chris O’Donnell
Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson in Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
Burton spent the first two Batman films actively looking for ways to skip the Dark Knight's buddy, Robin the Boy Wonder. As Batman scriptwriter Sam Hamm told Yahoo Entertainment last year, a scene that featured Robin's alter-ego Dick Grayson was storyboarded, but never shot for the 1989 film. Burton then cast Marlon Wayans as Boy Wonder in Batman Returns, but the character was also written out of this film. "I adjusted my wardrobe and all it did was that there were too many characters and they felt that Robin would be of no use," Wayans told The A.V. Club in 1998.
After a delay of two films, Robin finally joined Batman's side in Batman Forever, but with Chris O’Donnell instead of Wayans in the red and green outfit. To put it bluntly, Wayans never talked O'Donnell badly because he replaced him, but instead identified studio politics as the reason. "They put me in the third one, and when the third one came over they hired a new director and their vision of the project changed," said Wayans in his A.V. Club interview. "They decided that someone should play White Robin." As a farewell gift, he walked away with $ 100,000 and an endless supply of punch lines at Batman Forever's expense. "I understand why you chose Chris O'Donnell because it would be messy to have Batman and Robin, and his bulge is slightly larger than Batman's," Wayans joked in 2009 about Gizmodo's problem with it. "
Akiva Goldsman against the editing room
The Batcave goes up in flames in Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros. / Courtesy of the Everett Collection)
After the Batchlers presented their draft of the script, Schumacher commissioned Akiva Goldsman, who wrote The Client, to do the rewriting. "What I was trying to do was make it a little more psychological and add a little more pathos to the character," Goldsman said in a 2005 DVD featurette. To that end, he wrote several scenes that more closely resembled Batman Returns, in particular a sequence that indicated that Bruce felt directly responsible for the violent death of his parents. But Warner Bros. and Schumacher stuck to their vision of a lighter Batman movie, and that plot was dropped while Batman Forever was in the editing room. A number of other scenes also landed on the floor of the editing room to reduce the run time to a quick two hours and keep the sound bright and entertaining. In the featurette, Goldsman expressed regret at having lost the film's more Gothic elements. “Joel's style is very presentative and operational - very nice lyrical and larger than life. That was clearly the style he showed Batman. “This is also the style Goldsman followed for their next collaboration, Batman & Robin… and we all know how it turned out.
Joel Schumacher against Christopher Nolan
Joel Schumacher on the set of Batman Forever. (Photo: Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)
Like Burton before him, Batman's commercial success enabled Forever Schumacher to double his peculiar vision of Batman for Batman & Robin, which in many ways is the Funhouse mirror version of Batman Returns. Nowadays, the 1997 follow-up can be seen as a textbook case of the surplus of the 1990s and enjoyed somewhat. At that time, fans viewed Schumacher as a bigger enemy for Batman than the Joker. Enter Christopher Nolan, who retired the character with Batman Begins eight years later, and the difference between the two directors is day and night.
Of course, this is a fan-made feud rather than an actual feud, as Nolan Schumacher never directly criticized Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. There is no question, however, that his Dark Knight trilogy is a direct reaction to these films and encompasses the gritty realism about the opera camp. Meanwhile, Schumacher has expressed his affection for what Nolan has achieved and has shown the limits from Batman Forever to studio interference. "I think Chris Nolan is so brilliant," he told GQ in 2017. "But if you look at Tims and then mine, the whole thing is a bit innocent, even though Tim was blown up because some parents thought of Danny." DeVito was too scary for children and Michelle Pfeiffer was in this bondage suit. At the request of the studio, we tried to develop a more family-friendly Batman. "
Batman Forever is currently streamed on HBO Max.
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