Why Michael Keaton Didn't Return For A Third Batman Movie

There are those of us who think Michael Keaton is the best Batman and there's an entirely different camp that might think Val Kilmer is the best Batman. Keaton handed the role down to Kilmer in "Batman Forever," and since then, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck have each taken turns donning the Dark Knight's cape and cowl.

With "The Flash," Keaton is set to return in the role that made him famous beyond "Beetlejuice." Last year's DC FanDome teaser for "The Flash" let us hear Keaton's voice, and with the movie speeding toward a release date later this year, it won't be long now before he's back onscreen as Batman.

If you ever wondered why he left the role in the first place, a new interview with Keaton in Variety sheds some light on that. And it sounds like it had a lot to do with the tone that the late Joel Schumacher had in mind for the franchise after he took it over from director Tim Burton, who helmed "Batman" and "Batman Returns." Keaton explained:

"When the director who directed the third one [approached me], I said, 'I just can't do it.' And one of the reasons I couldn't do it was — and you know, he's a nice enough man, he's passed away, so I wouldn't speak ill of him even if he were alive — he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize doing it and hopefully talking him into saying, 'I think we don't want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction.' And he wasn't going to budge."

The Dubious Joy-Gasms of Batman Forever

Keaton is being much more diplomatic here about "Batman Forever" than he has been in the past. "Batman Returns" earned him a $10 million payday, but as CinemaBlend notes, he actually turned down a potential $15 million for "Batman Forever" because he thought the script "just was awful." Around the time that he was making a big comeback in "Birdman," he went further on record in The Hollywood Reporter (via Screencrush) to say:

"It ['Batman Forever'] sucked! The script never was good. I couldn't understand why he [Schumacher] wanted to do what he wanted to do. I hung on for many meetings. I knew it was in trouble when he said, 'Why does everything have to be so dark?'"

I have a vivid memory of being at the midnight movie premiere of "Batman Forever" back in 1995. At the time, it was a big event in my young life and I liked the movie enough to buy action figures based on it and to go around wearing a T-shirt with the Riddler's green question mark on it afterward. Of course, reams have since been written deriding the rubber-nipple aesthetic of it and Schumacher's follow-up, "Batman and Robin," but when you're a kid (or a kid at heart), you don't know any better.

Revisiting some of Jim Carrey's Riddler scenes last year while writing about the character's history made me cringe. I don't think it's aged well, or maybe I just haven't aged well and am now a jaded adult who can't enjoy simple "joy-gasms," as Carrey calls them. As for the Riddler, he'll be making his return this March in Matt Reeves' "The Batman."