In September of last year when Ben Affleck was announced as the next actor to don the cape and cowl, the web nearly imploded on itself. Naysayers came out of the woodwork to express their disapproval. But this isn’t the first time fans have gotten up in arms about the casting of the caped crusader. Because of his comedic acting background, fans were equally upset when Michael Keaton was cast to play Batman. Now he is considered a fan favorite. But, why so serious? Why do fans get so worked up about who plays Batman when other super heroes like Spider-Man or even Superman are cast, the reaction isn’t nearly as strong. Simply put: People love Batman. Audiences – young and adult – have become so invested in billionaire Bruce Wayne’s dark alter ego (in no small part thanks to Adam West‘s portrayal in the 1960s television series) that when fans hear the news, they seem to take it personally. Even Ben Affleck mentioned in an interview with Playboy that that he was intimidated when first approached with the role. Which is understandable considering the amount of pressure that goes along with playing one of the most recognizable characters in literary history that has now morphed into a cinematic icon. Bruce Wayne has, in a sense, become America’s James Bond. And like 007, there is a lot of responsibility that both the fans and the production company give to the actor who plays the Batman. With grand responsibility comes a grand paycheck. Here’s a list of the actors who played the Dark Knight Detective and how much cash they made.
Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995) – $3 million
Val Kilmer starred in director Joel Schumacher ‘s first stab at caped crusader’s franchise, Batman Forever. Tim Burton (director of the first to films of the franchise) chose not to direct, but stayed attached as a producer so the helm fell to Schumacher. Michael Keaton was offered $15 million to reprise his role as Batman in the third installment, but after Tim Burton backed out of directing the film, Keaton chose to opt out and the role eventually went to Val Kilmer who was paid $3 million for the role.
Though Val Kilmer was paid the least to play the world’s greatest detective, Batman Forever performed superbly at the box office. The film raked in over 180 million dollars at the box office — $20 million more than it’s predecessor, Batman Returns. There were many rumors of animosity between Schumacher and the leading man, but the director said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that he thought Kilmer was the best Batman. “I thought he brought a depth to the role.”
George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997): $10 million
Due to creative differences between director Joel Schumacher and actor Val Kilmer, George Clooney was next to take on the role as the caped crusader . Clooney, the sixth actor to play the franchise’s leading character, was paid $10 million to don the cape and cowl. That’s $7 million more than Kilmer was given, but that’s nothing compared to Clooney’s co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Entertainment Weekly, Schwarzenegger got a $25 million paycheck to play the film’s villain: Mr. Freeze. That’s more than a million dollars per minute of screen time.
It is no secret that Batman & Robin is considered by most fans and critics to be the worst installment in the Batman Franchise. The film was, reportedly voted Worst Film of All Time in a poll conducted by Empire Magazine. Batman & Robin had an impressive opening weekend, earning over $40 million dollars. Though, as reviews came in and ticket sales dropped, the film’s total domestic gross amounted to a lackluster $107 million. George Clooney stated in an interview with Total Film that the film was bad, but it dramatically affected his career for the better. “Batman is still the biggest break I ever had and it completely changed my career, even if it was weak and I was weak in it.”
Michael Keaton – Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992): $10 Million
In 1985, director Time Burton was hired to direct the first initial installment of the batman series, Batman. Burton cast Michael Keaton as the titular character after they worked together previously on the cult classic Beetlejuice. Tim Burton’s Batman was one of the first big budget super hero movies and paved the way, not just for the Batman franchise, but also for all modern comic-to-film adaptations. The film made a record breaking $40 million dollars it’s opening weekend and had a total domestic gross of $251,188,924. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, Keaton and Burton’s Batman is the second highest grossing film of the Batman franchise.
After Batman’s tremendous success at the box office, Warner Bros quickly began pre-production on the sequel, Batman Returns. Tim Burton came back to direct and Keaton was given a pay bump, earning $10 million dollars to return as the masked manhunter. It would seem that Keaton’s reprisal made an impact on audience retention, as Batman Returns made $5 million more at the box office it’s opening weekend.
An important side note: In order to appear in 1989′s Batman as the joker, Jack Nicholson struck a brilliant deal. He agreed to accept a $6 million salary instead of his standard $10 million in exchange for a big cut of the back end revenues and royalties. When the movie went on to make $411 million, Nicholson earned $60 million, and held the record for highest paid actor for a long time.
Christian Bale – The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) $54 Million
After the commercial failure of Batman & Robin, the caped crusader wasn’t seen on the big screen for quite some time. It wasn’t until 2003 when Memento director Christopher Nolan was hired to revamp the franchise that Batman fans had something to be excited about again. Christian Bale was cast as Bruce Wayne/ Batman in arguably the most popular films in the character’s franchise. Bale, being the only actor to play the role for a full trilogy, was paid $10 million, plus a $20 million bonus to reprise his role in the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight. Audience members clearly responded well to Bale and Nolan’s adaptation, as the opening weekend gross increased with each film’s release. While Batman Begins earned $48 million its first weekend, the sequel The Dark Knight more than double that at $158 million the opening weekend. The box office momentum did not slow with the trilogy’s conclusion. The Dark Knight Rises raked in over $1 billion worldwide.
Christian Bale was paid $15 million to put on the costume one last time in the final film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises. This brought his total earnings to $54 million dollars for the series. Bale was reportedly offered $50 million to return to Gotham in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, but turned the role down. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly Bale said, “We were incredibly fortunate to get to make three [Batman films]. That’s enough. Let’s not get greedy. It’s a torch that should be handed from one actor to another.”