It was 1992’s most anticipated blockbuster and after making such a splash with the first Bat-flick Tim Burton put together a worthy follow-up with BATMAN RETURNS. 25 Years Later revelations from behind the scenes inspire a rousing look at just how different the Caped Crusader’s next adventure might have been.
The Bat. The Cat. The Bird. The striking first promo images of the cast fully suited up for the next foray into Gotham City received far from a chilly reception. Although the Bat-emblem was sheathed in a wintery cascade that might have suggested that when Batman Returns the Dark Knight Detective as portrayed by Michael Keaton, first in the 1989 hit Batman and now back in its sequel, would be taking on the calculatingly cold Mr. Freeze, his adversaries were a surprisingly dynamic and deadly duo — and a bunch of very frisky penguins!
The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with the filmmaker Tim Burton and Batman Returns stars including Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito. Released in theaters on June 19, 1992, from the beginning Burton was more inclined to make this film’s antagonists a lot less “kid-friendly” which drove corporations like McDonald’s looking to latch onto the franchise a bit batty! Immediately those outside forces complained about the film’s already much darker tone, but fans were acclimated to the grossly sadistic look of the Penguin and the a very seductive Catwoman.
Michelle Pfeiffer etched herself into the popular lexicon when she appeared on-screen as the otherwise mousy Selina Kyle who succumbs to her more ferociously feline tendencies an embodied Catwoman for a new generation. Not many are aware that the actress was not the first choice cast in the cat suit. Annette Bening had won the role, but had to bow out when she became pregnant. Pfeiffer literally pounced on the opportunity and committed to the role after only reading half the script, throwing herself immediately into the then most coveted role in Hollywood.
The suit now legendary in its design and depiction of the Catwoman’s psyche as it becomes more and more unraveled, managed to provide the actress with its own series of challenges, and YES — it was as tight as it looked. Pfeiffer described how she was powered and practically poured into the outfit which was then “vacuum-packed”. “They’d paint it with a silicon-based finish to give it its trademark shine,” the actress added, and she would catch her claws on practically everything! Her work with the whip went a whole lot better she admitted.
As for Danny DeVito, who partnered with the film’s director Tim Burton to give the Penguin a more cunning and dangerous appearance, it took four-and-a-half hours to get the actor in make-up and suited up. With pounds of prosthetics to contend with, DeVito admitted to spending half of his time mostly in the full get up, and as for that trademark black ooze that poured out of the sides of the villain’s mouth, DeVito came up with that himself. It was a mixture of mouthwash with food coloring. The unsettling site of the ooze would stress franchise partners, especially McDonald’s to no end.
His penguin costars all had their own “dressing room” area on the set, which whenever incorporated the army of wingless birds would have to be dropped in several degrees to keep the avians happy and excitable! Christoper Walken who played Bruce Wayne’s adversarial contemporary Max Shreck recalled how Danny DeVito remained in character throughout the production and addressed him “using the menacing voice.” Walken revealed that he finally “met” DeVito after the production had wrapped.
Michael Keaton was a lot more confident the second time around when he was approached to suit up once again for Batman Returns. The actor insisted to the film’s screenwriter Daniel Waters that while he was in the suit, Batman should have less to say. “Once I realized how powerful the suit was in terms of an image on screen, I just used it,” said Keaton. After seeing the final film, the screenwriter couldn’t help but agree with its star. Although the Bat-Suit itself was modified from its initial debut, the technology hadn’t caught up with the design and Keaton had trouble moving in it.
It lead to a trademark move that forced the actor to make full-body turns mostly because he couldn’t move his head. “I got around that by making bigger, bolder and stronger moves,” he said, “form the torso up — and it worked!” 25 Years Later Batman Returns is still a highlight in the character’s astonishingly long-lived life as a big-screen franchise fixture. So many elements were spot-on that many facets of this particular installment influenced Batman characterizations especially portrayals of the Penguin, Catwoman and Gotham City still today!
Batman Returns is available now on Blu-ray and Digital HD download and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.