Michael Keaton turned down ‘Batman Forever’ after creative clash with director

The actor disagreed with director Joel Schumacher on the film’s tone

Michael Keaton has revealed why he stepped down from the role of Batman, citing a creative disagreement with director Joel Schumacher.

The actor departed the role during development of 1995’s Batman Forever, which saw Schumacher take over as director following Tim Burton’s work on Batman and Batman Returns.

Speaking on the In The Envelope podcast, Keaton said he clashed with Schumacher over the campy tone of Batman Forever, with the actor preferring the darker vibe of Burton’s films.

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Speaking about what originally drew him to the role, Keaton said: “It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman. To me, I know the name of the movie is Batman, and it’s hugely iconic and very cool and iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic. I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. Batman, Batman, Batman does this, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Y’all are thinking wrong here.’ Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?… Who becomes that?”

Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton (Credit: Alamy)

He added: “When the director who directed the third came on, I said, ‘I just can’t do it.’ And one of the reasons I couldn’t do it was – and you know, he’s a nice enough man, he’s passed away, so I wouldn’t speak ill of him even if he was alive – he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalise doing it and hopefully talking him into saying, ‘I think we don’t want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction.’ And he wasn’t going to budge.”

According to Keaton, Schumacher told the actor, “I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad.” Keaton responded, “Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple.”

Keaton is set to reprise his version of Batman in two upcoming projects; The Flash, opposite Ezra Miller and Ben Affleck’s Batman, along with HBO Max original movie Batgirl. Both films will be released in 2022.

The actor recently explained why he wanted to return to the character 30 years since his last outing in 1992’s Batman Returns, believing the time was right.

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“Just because I was curious didn’t mean I wanted to do it,” Keaton said. “So it took a long time, frankly.

“I’m not just gonna say I’ll do it. It has to be good. And there has to be a reason.”

Along with DC, Keaton has also starred in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as Vulture in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s set to reprise the role in Morbius opposite Jared Leto.

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