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There was once a time when a legion of angry comic book fans had zero faith in the idea of casting Michael Keaton as Batman and another when moviegoers assumed that no one could ever top Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker. In the following years since, the DC movies have become subject to many major shifts in style and opinion, but one belief that remains widely accepted is that 1989’s Batman cast was an inspired choice to represent director Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham City.
The shadow cast by the Dark Knight has not fully disappeared for some of these performers as you will see from the following breakdown of what the cast of one of the most celebrated superhero movies of all time has been up to, starting with the actor no one thought Batman deserved, but seem to want again right now.
Michael Keaton (Bruce Wayne/Batman)
After proving his premature haters wrong in the title role of two Batman movies by Tim Burton, Michael Keaton would later satirize the comic book movie genre (and the career he had following his superhero stardom) with his Academy Award-nominated role in 2014’s Birdman before returning to it with 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming as a new take on the Vulture. In 2022, he will reprise the Marvel movies villain in Sony’s Morbius opposite Jared Leto as an anti-heroic vampire and is also returning to the role of Bruce Wayne opposite Ezra Miller in The Flash, made possible by adapting the time-altering, DC Multiverse crossover concept of the Flashpoint comic book event’s story arc. The Trial of the Chicago 7 star is currently filming the fact-based Hulu original miniseries Dopesick and, to see him in any 2021 movies, look out for The Protégé in August.
Jack Nicholson (Jack Napier/The Joker)
It is not very likely, however, that you may see Jack Nicholson in any films released in 2021, as the man behind The Joker in 1989’s Batman has retired after last appearing in the 2010 rom-com How Do You Know opposite future MCU stars Kathryn Hahn and Paul Rudd. In 2018, he was asked to reprise his role as Jack Torrence from one of the best horror movies of all time, The Shining, for Ready Player One’s recreation of the 1980 classic and cameo in Mike Flanagan’s sequel Doctor Sleep the following year, but turned both offers down. While we may have seen the last of the now 84-year-old, three-time Oscar winner’s acting talents, the long-time basketball fan will be depicted in HBO’s upcoming 1980s-set series about the L.A. Lakers as portrayed by Max E. Williams of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fame.
Kim Basinger (Vicki Vale)
Ambitious photo journalist Vicki Vale in traditionally a redhead in the comics, but the blonde Kim Basinger was one of the top actresses of her generation when cast in Batman ’89 after (technically) being a Bond girl in 1983’s Never Say Never Again and sharing onscreen romances with Mickey Rourke (9-1/2 Weeks) and pre-Die Hard Bruce Willis (Blind Date). The actress continued to achieve great success throughout the '90s (notably her Oscar-winning role in the masterful period crime thriller L.A. Confidential), the early 2000s (such as playing Eminem’s mom in 8 Mile), and more recently in 2017’s Fifty Shades Darker as the seductive antagonist Elena Lincoln. Right now, Basinger is lending her voice to the upcoming animated feature Back Home Again, featuring a star-studded cast including Back to the Future’s Michael J. Fox, Catherine O’Hara from the Schitt’s Creek cast, and more.
Robert Wuhl (Alexander Knox)
To get the scoop on Batman, Vicki Vale partners with reporter Alexander Knox - probably the biggest role of Robert Wuhl’s career to date despite starring in the Robin Williams classic Good Morning Vietnam and the Kevin Costner-led baseball flick Bull Durham previously. Of course, it would be shameful to forget about the two-time Emmy winner’s (both for co-writing Billy Crystal’s Oscar host material in the early 1990s) run as the title character of the HBO comedy Arli$$ (which he also created) or even his brief appearance at the beginning of the Nickelodeon favorite Good Burger in 1997. After voicing a fictionalized version of himself twice on American Dad!, Wuhl would reprise his Batman ’89 character for the Arrow-verse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event in 2019 and will next appear in When George Got Murdered - a 2021 drama inspired by the death of George Floyd.
Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent)
The year 2019 also saw Billy Dee Williams reprise his best known role, Lando Calrissian, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, two years after finally getting to play Two-Face in The LEGO Batman Movie after Harvey Dent was recast in 1995’s Batman Forever with Tommy Lee Jones. The finale to the trilogy of sequels started and ended by director J.J. Abrams was not the last we saw of the 84-year-old former Colt 45 spokesperson as the former Cloud City mayor (and there very could be even more). Williams voiced Lando in The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special for Disney+ in 2020, a LEGO video game based on all nine installments of the main Star Wars movie franchise coming out in 2021, and for the satirical animated series Star Wars: Detours, which could finally be released on Disney+ if the rumors are true.
Tracey Walter (Bob The Goon)
Batman ’89 is also where you can find, arguably, the best-known role of Tracey Walter's, who was recommended to play The Joker’s “Number One guy” Bob by his good friend Jack Nicholson. However, the 73-year-old is known for appearing in much more throughout his decades-long career, including the 1984’s Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, the sci-fi cult classic Repo Man the same year, the 1991 Oscar-winning drama Philadelphia with Tom Hanks, and plenty more notable films that featured him in a brief role. Walter would later play a villain in another comic book adaptation and one of the most beloved animated DC TV shows, Teen Titans, and starred in one of the more recent Rob Zombie movies, 31, in 2016, which would also turn out to be one of his last roles, as he hasn't appeared in anything since.
Jerry Hall (Alicia)
The character who most closely resembled Harley Quinn before the Clown Princess of Crime had even been officially introduced in Batman: The Animated Series was Jack Napier’s girlfriend, Alicia, played by Jerry Hall. The model, actress, and former wife of Mick Jagger (she is currently married to Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch) had previously made her acting debut alongside John Travolta in 1980’s Urban Cowboy and would go on to appear in small, often unnamed, roles in films like Freejack (starring her then rock star husband) or frequently play herself, such as in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie from 2016. Her last known acting credit was the 2017 rom-com Forgotten Man, but she does have a role in a drama called Hellbent, which has yet to be released despite being listed as “completed” since 2018.
Jack Palance (Carl Grissom)
An inciting incident that actually leads to Jack Napier becoming The Joker is when his affair with Alicia is discovered by her beau and Jack’s boss, Carl Grissom - played by another established Hollywood heavy for the time, Jack Palance. The Gotham City crime lord in Batman was actually one of two villains the actor played in 1989, along with Yves Perret in the Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell-led buddy cop action movie Tango & Cash, before winning his sole Academy Award for playing Curly in the western-comedy City Slickers two years later. Westerns, such as the 1954 classic Shane, were once Palance’s bread and butter before appearing mostly in TV movies by the end of his career until he passed away in 2006 at the age of 87.
Pat Hingle (Commissioner James Gordon)
Also known for acting in westerns before (and even after) he was cast as James Gordon in Batman was Pat Hingle, who would go on to reprise the role three more times until Batman & Robin put the franchise on hold in 1997. While the Gotham City Police commissioner is also the character he is best known for, the actor still has his fair share of iconic credits, including Stephen King’s directorial debut Maximum Overdrive, the Richard Pryor classic Brewster’s Millions, the 1983 Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in 2006. The Will Ferrell Nascar comedy would actually become one of Hingle’s final appearances before he passed away at the age of 84 three years later.
Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth)
Also known for being one of the few actors to appear in all four Batman movies from the Tim Burton/Joel Shumacher era is Michael Gough, who is still seen by many as the definitive image of Bruce Wayne’s longtime servant and father figure, Alfred Pennyworth. The English actor would work with Burton three more times after their mutual Batman movies with 1999’s Sleepy Hollow (which was a tribute to iconic Hammer horror films which Gough had appeared in), the creepy stop-motion romance Corpse Bride, and 2010’s Alice In Wonderland, in which he voiced a dodo bird. That would officially be Gough’s last acting credit before he, at 94 years old, passed away in 2011.
While it is sad to reflect on those from the cast of 1989’s Batman whom we have lost, at least we can be thankful to have seen such legendary names help bring the Dark Knight back onto the big screen and into the mainstream with the acclaimed box office smash. Now, more than three decades and multiple reboots later, the Tim Burton classic still entertains comic book movie fans of all ages and its surviving stars clearly remain proud to living in the shadow of the Bat.
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.
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