Michael Keaton’s unhinged take on Batman has gone down as one of the best big-screen interpretations of the Dark Knight. Did you know, though, that there was an outcry from fans when his casting was first announced? Keaton had only starred in two dramatic roles at the time and was better known for starring in comedy movies. This concerned Bat-fans, who worried that director Tim Burton and Keaton wouldn’t treat the Caped Crusader with the respect he deserves.
Fans weren’t the only ones worried about Keaton’s casting. Warner Bros were also reportedly a little nervous about the choice and pressured him to cast a more bankable star – reportedly, they offered the role to Pierce Brosnan, who turned it down. Burton wasn’t going to be bullied by the studio, though and stood by Keaton because he knew he could bring the required intensity to the role.
“I had met lots of the square-jaw type of actors, but it’s like, well, why does somebody need to dress up like a bat? They don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’re not a big action hero,” Burto recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “They’re somebody who’s intelligent and kind of screwed up. And Michael has such an intensity that it’s like, ‘Yeah, I could see that guy wanting to dress up as a bat.’ It’s all rooted in psychology, Jekyll and Hyde and two sides of a personality, light and dark, and he understood that.”
Burton was right to bet on Keaton. Batman was one of the biggest and best movies of 1989, raking in millions at the box office and receiving rave reviews. Critics particularly enjoyed Keaton’s portrayal of the brooding, conflicted, billionaire, turned vigilante. The action movie’s success led to a superior sequel Batman Returns. More than that, it arguably led to the current superhero boom.
That’s the opinion of Keaton anyway, who credits Burton with opening the eyes of Hollywood executives to the potential of the superhero genre. “What Tim did changed everything. Everything you see now started with him,” Keaton told THR. “If you really think about what happened between 1989 and now, on a cultural, corporate, economic level, it’s unbelievable.”
Keaton is set to reprise the role of Batman in the upcoming Flash movies. Speaking about what compelled him to pop on Batman’s leather mask one more time, Keaton admitted he wanted one more go to and “nail that motherf*cker”. The Spotlight star has claimed that director Andy Muschietti has captured that old Burton magic in his new DCEU movie.