Arnold Schwarzenegger Didn't Film A Single Scene With His Batman & Robin Co-Stars

Had Warner Bros. given Joel Schumacher an extra year to develop and shoot "Batman & Robin," it's reasonable to expect that he would've turned around another agreeably campy lark on par with "Batman Forever;" ergo, from the fans' perspective, it's probably a blessing that the studio rushed him from 1996's "A Time to Kill" straight into his second Dark Knight yarn. Had Schumacher been granted more time to refine the film with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, he might've stuck with the franchise — which, spinning this alternate timeline forward, could've knocked George Clooney out of Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight" and obviated the need for Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins." A series-hobbling Bat-bomb is a more than acceptable tradeoff here.

There were, however, certain elements of "Batman & Robin" that were always going to fall flat, most notably the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. Had Warner Bros. been smart (which is something they typically were not in the mid-1990s), they would've looked to Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's "Heart of Ice" episode of "Batman: The Animated Series" for guidance in downplaying the character's gimmicky nature. Instead, some genius lodged in WB's development pipeline thought it would be funny if the Austrian strongman riffed on Austrian filmmaker Otto Preminger's take on Freeze from ABC's "Batman" television series. It was not funny.

It was also, logistically speaking, needlessly complicated. According to Clooney and Chris O'Donnell, they never spoke a line to Schwarzenegger.

Acting with Schwarzenegger without Schwarzenegger

It's not unheard of for major movie stars to big-time their scene partners by having them speak their lines to their doubles. It's generally garbage behavior, but on the set of "Batman & Robin," it was a time-saving compromise necessitated by the tight production schedule.

In the documentary "Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight," which was shot for the four-film "Motion Picture Anthology" DVD set, Chris O'Donnell recalled the situation thusly:

"[I]'m in a lot of scenes with Mr. Freeze, I never worked a single day with Arnold. Not a single day. I was on the set with him a lot. I'd hang out and talk to him, I did a lot of publicity with him, but literally, they had a double for him that was so good, and that suit was so complicated and involved to get on, that unless Arnold was talking in a scene, he wasn't in that costume."

During a 2020 appearance on "The Howard Stern Show," Clooney expressed amusement at the whole boondoggle.

"[T]hey paid Arnold $25 million to be in it. They paid me, like, one. And we never even worked together, we never even saw each other. It was ... a big monster machine, and I just sort of jumped in and did what they said."

Batman & Robin had a chilling effect on Schwarzenegger's career

It's easy to get lost in that mega-budget machinery when you're a TV star with an unproven box-office track record, and it speaks well to Clooney's honest, self-deprecating disposition that he can laugh off a fiasco that, along with the tepid reception to Mimi Leder's "The Peacemaker" later that year, threatened to derail his big-screen ambitions. As he told Esquire's Chris Jones in 2006, "I call it the Jack Kennedy syndrome. The first thing he did was the Bay of Pigs. A complete failure. But he never tried to hide from it."

As for Schwarzenegger, a downturn was on the horizon. He took a brief break and made a less-than-triumphant return with Peter Hyams' murkily shot "End of Days" in 1999. His next two films, "The 6th Day" and "Collateral Damage," were generic would-be blockbusters that stiffed commercially. The $25 million paydays were over. So, after a mildly satisfying third go-round as The Terminator, he became Governor of California, and suddenly Mr. Freeze wasn't the worst thing he'd ever done.