1992's Batman Returns was a tremendous box office success, but the backlash against the film was immediate and swift, eventually leading to the campier and more "toyetic" Joel Schumacher affairs that followed. Parents reviled the film, feeling it was far too dark and proving conclusively that parents ruin everything in this world that's any fun. The rest of the world is now catching up to what Batman fans have known for 25 years: Batman Returns is the best Batman movie made prior to Batman Begins, and was unfairly maligned for basically being ahead of its time.
25 years after the film's release, The Hollywood Reporter got the film's stars—Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfieffer, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Walken—as well as director Tim Burton, writer Daniel Waters, and composer Danny Elfman to dish on the film. If you're a fan of the film, it's an essential read and I highly recommend heading over there to read the full piece. Here are some of the highlights...
Michelle Pfeiffer mastered the whip
Not content to leave certain details of her character to a stunt double, Michelle Pfeiffer threw herself into the role of Catwoman by learning to wield a whip like a Mothersbaugh brother...
"I trained for months with the whip master. On our first day together, I caught his face with the whip and it drew blood. It completely shattered me," she says.
Pfeiffer would go on to perform all of her own stunts with the whip, but found performing on set was infinitely more challenging than at practice.
“I was very nervous on my first day of shooting. I'd gotten pretty good with the whip, but when you show up…you don't anticipate all the lights everywhere," she says. "They were set up in places that prevented me from hitting my marks with the whip. So we had to rework the lighting again and again.”
Christopher Walken's look was based on Burton's idol
If you know anything at all about Tim Burton, you know that he's got the world's biggest boner for Vincent Price. Therefore, it should come as no shock to you to learn that Burton basically cast Walken to play Max Shreck because Price died the year before...
“When we first met, Tim showed me a photograph of Vincent Price in an older film," says Walken of creating his character. "Tim was fascinated with his costume and his hair, he wanted Max to have that kind of look.”
That gag with the bird was 100% real
If you doubted Michelle Pfeiffer's dedication to the character, allow this story about her scene with the bird to erase those doubts...
"I don't think I've ever been so impressed. She had a live bird in her mouth while the camera was rolling," says Burton. "It was four or five seconds, and then she let it fly out. It was before CG, it was before digital. It was so quick, it seems like it was an effect."
Pfeiffer says she didn't stop to ponder potential danger.
"I look back and say, 'What was I thinking? I could've gotten a disease or something from having a live bird in my mouth,'" says Pfeiffer. "It seemed fine at the time. I don't think the bird was drugged or anything. We did that scene in one take. I think Tim likes to torture me a bit, it's like a little brother [or] brat kind of thing."
Danny DeVito was the Jared Leto of the film
Unlike now when the press fauns over actors who stay in character during a film shoot, 25 years ago, no one cared that Danny DeVito never dropped character while on set. Just ask Walken...
“Once he was in that costume, he was the Penguin. He was always in character, using the menacing voice. I saw Danny after the movie, never during production," says Walken.
Michael Keaton cut half his own dialogue
Knowing that Batman is a man of action rather than words, Keaton petitioned screenwriter Daniel Waters to remove most of his dialogue. Waters wasn't too keen on the idea at first, but Keaton really knew the character...
"My version of the script had more a lot more Batman and Bruce Wayne speeches. Michael Keaton would go through the script and say, 'Hey, that's a great line, but you gotta cut it. This is a good speech, but you gotta take it out.' He wanted to have very minimal dialogue, especially in the Batsuit. When I saw the final film, I realized he was exactly right."
Keaton preferred to let the suit do most of the talking.
"Once I realized how powerful the suit was in terms of an image on screen, I just used it," says Keaton.
There's at least a dozen more stories in the original article, which you can read by clicking here.