Why Michael Keaton Was Afraid To Play Batman

Superhero costumes in movies may look extremely cool, but actors have been quoted repeatedly over the years that they are a pain to wear. Whether it's because they're bulky, heavy, tight or just plain stiff, one can imagine that there are many downsides to the suits worn by comic book characters. For Michael Keaton back in 1989, however, it was extremely rough, because the form fitting costume and mask he was required to wear for Tim Burton's Batman made the star extremely claustrophobic - to the point where he temporarily thought that he wouldn't be able to be in the movie.

Alongside Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) and Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge), Michael Keaton recently sat down for The LA Times’ Hollywood Sessions roundtable series, and revealed some very interesting stories about his first time getting into the Batman costume. The subject came up after Downey Jr. noted that playing Iron Man was undoubtedly much more comfortable than it would have been in the early days of superhero movies, and Keaton confirmed his fellow actor's theory. Apparently, Keaton didn't actually get to wear the Batsuit until just a few hours before the start of production - and was actually terrified the first time that he was "locked in." Said the Birdman star,

"I was very claustrophobic. The first time I was locked in [to the outfit], I thought, ‘This is never going to happen, I’m never gonna do it.’"

While this may sound rather disastrous and horrible, what ended up happening is that Keaton simply leaned into the fear he was feeling and used it for the character. Eventually he wound up seeing his claustrophobia in the Batman suit as a gift "because you become very interiorly isolated when you get locked into that thing."

Just because his emotions were put back in check, however, doesn't mean that wearing the Batman costume wasn't still an extreme challenge. Michael Keaton said that in order to move around on set he had to be rested against some sort of wooden device (he couldn't recall its name), and turning his neck was actually impossible without completely shredding the mask. This is what led to the Dark Knight making a lot of "power moves," turning his entire body instead of just his head.

It's actually pretty funny to see Michael Keaton talk about the challenges of the Batman costume, but you don't have to wait until the Hollywood Sessions interview airs tonight at 8 p.m. EST on EPIX to see it. Instead, you can head over to Page Two to watch the video, courtesy of Yahoo! Check it out!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.