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Val Kilmer Reveals Why Playing Batman Is So ‘Isolating’

Landing a role like Batman is both a blessing and a curse. In some cases, the role can open doors and land legendary legacies for actors like Michael Keaton and Christian Bale. But in other cases, like George Clooney and Val Kilmer, those memories are a bit more complicated, and not nearly as fond. Recently, Kilmer himself revealed that after his experience in Batman Forever, he found the role of Batman to be isolating-- both physically and spiritually.

In the recent documentary on his life and career, Prime Video’s Val, the actor reflects on his life and career with extreme candor. Through both instances of his own voice, and his son Jack’s narration of his stories, everything from Val Kilmer’s Top Gun days to the present day is shown. And when it came to his role in Batman Forever, his iconic costume ended up being more isolating than anything else:

By Hollywood standards Batman is the ultimate leading role and a dream come true. I took the part without even reading the script....But whatever boyish excitement I had going in was crushed by the reality of the Batsuit. When you're in it, you can barely move and people have to help you stand up and sit down. You also can't hear anything and after a while people stop talking to you. It's very isolating. It was a struggle for me to get a performance past the suit, and it was frustrating until I realized that my role in the film was just to show up and stand where I was told to.

The first of Joel Schumacher’s two Batman films, 1995’s Batman Forever was the next step in the Warner Bros. juggernaut started with 1989’s Batman. Much like the James Bond franchise, Val Kilmer was selected as the next face in an iconic, big ticket franchise that was shaping up to potentially live up to the third film’s name. By the time the film was released, critics panned it, and audiences had their own notes-- but Batman Forever was a box office smash. And if acting in the suit wasn't such a chore, we might have gotten another Val Kilmer Batman movie.

Val Kilmer was absolutely approached to star in what would eventually become Batman and Robin, as the actor also discloses in Val. However, he would reject the part outright because of two important factors. Contractually, Kilmer was already committed to play the lead in The Saint, so he wouldn't have been able to meet the quick turnaround Warner Bros. was looking for. But even if he didn’t have that part on his docket, it doesn’t sound like he’d have wanted to play the role anyway. All falling down to the suit, Val Kilmer further explained his isolation thusly:

Actors like Tommy Lee Jones had designed this whole performance, and so had Jim Carrey. It was just so huge. I think it made no difference what I was doing. I tried to be like an actor on a soap opera. The way I would turn to Nicole. Go count how many times I put my hands on my hips. I don’t know how they come up with this style of acting, but they seem to go to soap opera school.

History does show that Jim Carrey kind of stole Batman Forever from the rest of the cast, much to the consternation of Tommy Lee Jones himself. Sadly, it sounds like what was an exciting prospect for Val Kilmer turned out to be a footnote that he just wasn’t keen on repeating. As he began his Batman Forever story, Val Kilmer admits the fact that “every boy dreams of being Batman”. But, as he closes the story with his departure from the role, he swiftly amends that truth with the statement that not every boy would want to play the character in a movie.

You can learn more about the career of Val Kilmer in Prime Video’s Val, which is available for streaming now. And if you’re a big Batman fan, you’ll have to wait until 2022 to see Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton return to the cape and cowl themselves, in The Flash, on November 4. Which makes it the perfect time to get yourself acquainted with the 2022 release schedule, to check out the rest of the competition.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.