Val Kilmer Was In A Different Kind Of Batcave When He Was Cast In Batman Forever

Throughout the mythos concerning the character of Bruce Wayne aka Batman, there is a strong theme of predestination. While made explicit in only a few tales of the Dark Knight throughout the character's 84-year existence, there exists the idea that the orphan Bruce Wayne was able to mold himself into the figure of Batman partially because his whole life prepared him to do just that, mentally if not also physically and emotionally.

1995's "Batman Forever," the third in Warner Bros. and producer Tim Burton's series of live-action adaptations of the character, is one of the stories of the Caped Crusader that highlights this theme in a big way. In the film, Bruce (played by Val Kilmer) is troubled by recurring waking nightmares that psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) deduces are actually repressed memories forcing their way into his conscious mind. In these visions, Bruce recalls the moments after his parents' untimely deaths, especially his foreboding and portentous encounter with a giant bat in the cave he accidentally discovers beneath his family's mansion.

Ironically, the circumstances in which Kilmer found himself considered and cast for the role of Batman in "Forever" are incredibly similar. In fact, the actor discovered that he won the part while he had been inside an actual cave full of bats. Holy confluence, Batman!

'I'd already begun my preparation for the Dark Knight'

According to "Batman Forever: The Official Movie Book" by Michael Singer, when Michael Keaton elected not to return to the role of Batman for director Joel Schumacher, the filmmaker only had Kilmer in mind. However, the actor happened to be in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, ostensibly researching a potential future film project (which may or may not have been what eventually became 1996's Africa-set "The Ghost and the Darkness").

Upon arriving in London after that Africa trip, Kilmer's then-wife Joanne Whalley-Kilmer informed him that several faxes had arrived for him, one of which simply said "Congratulations, you're Batman." The actor then put together what the timing of the casting meant, as Singer recounts:

"Val Kilmer realizes that at the approximate moment in time that the casting decision had been made, he was in a cave full of bats in the wilderness of South Africa. [...] So is Val Kilmer a believer in synchronicity? 'Yes,' he replies. 'I'd already begun my preparation for the Dark Knight.'"

However, Kilmer was quick to point out that he wasn't necessarily saying that the Bat was his destiny all along or anything of that nature. As the actor clarified to Singer:

"It is an extraordinary opportunity, but one that you could never plan. [...] The circumstances were all so strange anyway, since Batman is such a substantial character and the two other films were so successful, and Michael Keaton was so good. I never thought, 'They're going to do a third Batman film and I wonder if they're going to recast it.' It was just a happy series of bizarre circumstances."

Val Kilmer meets the Big Bat

Upon its release, "Batman Forever" became notorious for indulging in a far campier tone than the prior Tim Burton films had featured, and Schumacher's follow-up, 1997's "Batman & Robin," quickly overshadowed "Batman Forever" as being the bane (pun intended) of the "Batman" films. In either case, the more grounded thematic plot lines within "Forever" were brushed aside.

Over the last several years, however, "Batman Forever" has not only undergone a minor reappraisal but it's also become the latest in a series of "Release the __ Cut" social media campaigns, when Marc Bernardin and Kevin Smith revealed that a 170-minute workprint cut of the film exists, one which sports a far more serious tone than the finished film. Included in this cut are some deleted scenes which have already been released on most home video versions of the movie. One of these scenes features Kilmer's Bruce Wayne, suffering from temporary amnesia, reconnecting with his Batman identity metaphorically by encountering a giant bat creature in the caves below Wayne Manor.

Given the tale of how Kilmer came to be cast as Batman, it's entirely possible that this scene with the giant bat puppet (designed by makeup effects guru Rick Baker, who worked on the film) was inspired by Kilmer's fateful South Africa trip. While miscommunication between Kilmer and Schumacher led to the actor not returning for "Batman & Robin," it seems in hindsight that Val Kilmer was indeed fated to play Batman at least once in his career.