In the grand history of Batman‘s film career, few creative decisions are as notorious as the Bat-Nipples, the infamous chest adornments featured on the suits worn by both Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s Dark Knights. The nipples are seen as the epitome of the campy, ridiculous tone that swallowed up the later ’90s Batman films and threatened to kill off the brand until Christopher Nolan relaunched it in the 2000s. It turns out there’s something else we can blame them for, too; convincing Tim Burton not to make another movie.
Empire Magazine caught up with the gothic filmmaker for a retrospective celebrating the 30th anniversary of 1992’s Batman Returns. At the time, Returns shocked audiences by how adult it was, something that Burton can laugh at now that Matt Reeves just delivered possibly the moodiest Batman flick ever earlier this year. While admitting that he hasn’t watched The Batman yet, although he’d like to, Burton commented:
“It is funny to see this now, because all these memories come back of, ‘It’s too dark. ’So, it makes me laugh a little bit.”
It’s good that he can laugh about it now, as it sounds like Burton had a major falling-out with Warner Bros back in the day due to the negative reception to Returns‘ maturity. The director revealed that he was so offended by the studio’s desire to lighten things up for what became 1995’s Batman Forever that he walked away from the project. And it sounds like the infamous nips were the final straw. Burton said:
“[Back then] they went the other way. That’s the funny thing about it. But then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Okay. Hold on a second here. You complain about me, I’m too weird, I’m too dark, and then you put nipples on the costume? Go fuck yourself.’ Seriously. So yeah, I think that’s why I didn’t end up [doing a third film]…”
As you probably know, Joel Schumacher ultimately helmed Forever, and while he passed away in 2020, his costume designer Jose Fernandez opened up to Empire about the reasoning behind the nipples. Apparently, it was supposed to be a nod to the armor worn by Roman centurions. Unfortunately, nobody really appreciated the classical influence and only picked up on the kinky side of it.
But it’s all water under the bridge now that Burton’s Batman Michael Keaton is back in the DC multiverse in a big way, with appearances in both The Flash and Batgirl to come in the near future. Maybe that could pave the way for Tim Burton himself to return to the DC fold and finally make a third Bat-movie.