Batman came out 25 years ago today and was nothing short of a Star Wars-level giant at the box office. Forget the $411 million it made in the theater, the marketing of the movie was an inescapable wave of merchandise that swept over every mall in America. (I’m fairly certain I had at no less than two Batman beach towels that summer.)
The film paved the way for the current golden age of comic book movies. It remained the most successful superhero film of all time until The Dark Knight was released in 2008, and if you’re one of those people who can only enjoy Nolan’s Batman, buddy, you’re missing out. That’s a discussion for the comments though, the purpose of this post is to go behind the bat cowl and find out how Tim Burton and Michael Keaton brought Batman back from the campy days of the 1960s TV show.
From the Joker makeup to the controversy over Keaton as Bruce Wayne, here are 15 things you may not know about Tim Burton’s Batman.
1. Michael Keaton’s claustrophobia over wearing the suit helped him understand Bruce Wayne. Keaton was not a fan of wearing the suit and found it nearly impossible to turn his head because it was so skin-tight. Wearing the suit sent him into a panic at first, but as Keaton describes actually ended up helping him realize that it functioned as a bizarre security blanket for Bruce Wayne.
“I thought ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this, I’m feeling really scared.’ And then it hit me, ‘I went this is perfect’ this is designed for this unusual dude. The guy who has this personality that’s really dark, and really alone, and really kind of depressed.”
2. Batman’s ears were too tall for the Batmobile. The ears on Batman’s first mask were too tall for the Batmobile’s roof to close. Since the seat couldn’t be lowered costume designers had to make a new mask with shorter ears.
3. Jack Nicholson would fall asleep in the makeup chair. Supposedly, Jack Nicholson had it in his contract that he wouldn’t be on set for makeup any earlier than 9 am. Michael Keaton revealed to Grantland that while filming in London, Nicholson made the makeup artist’s job particularly easy and immediately fell asleep in the chair. The entire process took about two hours, giving Nicholson plenty of time to snooze.
4. Robin Williams had his feelings hurt. Tim Burton and Warner Brothers had always wanted Jack Nicholson as their top choice, but when he hesitated to take the part they began seriously talking to Robin Williams about the Joker role. When Nicholson caught word of this he accepted the part and Williams was left by the curb. Williams was so offended that he refused to play the role of the Riddler in Batman Forever or even do a Warner Brothers production until the studio apologized.
5. Tim Burton filmed Bruce Wayne going into a “bat trance” that never made the final cut. Keaton expressed to Tim Burton that he felt there should be some sort of visual transition from Bruce Wayne to Batman. The scene was left on the cutting room floor, but Keaton said he felt it helped him to better understand the character.
“So there was a thing we did early on that showed him going into a sort of trance and it justified this shift in him. So we did that scene and it never made it into the film but I think helped me in a way. It was part of the way he became this other thing and even if you didn’t see it, it was part of the character and the way we created him. Tim was always open to that.”
6. The Batman movie started at Indiana University. Obviously, there had been a Batman movie before 1989, but the dark Hollywood Batman that we know and love actually started with comic fan Michael Uslan teaching the first college-accredited course on comic books at Indiana University in 1971. Uslan taught the course for several more semesters before leaving for a job at DC Comics and eventually acquiring the film rights to Batman in 1979. Uslan joined forces with producer Benjamin Melniker and helped shift the darker version of a Batman film project over to Warner Brothers.
7. The Joker’s cathedral transportation happens in real-time. The Joker requests transportation for he and Vicki before entering Gotham City Cathedral to arrive in 10 minutes over the walkie-talkie. From the moment they enter the cathedral to when his helicopter arrives is exactly 10 minutes.
8. Tim Burton wrote the gas mask note. When Vicki Vale is given a note with her gas mask at the museum, the handwriting on the note is that of Tim Burton.