Once Tim Burton had decided not to continue at the helm of the franchise, and Michael Keaton turned down $15 million to return as Bruce Wayne, Batman Forever was essentially a clean slate. Looking back, it marked the beginning of the end for the original series, and just two years later sequel Batman & Robin would go down in the history books as one of the worst big budget comic book adaptations ever made.
Ethan Hawke was offered the title role and turned it down, a decision he ended up regretting, before William Baldwin thought he had it in the bag after promising talks with the studio. However, when Val Kilmer got the call he accepted without even reading the script or knowing who the director was, having been a lifelong fan of the Caped Crusader.
Kilmer probably should have inquired about the filmmaker overseeing Batman Forever, when he ended up having serious problems with Schumacher, who publicly criticized his leading man for his unprofessionalism in the years after the movie first hit theaters in the summer of 1995.
Despite his enthusiasm at first, in new documentary Val that covers his entire life and career, Kilmer reveals that his enthusiasm for playing Batman was crushed by the severe limitations of the Batsuit and the feeling he was little more than an accessory in a costume, as opposed to a three-dimensional character.
“I was in shock and disbelief, mostly because I had just been exploring a remote bat cave. By Hollywood standards Batman is the ultimate leading role and a dream come true. I took the part without even reading the script. But whatever boyish excitement I had going in was crushed by the reality of the Batsuit. When you’re in it, you can barely move and people have to help you stand up and sit down.
You also can’t hear anything and after a while people stop talking to you, it’s very isolating. It was a struggle for me to get a performance past the suit, and it was frustrating until I realized that my role in the film was just to show up and stand where I was told to.”
Talk of the 170-minute Schumacher Cut continues to abound, so perhaps one day we’ll see an extended version of Batman Forever that slightly rehabilitates the reputation of both the director and Kilmer within the context of the franchise as a whole, even if the third installment is far from the outright dud its successor undoubtedly was.