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Jack Nicholson told Michael Keaton he could make flops after Batman

Michael Keaton remembers when Jack Nicholson told him he could make a bunch of flops if Batman (1989) was a success, a luxury actors don't have today

Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman

This might shock you, but there was a time when Batman movies weren’t sure-fire successes. Back before Batman 1989 came out, nobody quite understood what a phenomenon the Dark Knight would be, least of all Michael Keaton, who recalls a funny conversation with co-star Jack Nicholson.

Talking on the THR Drama Actor Roundtable, Keaton regaled the group with advice Nicholson gave him back in ’89. “We all knew [Batman] was a huge risk, and if it goes down, [I’d be] going down in flames and that’s going to be a big, hard recovery,” Keaton says. “But I also knew if it worked, it could change my landscape. So Jack says, ‘Keats, if this thing’s a hit, you can go out and do four or five flops and not even worry about it’.”

In case it needs pointing out, Batman was indeed a hit, and the DCEU has gone from strength to almost-strength ever since. Keaton, evidently “Keats” to his pals, used the point to illustrate how that landing bed of commercial failures isn’t the same any more.

“Maybe it wasn’t four or five, but it used to be you got away with three and it didn’t matter. Not now, man. You’ve got one miss, which is fucked up,” he said

Keaton played Bruce Wayne in two Tim Burton thriller movies, Batman and Batman Returns. In the former, he was joined by Nicholson who portrayed the Joker. Both performances are iconic and beloved.

He’s joined on the roundtable by Samuel L Jackson, Oscar Isaac, Tom Hiddleston, Brian Cox, and Quincy Isaiah. Those are stars from Star Wars, MCU, Succession, and Winning Time, in case you needed reminding of the pedigree. It’s an insightful listen, not least for anecdotes on Jack Nicholson!