It’s 1995, and Batman mania is once again running wild in the streets. With two successful films in the can, Warner Bros. was looking to continue the momentum of their film franchise but with newer and edgier attitude. Tim Burton may have transformed the caped crusader from campy TV hero back into a dark and brooding vigilante, but the next film was a soft reboot in the casting and production department.
Michael Keaton gave up the mantle of the bat, Joel Schumacher came in to give Gotham a makeover and the end result was one of the maddest and most profitable films of the year. Now 25 years old, I’m celebrating my favourite film in the series with a look back at how it was made, cool secrets and a deep dive behind the scenes of this madcap production. Here’s the first part in this series, that examines the making of Batman Forever.
Where does he get those wonderful toys?
Despite getting favourable reviews at the time, Batman Returns didn’t rake in nearly as much cash as what 1989’s Batman movie did. Tim Burton was originally going to return and direct Batman Continues, but he was eventually dropped from the project so that Warner Bros. could push forward on a film that wasn’t as dark as the previous films. The reason for the shift in tone? McDonalds wanting to sell more Batman toys in a cross-promotion with the next film and a general emphasis on creating a film for the “MTV Generation” that could move a ton of merchandise.
Before Joel Schumacher was hired as the director for Batman Forever, Sam Raimi and John McTiernan were in the running. Schumacher eventually landed the gig, after being selected to take over from Burton.
The Riddler was almost madder
Lee and Janet Scott-Batchler began work on the script, which focused on themes of duality within the persona of Batman. Also the Riddler was going to be even madder and have a pet rat, the Scarecrow would make his big screen appearance and Catwoman would return.
There was a definite agenda to have a bigger Batman. My job was to put in everything new that I could.Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher
No amount of money could bring Keaton back
While initially enthusiastic on Schumacher’s direction, Batman actor Michael Keaton decided to turn down reprising the role and a reported $15 million payday.
Who is Batman?
In need of a newer and younger Batman, a number of actors were up for the role before Val Kilmer took up the mantle of the cape and cowl: Ethan Hawke, Alec Baldwin, another Baldwin think it was William, Dean Cain, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Daniel Day Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Johnny Depp and Mel Gibson.
Rene-ging on a deal
Rene Russo was originally cast as Dr Chase Meridian, but she was dropped in favour of Nicole Kidman as Warner Bros. wanted a younger character to pair with Kilmer. Sandra Bullock, Robin Wright, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Linda Hamilton were also considered for the role, before Kidman was cast.
Two faces, one actor
While Billy Dee Williams had played Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent in Burton’s Batman movies, Joel Schumacher decided to recast the tragic villain. Before Tommy Lee Jones donned the iconic make-up across half of his face, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Martin Sheen and Nicolas Cage had also been considered to play Two-Face.
Riddle me this, riddle me that
For the Riddler, John Malkovich, Robin Williams, Brad Dourif, Kelsey Grammer, Micky Dolenz, Steve Martin, and Leonardo DiCaprio almost slipped into question-mark themed green tights, with Schumacher even revealing that pop star Michael Jackson had lobbied the studio to play the part. Jim Carrey, thankfully, was cast instead. Hee-hee.
Robin finally flies
For the role of Robin, Schumacher and Warner Bros. went through a who’s who list of hearthrobs at the time: Matt Damon, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Toby Stephens, Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Christian Bale (yes that Christian Bale) and Scott Speedman were all in the running at one point.
Gotham gets reconstructed
Schumacher’s vision for Gotham City was to move it as far away from the aesthetics that Tim Burton and Anton Furst had introduced, hiring Barbara Ling to create a city with personality. Shcumacher and Ling’s design was a fusion of Golden Age comics, 1930s New York Architecture and modern-day Tokyo. Plus a whole lot of neon.
That’s a whole lot of costumes
Producer Peter MacGregor-Scott claimed that 146 workers were at one point working together in the costume design department, which also saw the Batsuit redesigned to have more of an “MTV organic, and edgier feel” as opposed to the industrial noir look that Keaton wore in Batman Returns.
At the time it was a little on the edge. It was sort of like Saturday Night Fever on acid.Producer Peter MacGregor Scott
The cape escape
Filming did encounter a few hiccups along the way, with Schumacher revealing in a 1995 interview that Kilmer was “childish and impossible” to work with at the time. Called out on his bad behaviour, Kilmer then spent two weeks refusing to talk to the director.
No love for Jim Carrey
Tommy Lee Jones was allegedly also a bit of a dick to work worth, with Jim Carrey detailing how Jones had genuine hate at the time for the actor who’d experienced breakout success in films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber.
Box office blockbuster
At the box office, Batman Forever was a massive success. The film made over $336 million, outperformed Batman Returns and was the highest-grossing movie of 1995. When adjusted for inflation, that’s a cool $568 million.
Stay tuned for more Batman Forever features soon! Same Bat-channel, same Bat-time!
Last Updated: August 11, 2020