There have been other batman adaptations of the comic long before Tim Burton’s directorial film Batman, most notably the 1966 television show with Adam West as the cape crusader. Burton’s movie opened the way for comic book/action movies to succeed and be taken seriously by Hollywood. It became the highest grossing film in 1989. It became the first batman or any DC comic book character to do so. And though Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has surpassed it, Tim Burton’s dark, gritty, and idiosyncratic take on Batman and his mythology is still acclaimed and admired by many fans, comic book film directors, and movie-goers alike 27 years after its release.
I’m sure many of you out there still probably listen to the soundtrack whenever you get a chance (I know I do!). Who can blame you for hearing “Bat Dance” in your head whenever you think of Prince? In fact, I’m sure you know this film backwards and forwards, including many behind the scene facts on top of that, such as knowing that Michael Jackson was going to do the soundtrack before Prince. Or more commonly known truth, that fans were angry when comedic actor Michael Keaton was cast. When people got a glimpse of him as Batman, Keaton became the standard of how we would want Bruce Wayne to be portrayed on film.
Now we see the same thing happening with Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Comes to show that the film has an influence, even in today’s current wave of comic book movies.
So let’s take a look at some facts you may or may not know about Tim Burton’s Batman.
10. Tim Burton And Kevin Smith Fought Over the Film’s Accuracy
Another unlikely person had a bone to pick with Tim Burton. This time it was Kevin Smith, who got into an argument over the phone with the eccentric director on his show The Jay and Silent Bob Show. Burton, who suffered from dyslexia as a child, admitted he wasn’t a huge comic book fan prior to directing the movie. Smith replied, “Well I guess that explains Batman!”
Smith later apologized when Burton mentioned that his dyslexia made it hard for him to read comics as a kid. Burton was mesmerized by the images and the mythology of the dark knight but it wasn’t until he read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke that he was able to understand the mythology better. Burton later said it was the only comic book he never felt hindered his reading due to his dyslexia.
9. Robin Williams Was Rejected
Since the very beginning Jack Nicholson was Burton’s and Warner Bros’ top choice for The Joker. However, Nicholson was unsure about the role at the time. Enter Robin Williams, who was in talks to secure the part. Nicholson found out about this and immediately accepted the part. Sadly, this meant Williams was pushed aside. Williams was very offended, believing that he was used to lure Nicholson in. He didn’t quickly forget either. Williams was offered the role as The Riddler in Batman Forever. He rejected their offer and any future Warner Bros. roles until he received an apology for what happened. It’s unclear if he ever did.
8. Jack Nicholson Fell Asleep In The Makeup Chair
It’s reported that Jack Nicholson would not arrive on set before 10 a.m., according to his contract. In an interview for Grantland, Michael Keaton said that Nicholson would quickly fall asleep in the chair, which definitely helped the makeup artist get the job done faster. The total time Nicholson was in the chair for his prosthetic makeup was two hours a day. To turn him into The Joker, 355 adhesive layers of silicone were used and Nick Dudman, the makeup designer, used white acrylic paint for The Joker’s chalky face. To avoid him being “whited-out,” Dudman had to find the right shade of white to blend in with the dark sets. When you think about it, you really can’t blame Nicholson for taking a nap.
7. The Film’s Origins Began at Indiana University
In 1971, DC fan and professor Michael Uslan taught the first comic-book college accredited course at Indiana University. He eventually left the university after teaching for some time and took a job at DC Comics. In 1979, Uslan bought the movie rights to Batman from DC Comics. He and film producer Benjamin Menker worked together on a darker take of the story that Bob Kane and Batman Co-creator Bill Finger had wanted since the 1930’s. The script was rejected by many film studios, such as Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures, because they wanted a campier version, like the famed 60’s TV show. Fortunately, Warner Bros. bought Batman. Uslan still serves as executive producer to the Batman Films, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
6. Keaton’s Comedy Chops Helped A Lot
At the time Michael Keaton was more known for his comedic chops than for being a dramatic actor. It came to be quite useful for his role as the Caped Crusader. He said it helped shape a scene and make his character more dimensional. For instance, in the dinner scene between Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale it was Keaton’s idea to have the two sit at a long dinner table with his character saying “ I don’t think I’ve been in this room before”. He also contributed to the scene when Bruce Wayne hung as a bat because he thought it would make everything weirder and cause you think the dude was a bit crazy.
5. Actress Sean Young Was The Original Choice For Vicki Vale
When actress Sean Young was cast, she ended up breaking her collarbone during shooting a horseback riding scene with her and Michael Keaton. That scene, however, was cut from the script. Tim Burton had many other options but suggested getting a young Michelle Pfeiffer to play the role. The only problem was that she and Keaton were in a relationship. Thinking that this would be completely awkward, Burton decided against that. He would later cast her in the sequel Batman Returns as Catwoman. Since the abrupt departure of Young, they were under pressure to find someone fast. Producer Jon Peters recommended Kim Basinger for the role. She accepted it and was cast immediately.
4. A Young Tim Burton Got Called Out!
Tim Burton had made only a couple of films at the time so he was still considered inexperienced, at least in the eyes of Jack Palance. In one scene, Burton had yelled out the word “action” and the actor didn’t hit his mark. Burton then cut that take and went on set only to find out that Palance was partially deaf. Palance, obviously annoyed, said, “I’ve made more than a hundred films, how many have you made?” Many years later, Burton said he has never forgotten that moment. Despite the drama, he has no regrets and was very glad to have Palance in the movie.
3. The Filmmakers Made Up the Name ‘Jack Napier,’ The Joker’s Alter Ego
In case you did not know, The Joker does not have a real name in the comics, at least as of right now. His anonymity often plays a role in the Batman comics. For the film, the creators came together to give him the name “Jack Napier.” The name is a play on the word “Jackanapes” which is a medieval English term for a foolish man who looked liked an ape. The name is also a reference to the late British actor Alan Napier. He was known for playing the butler Alfred in the mid 1960’s television show Batman, starring Adam West.
2. Robin Was Featured in the Original Script
Robin was included with The Flying Graysons in the original script and they were to make an appearance in the parade scene. The group was shot down by The Joker, killing John and Mary when they fell to their deaths. Dick survived the incident and later became Robin. A then 19-year-old Kiefer Sutherland was offered the role. The scene was ultimately cut but an animated sequence of the storyboards were released in the film’s Special Edition DVD. Jason Hillhouse voiced Dick Grayson and Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill voiced Batman and The Joker, respectively. The clip can be found online and it’s definitely worth watching!
1. Creator Bob Kane Was Set to Make a Cameo
Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, served as a creative consultant to the production. Kane was supposed to make a cameo appearance in the film. Unfortunately, he suffered from poor health and the scene that was meant to be shot was not rescheduled. There is a part when Alexander Knox goes into the press room and a reporter gives him a sketch of Batman (as a plain bat) in a striped suit. That sketch was drawn and signed by Kane himself. He was supposed to play the cartoonist who gave Knox the drawing. He would later make a cameo appearance in the 1995 sequel Batman Forever.