Michael Keaton had iconically played a grim Dark Knight in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, but he was replaced by Val Kilmer when Joel Schumacher took over the helm for Batman Forever. As it turns out, Keaton was actually in talks with Schumacher before he left the part, and he explains what went down with the director.
“[With] the director who directed the third one, 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 were alive—he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize 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.”
Apparently, Schumacher wanted to make the franchise more upbeat and bright. “But I remember one of the things that I walked away going, ‘Oh boy, I can’t do this.’,” said Keaton, “He asked me, ‘I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,’ and I went, ‘Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read…I mean, it’s pretty simple.'”
Though the general consensus of the fandom is to abhor the Schumacher Batman films, there is actually a very interesting way of viewing them that will make you appreciate the direction that he was going for. Patrick Willems probably explains it best, but essentially, Schumacher seemed to be trying to meld the edgy world of Burton with the campy colorfulness of the 60s Batman—creating his own unique take.
For now, Keaton is set to reprise his Bruce Wayne in The Flash which hits theaters on Nov. 04.