Three decades after Tim Burton’s darkly comic adaptation of Batman barreled into theaters, the first serious blockbuster about DC’s caped crusader remains a hugely relevant piece of pop culture. From the director’s stylistic and tonal choices to Jack Nicholson’s iconic performance as the villainous Joker, there’s just so much about the 1989 film that still resonates — Zack Snyder’s Batfleck be damned. And then there’s Michael Keaton, the actor who brought Bruce Wayne to life. He was the obvious choice for the role… right?
Not so fast, according to Syfy’s recent interview with screenwriter Sam Hamm, who co-wrote the screenplay with Burton and a few other writers who had taken passes as the script. Apparently, studio executives were more keen on hiring someone with better action movie chops at first. Someone like… Steven Seagal:
There were a lot of people at Warner Brother who wanted to cast it with an action star. They wanted to cast the part as Batman, as opposed to casting it as Bruce Wayne. You have to make Bruce Wayne work, because Batman is, for the most part, going to be a stunt guy, or it’s going to be somebody running around in a costume in long shot. You don’t need the martial arts expertise of, say, Steven Seagal or somebody like that, because you can fake all of that kind of stuff. Seagal was one of the people that was suggested to us.
Yes, that’s right. Seagal, whose main claim to fame in the late ’80s was the 1988 film Above the Law, was apparently a top choice for executives before Hamm, Burton, and company finally managed to swing the production their way.
“Believe it or not,” Hamm told Syfy after the interviewer’s initial shock. “He had just kind of appeared on the scene, people thought holy cow, this guy’s badass. He could be Batman. I don’t think it ever got to the point where he read for it. He was just one of the names that was floated.”
So, just in case you’re still angry about Robert Pattinson’s casting in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman redux at Warner Bros., try replacing Keaton’s name, face and voice every time you think about the 1989 movie that started it all.