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Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman for one crucial reason

Michael Keaton stepped down as the Batman actor for Val Kilmer to take on the iconic role in future DC movies, and he had one specific reason as to why.

Michael Keaton as Batman

The ’90s was a wild time for Batman movies. We got three Batman actors across four DC movies, starting with Michael Keaton. He was replaced by Val Kilmer, who arrived to lead Batman Forever in 1995. During an interview, Keaton revealed why he hung up the cowl for someone else.


“It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman… I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne,” Keaton revealed on the In The Envelope podcast. “He [Schumacher] asked me, ‘I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,’ and I went, ‘Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple.'”

Keaton played the Dark Knight in two action movies, Batman and Batman Returns. Those were both Tim Burton movies, before Joel Schumacher stepped in to take on the third.

Schumacher’s take was… different from Burton’s. Campier and more audacious, and more colorful. We get why Keaton and the filmmaker didn’t gel, leading to him seeking out other projects.

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Kilmer only lasted one superhero movie as Gotham’s protector, leaving for George Clooney to become Bruce Wayne. Famously, that gave us the nadir of Batman’s big screen misadventures in Batman and Robin, also directed by Schumacher. Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson have adopted the part since.