Batman (1989) was the first entry what would become Warner Brother’s Batman film series. The movie features Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. The film was directed by Tim Burton.
When talking about Batman today most people tend to agree that Michael Keaton was one of the definitive actors who have donned the cape and cowl of Batman. What people didn’t know is that when news broke that he was cast to play the caped crusader there was a general uproar as he was mostly known for playing comedy roles. People were unsure that he would be able to portray a serious character. As Kevin Smith said: “It’s the guy from Mr Mom!”. Yet Keaton knocked the ball out of the park with his performance as Batman.
The Joker as portrayed by Jack Nicholson has become the gold standard for how The Joker is to be played – from his maniac laughter and that killer smile of his.
Batman is also one of the few movies where there is more than one soundtrack. There is one soundtrack with the orchestral score composed by Danny Elfman and then the other album from Prince known simply as Batman.
The success of the movie prompted Warner Brothers to make the amazing Batman: The Animated Series. This in turn spawned one of the series beloved characters in the form of Harley Quinn and changed the origin story of Mr Freeze to what we are familiar with today.
Gotham City: dark, dangerous, ‘protected’ only by a mostly corrupt police department. Despite the best efforts of D.A. Harvey Dent and police commissioner Jim Gordon, the city becomes increasingly unsafe…until a Dark Knight arises. We all know criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot…so his disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. He becomes a bat. Enter Vicky Vale, a prize-winning photo journalist who wants to uncover the secret of the mysterious “bat-man”. And enter Jack Napier, one-time enforcer for Boss Grissom, horribly disfigured after a firefight in a chemical factory…who, devoid of the last vestiges of sanity, seizes control of Gotham’s underworld as the psychotic, unpredictable Clown Prince of Crime…The Joker. Gotham’s only hope, it seems, lies in this dark, brooding vigilante. And just how does billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne fit into all of this?
Things you probably didn’t know about Tim Burton’s Batman
- Robin Williams was offered the role of The Joker when Jack Nicholson hesitated. He had even accepted the role, when the producers approached Jack Nicholson telling him that Robin Williams would take the role if he didn’t. Jack Nicholson took the role and Robin Williams was let go. Robin Williams resented being used as bait and refused to play the Riddler in Batman Forever and also any involvement in any Warner Bros productions until the studio apologized.
- Michael Keaton was unable to hear anything while wearing the Bat-suit. He said the claustrophobia helped get him in the proper mood to portray Batman.
- Jack Nicholson’s contract stipulated that he will receive a percentage of the gross income of the film. Due to its massive box-office success he took home about $60 million.
- The film was released in the year of Batman’s 50th Birthday
- Willem Dafoe, David Bowie, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, and James Woods were considered for the role of The Joker.
- The surgical tools used to “reconstruct” The Joker’s face are the same dental props used in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) by Steve Martin on Bill Murray.
- Michael Jackson was asked to write and perform songs for the movie, but had to turn it down to concert commitments
- The face of The Joker was initially inspired by Conrad Veidt as The Man Who Laughs (1928)
- As a fan of Michael Gough’s work in various Hammer horror films, Tim Burton cast him as Alfred Pennyworth
- Originally Tim Burton wanted to cast Brad Dourif as The Joker but he was overruled by the studio.
- Had the Batwing been built to full scale it would have had a 35ft wing span.
- In the beginning of the film when Knox enters the press room and is handed a cartoon sketch of a ‘Batman’ it is signed by Bob Kane, who is the original creator of the Batman comics.