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Michael Keaton explains why he left 'Batman Forever'

Michael Keaton has returned to the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, 29 long years since he last played the characters on screen. Keaton will make his big appearance in the upcoming film The Flash, which seems to have taken note of the recent happenings in the Spider-Man multiverse.

Famously, Keaton quit Batman Forever when Joel Schumacher assumed the directing role that was previously held by the mastermind of Batman and Batman Returns, Tim Burton. Keaton and Schumacher clashed over the change in tone for the new film, which was a departure from Burton’s style, to say the least. It resulted in Val Kilmer taking a turn as the caped crusader. 

In a recent episode of the In the Envelope podcast, Keaton discussed the moment at length. Explaining what drew him to the role, he said: “It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman”.

The actor expanded: “To me, I know the name of the movie is ‘Batman,’ and it’s hugely iconic and very cool and (culturally) iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic. I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. Batman, Batman, Batman does this, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Y’all are thinking wrong here.’ Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?…Who becomes that?”.

“When the director who directed the third one, I said, ‘I just can’t do it,'” Keaton continued. “And one of the reasons I couldn’t do it was — and you know, he’s a nice enough man, he’s passed away, so I wouldn’t speak ill of him even if he were alive — he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize doing it and hopefully talking him into saying, ‘I think we don’t want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction.’ And he wasn’t going to budge”.

In the end, the shift in tone proved too much for Keaton. The actor told Schumacher that he would no longer be able to portray Batman if the dark nature of Burton’s movies was to be lost. 

It is said that Schumacher responded, “I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,” to which the actor replied, “Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple”.

Regardless, now three decades after his last performance as Batman, Keaton has a chance to write the wrongs of the past. Fan service it may be on the part of Warner Bros, but that doesn’t matter. For all of us who loved Keaton as Batman growing up, this is a chance to take a journey into the past. The Flash will hit cinemas on November 4th, and if that wasn’t enough already, Keaton will also reappear in Batgirl, the HBO Max flick that’s also scheduled for release this year. 

Watch the trailer for The Flash below.