In the annals of Bat-movies, 1995’s Batman Forever sits somewhere near the bottom of our affections, well below Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed films about DC’s Dark Knight. Still, it’s a fun cinematic romp with some impressively crazy villains.
This was the movie which saw Val Kilmer take over for his first and last go-around as the Caped Crusader, whilst Joel Schumacher took the helm, proving to be the most controversial Bat-director ever. Below are some facts about the first (and definitely best) of Schumacher’s two Bat-flicks.
25. Joel Schumacher originally wanted to make a prequel based on Batman: Year One
When Batman and Batman Returns director Tim Burton decided to step back and just produce a third Batman movie, Joel Schumacher (whose earlier films included The Lost Boys and Falling Down) was hired to take over from Burton. Schumacher, who passed away in June 2020 at the age of 80, was originally keen to adapt the acclaimed graphic novel Batman: Year One.
Written and illustrated by Frank Miller, Batman: Year One explores Batman’s earliest days. Michael Keaton was reportedly excited about the idea but Warner Bros rejected it outright, making it clear that they wanted the third film to be a direct sequel. Batman: Year One would later be a key influence behind Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
24. The first draft of the script saw the return of Catwoman
1992’s Batman Returns had not been as well received as 1989’s original Batman, but there was one aspect of the film which everyone agreed was excellent: Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as Catwoman. As the final shot of Batman Returns hints that the anti-heroine could be back, there were hopes Pfeiffer might reprise the role in the sequel.
The first draft of the Batman Forever script did indeed feature the return of Catwoman, but subsequent rewrites had the character lifted out. Catwoman would not return to the big screen until the lamentable 2004 solo film starring Halle Berry. The role has since been taken by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises, and Zoe Kravitz in The Batman.
23. Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves and two Baldwin brothers were considered for Batman
When Michael Keaton decided against signing on to play Batman/Bruce Wayne a third time, director Joel Schumacher and company had to set about finding a suitable replacement. Much as had been the case before Keaton was first cast in the role several years earlier, the list of actors considered for the part was a veritable who’s-who of Hollywood at the time.
Schumacher’s wish list of potential Batmen is said to have included Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves, Ethan Hawke, Alec and William Baldwin, Kurt Russell, Ralph Fiennes, Johnny Depp and Daniel Day-Lewis. The role was ultimately given to Val Kilmer, after Schumacher was impressed by his work in Tombstone.
22. Robin Williams refused to play The Riddler because Warner Bros gave the Joker to Jack Nicholson
Before Jim Carrey was cast, Robin Williams was reportedly the first choice to play the role of Edward Nygma/The Riddler. However, the sadly missed comedy legend would not entertain the possibility of taking the role, as he had still not forgiven the producers and studio Warner Bros for snubbing him for the role of the Joker in the original 1989 Batman movie.
Williams had been approached to play Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, after Burton’s first choice Jack Nicholson had dragged his heels about taking on the role. Apparently Nicholson signed on as soon as he heard Williams had been approached. Realising he’d simply been used as bait, Williams was so furious that he refused to star in another Warner Bros film until the studio apologised.
21. Joel Schumacher said Val Kilmer was “childish and impossible” on set
By the late 90s, leading man Val Kilmer had developed a reputation for being very difficult to work with. Batman Forever was one of the first films on which Kilmer’s notoriety really became public knowledge, with numerous reports of the Batman/Bruce Wayne actor clashing with director Joel Schumacher as well as various members of the film’s crew.
Schumacher later described Kilmer as “childish and impossible,” and revealed that the actor didn’t speak to him for a fortnight after he called him out for being rude. After these clashes between the actor, the director and various other members of the production, Kilmer would not return for sequel Batman & Robin, although reports vary on whether he quit or was fired.
20. Tommy Lee Jones told Jim Carrey that he “hated” him
It wasn’t just Val Kilmer who caused trouble on the film’s set. Jim Carrey has admitted that Harvey Dent/Two-Face actor Tommy Lee Jones was extremely unfriendly to him, with the Oscar-winning star of The Fugitive having flatly told Carrey at a restaurant before production began, “I hate you, I really don’t like you… I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”
This must have made things awkward given how many scenes Carrey and Jones would share in the film. Schumacher backed up Carrey’s claims, remarking later that “Jim Carrey was a gentleman, and Tommy Lee was threatened by him.” The director also said he was “tired of defending over-paid, over-privileged actors. I pray I don’t work with them again.”
19. Batman creator Bob Kane despised the Bat-suit’s nipples
Whenever Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies are criticised, one key flourish that the director brought to the Bat-verse is frequently cited as emblematic of everything that went wrong with his films: nipples on the Bat-suit. Keen for his version of the Bat-suit to resemble ancient statues of Greek gods, Schumacher decreed that nipples should be added to the torso.
This angered many Bat-fans at the time, and since – and it also didn’t go down too well with Batman’s creator Bob Kane. Still, whilst Kane might not have been happy with Schumacher’s reworking of the Bat-suit, the artist (who co-created the character with Bill Finger) was a big fan of Val Kilmer, revealing that he thought the actor played both Batman and Bruce Wayne perfectly.
18. Tim Burton strongly opposed the film’s title
After directing both Batman and Batman Returns, Tim Burton decided to step back and act merely as a co-producer on the third Batman movie, mainly because he was uncomfortable with the overly commercial approach his bosses at Warner Bros were insisting upon. Hand in hand with this, Burton despised the chosen title of Batman Forever.
“I always hated those titles like Batman Forever,” Burton has said. “That sounds like a tattoo that somebody would get… or something some kid would write in the yearbook.” The producer argued strongly against using this title, but was overruled after it tested well with focus groups (an indication of just how marketing-oriented the film was from the beginning).
17. Warner Bros demanded the film be child-friendly to please their corporate sponsors
Batman Forever is a considerably more colourful and light-hearted affair than either of Tim Burton’s Batman films, and this was by no means an accident. Previous film Batman Returns had angered such corporate sponsors as McDonald’s, who wound up withdrawing their tie-in Happy Meal promotion when they saw just how dark and adult-oriented the film was.
Due to this external pressure, studio executives at Warner Bros demanded the third Batman movie be aimed more at children. This was a big part of why Tim Burton vacated the director’s chair, soon thereafter followed by Michael Keaton who decided against playing Batman a third time in a movie primarily intended to sell merchandise.
16. Rene Russo was originally cast as Chase Meridian, but was fired for being ‘too old’
After the previous two films featured Bruce Wayne dating existing comic characters Vicki Vale and Selina Kyle, Batman Forever introduced an original love interest in Dr Chase Meridian. Early on in the film’s development, when it looked like Michael Keaton would remain in the lead, Rene Russo was earmarked to take the all-new female role.
However, when Keaton bailed it was decided that a younger actor should take over as Batman, and Russo (who turned 41 in 1995) was deemed too old to be the new Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend. Chase Meridian was instead portrayed by the then-28-year-old Nicole Kidman; other actresses reportedly considered include Sandra Bullock, Linda Hamilton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Robin Wright.
15. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon were among the contenders for Robin
Batman Forever was a key turning point for the film series, as it finally brought Batman’s trusty young sidekick Robin to the big screen. This character had initially been set to appear in Batman Returns: Marlon Wayans signed on to play the role, but the character was ultimately cut from the first Batman sequel. When Joel Schumacher took over, he decided to consider other actors.
While the role of Robin/Dick Grayson ultimately went to Chris O’Donnell, a number of other young actors were considered. Leonardo DiCaprio was offered the role, but didn’t like Schumacher’s take on the material. Matt Damon was also said to be in the frame, along with Mark Wahlberg, Ewan McGregor and Jude Law.
14. Scarecrow was originally one of the villains
The Batman Forever we all know today sees the Dark Knight do battle with two of his greatest foes, Two-Face and the Riddler. This wasn’t always the plan, however. In the initial draft of the screenplay by Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, the plan had been for The Riddler to have a different partner in crime from Batman’s famous rogues’ gallery: The Scarecrow.
However, when Joel Schumacher signed on to direct the film he hired Akiva Goldsman to rewrite the script, and Scarecrow was promptly discarded (along with the originally planned return of Catwoman). Ultimately, Scarecrow would not appear in live action until 2006 reboot Batman Begins, with Cillian Murphy playing the role opposite Christian Bale.
13. Billy Dee Williams was not asked to reprise the role of Harvey Dent
Batman Forever casts Tommy Lee Jones in the role of Harvey Dent/Two-Face, the former Gotham City District Attorney-turned-criminal mastermind. While Two-Face was an all-new villain for the Batman films, Harvey Dent had been seen before, portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in 1989’s Batman – and it surprised some viewers that Williams was not brought back.
Williams told fans at a 2017 convention in Nashville, “I had hoped that I would have done Two-Face. But it changed hands before then, and I think Schumacher got involved, so they took a different direction with that.” The actor has also confirmed that he “only had a one picture deal for Batman,” so the filmmakers had no legal obligation to offer him the role.
12. A longer and darker version of the film could still be released
Batman Forever hasn’t always been too well-regarded by fans of the franchise, with many having complained that it’s too light-hearted and commercialised. However, the film that was released into cinemas and for home entertainment is said to be very different from Joel Schumacher’s original director’s cut, which was reportedly much darker.
While the released film is two hours long, Schumacher’s first cut ran a further 40 minutes. It’s possible this cut of Batman Forever could still be released; rumour has it that Warner Bros considered putting it out on DVD in 2005 to mark the film’s tenth anniversary. Since Schumacher’s death in June 2020, some fans have been rallying for Warner Bros to release the director’s cut.
11. Deleted scenes from the director’s cut include a giant bat nightmare
Among the 40 minutes that were deleted from Joel Schumacher’s original cut of Batman Forever were more scenes delving into Bruce Wayne’s psyche, exploring what made him decide to adopt the bat as his symbol. One key moment was a nightmare sequence in which Kilmer’s Wayne enters the caves under Wayne Manor and comes face to face with a giant half-man half-bat creature.
It’s not surprising that this was deemed too sinister for a film intended for pre-teens. Nonetheless, the moment resurfaced in the 15 minutes of deleted scenes that were originally released when Batman Forever first came to DVD. The remaining 25 minutes of deleted material includes more of Bruce Wayne’s troubles, particularly his lingering guilt over the deaths of his parents.
10. Chris O’Donnell crashed the Batmobile
After Chris O’Donnell’s orphaned acrobat Dick Grayson is taken in by Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne, it isn’t long before the wily young scamp discovers his new guardian’s secret identity – so naturally he takes the Batmobile out for a joyride. O’Donnell demanded he be allowed to do his own driving in the scene.
However, just as Dick Grayson lands in trouble for taking the Batmobile in the movie, so too did O’Donnell bite off a little more than he could chew. The actor accidentally wound up crashing the lavish and expensive vehicle into the curb, denting a fender in the process. Happily, neither the actor nor anyone else present suffered any injury.
9. Michael Jackson unsuccessfully campaigned to be cast as The Riddler
File this one under ‘believe it or not,’ but early in development on Batman Forever, when the filmmakers were still looking for their Riddler, one unlikely candidate threw his hat into the ring: Michael Jackson. Yes, the moonwalking King of Pop himself was anxious to play the green-suited super-villain, and is said to have lobbied hard for the role.
It doesn’t seem that Schumacher and co ever seriously considered casting Jackson as The Riddler, but they did look at a number of other big name actors before choosing Jim Carrey, including Steve Martin, Matthew Broderick, John Malkovich, Adam Sandler and Mark Hamill (who had already portrayed the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series).
8. It gave future MCU director-actor Jon Favreau an early role
A minor supporting player in Batman Forever wound up having a monumental impact on superhero movies: Jon Favreau. A 29-year-old jobbing actor at the time, Favreau briefly appears in the movie as an unnamed assistant of Bruce Wayne’s. He can be seen to the right of Val Kilmer in the lab sequence where Bruce Wayne meets Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma.
In the years that followed, Favreau’s star would rise not only as an actor, but as a writer and director as well. His directing career took off with Christmas classic Elf, but he really hit the big time as director of 2008’s Iron Man and its 2010 sequel Iron Man 2. Favreau also appears in Marvel Cinematic Universe as an actor, in the role of Happy Hogan.
7. It got mixed reviews, but was a big box office hit
Warner Bros’ insistence on a lighter, more mainstream-friendly approach to Batman would seem to have paid off in the short run. After costing $100 million to make, Batman Forever wound up earning $184 million at the box office in US and Canada, which made it the biggest domestic hit of 1995. Overall it made $336.6 million globally, making it the sixth biggest hit of the year worldwide.
Even so, the critics were less convinced. Reviews were consistently lukewarm, with many critics admitting to enjoying the film but nonetheless listing a wide variety of flaws, most of them considering it dumbed-down and overly commercialised. Of course, this was nothing compared to the critical reception awaiting Schumacher’s 1997 follow-up film, Batman & Robin.
6. U2’s Bono was going to have a cameo at one point
For Batman Forever’s soundtrack, the filmmakers enlisted arguably the single biggest band in the world at the time, Irish stadium rockers U2, who provided them with what became the film’s theme song: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. (The song wasn’t actually written for Batman Forever, but was a leftover from the recording sessions for album Zooropa.)
U2 came to contribute the song to Batman Forever after Joel Schumacher approached them with a different proposition: for Bono to make a cameo appearance in a party scene as MacPhisto, a devilish character the singer portrayed on stage as part of the band’s famous Zoo TV tour. Eventually both Bono and Schumacher agreed this wouldn’t work, so the cameo never happened.
5. The soundtrack album was a huge seller – even though only five songs from it were actually in the film
In the 90s, record labels and movie studios hit on a neat little way to put together soundtrack albums that young people would buy: filling them with music both featured in the film, and music allegedly ‘inspired by’ the film. Such was the case on Batman Forever’s commercially released soundtrack album, which enjoyed double platinum sales.
Only five of the songs included were actually in the movie, including U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me and Seal’s Kiss from a Rose. Other artists to feature on the Batman Forever soundtrack (though not necessarily in the movie itself) include PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Michael Hutchence of INXS.
4. Jim Carrey’s Riddler haircut plans were changed due to his impending divorce
Jim Carrey had a hand in designing his Riddler costumes for Batman Forever, which stick to the lime green colour scheme and question mark motif associated with the character (most famously from Frank Gorshin’s take on the 60s Batman TV show). At one point, Carrey had another idea for the character: to shave a question mark shape into his hair.
However, this haircut idea was abandoned due to the circumstances of Carrey’s own private life. The actor was going through a divorce at the time, and needed to appear in court as part of these proceedings during the Batman Forever shoot. Carrey realised that showing up to court with a question mark shaved into his head probably wouldn’t go down well.
3. Michael Keaton turned down $15 million to play Batman again
The shift in tone between Batman Forever and the films that came before it was simply too great for leading man Michael Keaton. After several meetings with Joel Schumacher, the actor realised he simply couldn’t see eye-to-eye with the director’s take on the material and walked away, despite the fact that Warner Bros offered him $15 million to appear.
This substantial offer marked a step up from the $5 million he got for Batman and the $10 million he got for Batman Returns. It also speaks volumes as to how much public feeling about Keaton had changed since the early controversy over his casting. Nonetheless, Keaton held firm. He would not play Batman again until he was coaxed out of retirement for DC multiverse movie The Flash.
2. Val Kilmer shot the movie back-to-back with Heat
Although Batman Forever isn’t generally held up as one of Val Kilmer’s best films, the actor shot the film immediately before starting work on what would come to be regarded one of his career highlights: Heat. Writer-director Michael Mann’s epic crime drama centres on Al Pacino as an LAPD detective determined to take down Robert De Niro’s bank robber.
Kilmer takes a key supporting role in Heat as Chris Shiherlis, the right-hand man of De Niro’s Neil McCauley. Production on Heat and Batman Forever was so close that at first it looked like Kilmer couldn’t do both films, until his schedule was carefully re-arranged. Interestingly, Keanu Reeves – also a contender to play Batman in Batman Forever – was the second choice for Kilmer’s role in Heat.
1. It’s the first Batman movie to hint at being in the same universe as Superman
Today, we’re well accustomed to comic book-based cinematic universes (indeed, multiverses are even becoming commonplace), but back in the 90s this was still a radical concept. Although studio Warner Bros had already made movies about the other great DC Comics icon Superman, there was no suggestion that Batman was part of the same story world at first.
This changed with a single line of dialogue in Batman Forever, when Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne tells Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson that his old travelling circus is “halfway to Metropolis.” This direct mention of Superman’s home town marks the first time a live-action DC movie alluded to its superheroes co-existing in the same universe.