Arnold Schwarzenegger's Fame (And Fans) Made For A Chaotic Batman & Robin Set

"Batman & Robin" has been derided enough at this point. We all know it's not a fondly-remembered Batman movie, let alone a comic book adaptation. Which is why it's strange to think that before director Joel Schumacher unveiled his infamously disappointing follow-up to 1995's "Batman Forever," there couldn't have been more excitement surrounding the project.

Once "Batman Forever" proved a huge hit, everyone wanted in on Schumacher's sequel — from actors angling for parts to company CEOs demanding their products be featured. As the director explained in a making-of-featurette:

"It was the opposite from 'Batman Forever' when we had to go around and convince everybody to come along with us, we were going to make a Batman movie. This was, 'How can we stop everybody?' It was everybody and their mother wanted to have their franchise in the movie and be part of it."

Schumacher went on to say that whereas, "there was kind of modesty when [he] made 'Batman Forever'," his second go-round was anything but modest, and, felt like, "jack was out of the box. It just felt like the sky was the limit." Whether it was people wanting to be involved or Warner Bros. giving Schumacher carte blanche to go as crazy as he wanted, from the outset, there was a sort of frenzy surrounding "Batman & Robin." That frenzy seemingly extended to the actual set, which was at times just as chaotic and frenetic as the final film.

Schwarzenegger's star power

Alongside George Clooney, 1997's "Batman & Robin" starred Alicia Silverstone, Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze. The action legend was shooting "Eraser" when he said Warner Bros. "begged" him to play the central villain in "Batman & Robin." Arnie's casting actually caused a full rewrite of the Mr. Freeze character, which saw much of the Shakespearean-style language cut in favor of dialogue more befitting the Austrian Oak's distinctive cadence (mostly terrible ice puns).

Interestingly, Schwarzenegger is one of the only people involved who has no regrets about his role in "Batman & Robin." That probably has to do with the unwavering self-confidence that made him the biggest movie star in the world, but it might also have to do with how much fun the guy was having on set.

Since transitioning to Hollywood following the success of the bodybuilding docudrama "Pumping Iron," Arnie has been known for his laid-back, affable demeanor on sets. Back in the mid-'80s, his "Predator" co-star Sonny Landham spoke about how, "a star is not only to sell tickets, he's got to take command of the set and be a leader." And according to the other actors on that film, Schwarzenegger not only took command of the set, but he also kept things light-hearted and fun. As actor Shane Black put it, "He's very open, he's very accessible, and he's a lot of fun. He sits there chomping a cigar, he tells jokes." In fact, the script had to include cigars precisely because Arnie couldn't stop smoking his signature stogies, which would still be in evidence by the time he started work on "Batman & Robin," — a film that took his light-hearted approach to being on-set to the extreme.

Paparazzi and celebrity stogie deliveries

For the film's 20th anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter published a retrospective where numerous people who worked on "Batman & Robin" recalled a chaotic set. producer Peter MacGregor-Scott recounted how Arnold's presence alone was enough to cause a frenzy of paparazzi:

"I had the security people all over the stage. Clearing people out who had cameras on them. They were getting $10,000 for a picture of Arnold. And we had a fabric tent around him, when he would walk from his trailer to the stage."

Not only were photographers swarming, but Schwarzenegger was evidently quite the celebrity magnet. Big-name friends of the actor were constantly visiting him on set, including one instance where Jon Bon Jovi made a delivery of those all-important stogies. As the made-up sounding actor "Stogie Kenyatta" told THR, "Jon Bon Jovi came by and he brought Cuban cigars for Arnold. So Arnold had them color it white so he could smoke it in the scenes."

And Arnie's friends weren't just visiting him. His "Predator" and "The Running Man" collaborator, Jesse Ventura, also had a cameo as an Arkham Asylum guard. All of which amounted to a set that felt as much like a party as the garish scenes that comprised the final movie

The Batman & Robin set was one big party

It wasn't just Schwarzenegger causing a buzz on "Batman & Robin." The set was so massive in scale and so swarming with people, that items including a Batman cowl went missing, leading to Warner Bros. insisting that every car leaving the lot be searched. Elsewhere, hundreds of extras had to go through metal detectors and, at one point, someone was caught with a hidden camera capturing behind-the-scenes footage. Schumacher also recalled how, "there were days when there were 150 visitors during the day and people would bring their kids, people would come to see the sets. It sort of became a thing to do."

I'm still waiting for the inevitable re-evaluation of "Batman & Robin," but there hasn't been any persuasive argument that the film is just "misunderstood" or "overlooked" — unless you count Kevin Feige saying that "Batman & Robin" is one of the most important comic book movies ever made because it's so bad. Even /Film's own retrospective of the film on its 20th anniversary struggled to find much redeeming about the movie. Time may have softened some on the movie's legacy, but when a film's director publicly apologizes and its star disowns it, there's not much to be done.

And the atmosphere behind the scenes seems to have contributed to the movie's irredeemability. Schumacher had, by his own admission, been allowed to let "Jack out of the box" and the actual production became just as bombastic as the campy dialogue and outlandish story, and basically sounds like it was one big party. Which is pretty much the sense you get from watching "Batman & Robin." And while Schwarzenegger's presence certainly didn't help, it seems there was something bigger going on than just his stogie smoking and celebrity friend visits.