Michael Keaton is the best Batman. Sorry, Christian Bale crowd, but he can’t get near Keaton’s work in the Tim Burton movies. In fact, Keaton was so important to those films that he was able to stop Michelle Pfeiffer from getting a role in Batman 1989, before she ultimately delivered her never-bettered portrayal of Catwoman in Batman Returns.
Several Superman movies had brought the DC Universe to the big screen by the late ’80s, but the time had now come for Batman to break free of Adam West’s campy theatrics and become a blockbuster hero. Keaton was in place as the new Batman actor, and Sean Young joined the ensemble of DC characters as Vicki Vale. But when Young had a horse riding accident, producer Jon Peters wanted Michelle Pfeiffer.
Robert Wuhl, who played news reporter Alexander Knox, told The Hollywood Reporter that Keaton opposed the casting choice. “To put a little fly in the ointment, Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer had previously dated and broken up. At the time, Michael told me he was trying to get back with his ex-wife. Keaton was firmly, and underline firmly, against that casting of Pfeiffer, and he and Peters got into it.”
Kim Basinger ultimately got the green light to play Vale in one of the best movies of the ’80s, with the star saying she wanted the character to “be tough in the newsroom, but I wanted her to be feminine like Cinderella.”
Pfeiffer, of course, didn’t have to wait long to arrive in Gotham City, joining Burton’s bold and brilliant sequel Batman Returns. Crucially, though, she wasn’t the first choice on that occasion either. Annette Bening was originally on board to play Selina but had to leave the role after she got pregnant.
Unsurprisingly, many of the most popular and acclaimed female stars in Hollywood wanted a piece of the character, including Sean Young, after her Vicki Vale near-miss. Susan Sarandon, Madonna, and Cher were just a few of the names in the frame. Certainly, Cher would’ve brought a very different vibe to what we eventually got from Pfeiffer.
Her portrayal of Selina Kyle stands among the most memorable DC villains and is the ultimate on-screen Catwoman to date. Let’s face it, she’s not under any threat from the Halle Berry version, is she?
However, there might be competition in the future. Zoë Kravitz was one of the standout members of The Batman cast with her take on Kyle as a noir femme fatale. We expect her to return for The Batman 2 release date, and we can’t wait to see what she does with the character in upcoming DC movies.
One of the real joys of Batman Returns was the way Burton cranked up the darkness of Gotham while maintaining the theatrical feel of the comic books. It was a masterful approach to tone that suited Catwoman to a tee, but we think Kravitz’s take on one of the coolest Batman villains might have even more than nine lives.
If you want to catch up on Catwoman’s most recent portrayals, check out our guide to watching the DC movies in order. Or find out why we think Michelle Pfeiffer is still the best Catwoman and learn about the Batman Returns stunt that Pfeiffer completely nailed.