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Colin Farrell Defends The Late Joel Schumacher’s Batman Films, And Their Reception: ‘That Hurt Him’

Next month, fans will be able to see a reimagining of Gotham from the mind of Matt Reeves, the director behind Cloverfield and two of the best Planet of the Apes films. And while we think Robert Pattinson holds his own as the latest incarnation of Bruce Wayne and his costume alter ego in the upcoming The Batman, it’s the villains in the drama who you will be talking about in the weeks and months after your screening. Colin Farrell, in particular, turns heads as Oswald Cobblepot, a crime boss better known as The Penguin. And Farrell, the actor, was in close proximity with the Batman legacy long before he stepped into his role. 

When Colin Farrell was coming up in the industry as a young Irish talent, he collaborated on two projects with the late Joel Schumacher, 2000’s Tigerland (which got Farrell a lot of critical recognition) and the claustrophobic Phone Booth in 2002. At that time, Schumacher was attempting to repair his reputation as a director, having taken a beating for helming 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman & Robin. Given the chance to interview Farrell for his work in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, we asked the actor if Schumacher shared any war stories from his time in the Bat franchise, and he opened up to us by saying:

That hurt him. I know his Batman films, and how they were received really hurt him. Because the only thing Joel, honest to God, only went out to do is to entertain people. There’s actually an apology – I think you can find it on YouTube – that he makes, and it’s really almost upsetting for me to see, because I care about the man so much, and he’s such a wonderful man. And he was apologizing to the fandom, because Joel knew how important this character was, and is, just in the same way Matt does. But he just went down a route that people weren’t too happy with.

That “route” was a more colorful and campy route, probably one more akin to the 1960s Adam West-led Batman television show, propped up by cheeky puns and over-the-top villains played by A-list actors. Joel Schumacher, in his own way, was building off of the gothic take that Tim Burton brought to the franchise in his two films. But he has also admitted in interviews that he relented to the studio’s pressure to make movies that appealed to kids and sold a lot of toys. 

Here’s that apology that Colin Farrell was speaking of: 

This is unnecessary. Is Batman & Robin any good? No. Just ask George Clooney, who rips his performance in that movie every chance that he gets. But did it fit the mold of what superhero movies were chasing at that time? Yes. Christopher Nolan hadn’t made every comic-book adaptation “gritty” and “realistic” yet. In fact, Batman Begins was a direct answer to Batman & Robin, so you can argue that we don’t GET Nolan’s trilogy if not for Schumacher. 

It’s so touching listening to Colin Farrell talk about his close friend and former director Joel Schumacher, who died in 2020. And the actor is mesmerizing in The Batman, which reaches theaters on March 4, and is just one of the many upcoming 2022 movies that need to be on your movie-going radar. 

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.