Batman Forever: 8 Behind The Scenes Facts About Joel Schumacher's First DC Movie

Val Kilmer as Batman in Batman Forever

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While it is not remembered as one of the most beloved live action Batman movies, I would say that Batman Forever is still one of the more fascinating films featuring the Dark Knight. This time, Val Kilmer stars as Bruce Wayne, torn between his attraction to the beautiful psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and his devotion to protecting Gotham City, which is being threatened by the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), as he takes in a recently orphaned gymnast named Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), who also has heroic aspirations of his own.

There is an interesting story behind each person who was involved with the 1995 blockbuster, as the following behind the scenes facts will reveal, starting with a bluntly stated explanation for why Michael Keaton passed on wearing the cape and cowl a third time.

Michael Keaton in Batman Returns

Michael Keaton Thought The Batman Forever Script Sucked

To be more exact, Michael Keaton will be wearing the cape and cowl a third time when he reprises the role of Batman in The Flash for the first time since Batman Returns came out in 1992. However, that third outing in Gotham could have been in Batman Forever, but after Joel Schumacher replaced Tim Burton as director, the Academy Award nominee told The Hollywood Reporter that he decided to leave for the following reason:

[The script] sucked. The script never was good. I couldn't understand why he wanted to do what he wanted to do... I knew it was in trouble when [Schumacher] said, 'Why does everything have to be so dark?'

I think I would be also pretty apprehensive to do a Batman movie with a director who wants to make Dark Knight lighter. Yet, I wonder if Michael Keaton was involved in conversations about how his costume would change.

Val Kilmer in Batman Forever

Joel Schumacher Wanted The Batsuit To Look Anatomical, Hence The Bat Nipples

While Batman Forever still has its fans to this day, and for various reasons, the one thing that most would deem a mistake in the production was adding artificial rubber nipples to the hero’s costume - something that would reappear for one final time in the fourth installment, Batman & Robin, in 1997. In following years, fans would question why the late Joel Schumacher opted for such an unusual and unnecessary alteration to the Batsuit and in 2017, when speaking to Vice, he would give his answer.

By the time Joel Schumacher was hired to direct Batman Forever, the rubber molding process used to make the suits from the first two movies had advanced, which gave him the idea to make the suit appear anatomically correct. With images of Greek statues and medical illustrations as his visual aids, he pitched the concept to the lead designer Jose Fernandez, who personally added the Bat Nipples which Schumacher thought was “cool.”

Gotham City in Batman Forever

Gotham City Was Created Using A Mix Of Miniatures And Digital Effects

You know what I actually think is kind of cool about Batman Forever? It may be an unpopular opinion, and I fully understand why, but the production design, which reinterprets Gotham City as the eccentric love child of New York and Las Vegas, is pretty intriguing, if not slightly out of place. What I find especially interesting is how the unique urban landscape was created for the film, combining classic methods, which were slowly on their way out, with new tricks considered cutting edge for the time.

In a bonus featurette included on the 2005 Batman Forever DVD release titled Beyond Batman - Imagining Forever: The Visual FX for Batman Forever, visual effects supervisor John Dykstra explains how the crew used small-scale sculptures to stand in for Gotham’s buildings with computer animated effects to enhance their surroundings. Little did fans know that, lurking beyond the bright, neon signs was a certain darkness that audiences did not get to see.

Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever

Batman Forever Intended To Have A Darker, More Complex Take On Bruce Wayne’s Psychology

In another DVD featurette, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman talks about the version of Batman Forever that audiences never got to see, due to Warner Bros. fears of repeating the Batman Returns Happy Meal debacle. Hearing him say the following about scrapped material regarding the red diary that belonged to Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas, actually makes the film sound even more interesting and, especially, darker:

In the screenplay… there is a very different center of the movie where he opens up the book and the last entry is, ‘Martha and I want to stay home tonight, but Bruce insists on going to see a movie.’ And, so, the idea was that somewhere Bruce remembered and had repressed his fantasy that this was all his fault, that if he just hadn’t made them go see a movie that night they would never had been out and they would never have been killed. So, the whole movie was actually built around this kind of psychological reckoning, which is why the love interest is a psychologist…

Akiva Goldsman goes on to describe a deleted scene in which Bruce Wayne returns to the place where he first found the Batcave as a child and has a vision of a giant bat that, essentially, inspires him to accept his destiny as a vigilante. I, like many others I am sure, would be very curious to see the “Goldsman Cut” of Batman Forever. Similarly, I am curious what the film would be with a different actor playing the Riddler.

Robin Williams in Toys

Robin Williams Turned Down The Chance To Play The Riddler In Batman Forever

Now, do not get me wrong, I actually consider Jim Carrey to be a highlight of Batman Forever, even if his uproarious performance as Edward Nygma makes Ace Venture look pretty damn tame at times. However, I cannot help but imagine how the film would have turned out if one of their first choices to play the Riddler had said yes.

According to a retrospective by ScreenRant published in January 2021, the late Robin Williams was reportedly considered for the villain role but turned it down because he was still sore from learning he was really offered the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman as “bait” to get Jack Nicholson. While that is a perfectly legitimate reason to turn down such an offer, seeing the Oscar-winner as the Riddler is something I almost wish we could have seen. Not to mention, it could have saved Jim Carrey a lot of trouble on set.

Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as The Riddler in Batman Forever

Jim Carrey Claimed Tommy Lee Jones Hated Working on Batman Forever With Him

The pairing of Two-Face and the Riddler proves to be a little dysfunctional at times in Batman Forever, which is nothing compared to the tension that was apparently going on between Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey behind the scenes. The comedic actor, who was just coming off a several-year stint in the In Living Color cast at the time, was on Norm MacDonald Live when he recalled how his Academy Award-winning co-star told him he hated him and couldn’t “sanction [his] buffoonery” to his face. Director Joel Schumacher would later confirm this on-set tension to be true to Vulture in 2019.

I honestly find it ironic that Tommy Lee Jones found Jim Carrey irritating when his take on Harvey Dent often feels like a competition to out-crazy Carrey’s Riddler. That being said, I think his roles in later comic book movies like 1997’s Men in Black and Captain America: The First Avenger were far better suited for him, anyway.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries

Leonard DiCaprio Was Offered To Play Robin In Batman Forever

There are a few interesting stories behind the process of casting Robin in the original Batman movies franchise. My personal favorite is how the Boy Wonder was almost introduced in Batman Returns as played by Marlon Wayans before his storyline was scrapped. However, can you imagine Batman Forever with Leonardo DiCaprio as Dick Grayson.

According to a 2015 interview with IndieWire, the future Oscar winner (before hitting it big with Titanic in 1997) had a meeting with Joel Schumacher about the potential to play Robin. Of course, the role, instead, went to Chris O’Donnell, who turned out to be a bit of a troublemaker behind the scenes, too.

Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin in Batman Forever

Chris O’Donnell Crashed The Batmobile On The Batman Forever Set

Remember the scene from Batman Forever when, after discovering his guardian is the Caped Crusader, Dick Grayson gets in hot water with Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Michael Gough) when he takes the Batmobile for a cruise? Well, apparently, life imitated art pretty closely for Chris O’Donnell on set that day.

During an interview with Groucho Reviews in 2008 to promote his role in the family film Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl, the NCIS: Los Angeles star revealed that he has been known to crash a few cars on sets, including the Batmobile, which he “never heard the end of.” If only he had the Tumbler from Batman Begins, a fender bender might not have been such a problem.

Say what you want about Batman Forever, or upcoming Batman movies for that matter, there will always be something intriguing and truly batty to learn from the set.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.