Superhero costumes are often no joke for the actors who have to wear them – they can be bulky, sweaty, skin-tight and don’t get us started on the dangers of capes. No capes! And there’s another problem that particularly the masks can cause – claustrophobia.
When Michael Keaton was first locked in to the Batsuit for Tim Burton’s Batman movie in 1989, he had a panic attack and thought he wouldn’t be able to do the movie. During the 2014-2015 awards campaign for Birdman (in which he played a washed-up superhero actor), Keaton revealed that “I was very claustrophobic. The first time I was locked in (to the Batsuit) I thought, ‘This is never going to happen, I’m never gonna do it.’”
Keaton ended up using the phobia to help his craft and channeled the fear into his portrayal of Bruce Wayne “because you become very interiorly isolated when you get locked into that thing.” Keaton also said that in order to move around on set he had to be rested against some sort of wooden device, and turning his neck was impossible without completely shredding the mask.
In the documentary Val, which was released last year, Val Kilmer (who starred in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever) very much echoed these sentiments; “Whatever boyish excitement I had going in was crushed by the reality of the Batsuit. When you’re in it, you can barely move and people have to help you stand up and sit down. You also can’t hear anything and after a while people stop talking to you, it’s very isolating. It was a struggle for me to get a performance past the suit, and it was frustrating until I realised that my role in the film was just to show up and stand where I was told to.”
Both technology and the portrayal of the character has moved on since then, so here’s hoping that Robert Pattinson had a better experience with the Batsuit in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman.
If you’re brushing up on the many Batmen before the new one comes out, check out our guide on how to watch the Batman movies in order.