Sometimes the only way to really get clarity on an old idea is to see someone else do it first.

While Christopher Nolan directed Christian Bale in three Batman films that push a screen vision of the character that will likely be the defining one for some time, those movies would likely never have happened without Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. Burton directed Keaton in Batman, released in 1989, at a time when that sort of major studio superhero movie was quite rare. The film was a resounding success, and the pair went on to make Batman Returns, released in 1992.

For a while after the release of that sequel, Keaton was in the mix for a third film, but ended up walking away when it became clear that he and new director Joel Schumacher wanted to make a different sort of movie. Keaton now says that he wanted to make a film very much like Batman Begins, but walked away because  Schumacher wanted something else. 

Speaking to  Marc Maron on his WTF podcast, via The Playlist, Keaton explains how Burton brought him The Dark Knight Returns as he pitched the idea of Batman after doing Beetlejuice, and that all his reservations about the material were exactly the things Burton was interested in. He gets around to the subject of where the series may have gone for a third installment:

You look at where [Nolan] went, which is exactly what I wanted to do when I was having meetings about the third one. I said you want to see how this guy started. We’ve got a chance here to fix whatever we kind of maybe went off. This could be brilliant… [But Schumacher] didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t want to do it.

With respect to Burton being gone and Schumacher having been brougt in, Keaton doesn’t waste much talk on that subject. But his general feeling is pretty clear, as he says ”I could see that was going south.” It’s easy enough to look at what Nolan did and point to it thinking “yeah, this is what I wanted to do a decade ago” now, with the success of Nolan’s movies proving that it was a good idea, but I’d like to know more of the conversations that took place as the series was transitioning from Burton’s steerage to Schumacher’s.

Meanwhile, this entire WTF interview with Keaton is fantastic. It’s well over an hour long, and his talk about making Mr. Mom and working up his character for Beetlejuice is great stuff.

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