Michael Keaton Admits His ‘Batman’ Casting ‘Was a Ballsy Move’ but Backlash Was ‘Baffling,’ Says Jack Nicholson Questioned Him for Working Out on Set

Michael Keaton participated in a career retrospective interview for GQ magazine and admitted that his casting as Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 superhero movie was “ballsy” considering he was more known for his comedic roles in films like “Mr. Mom” at that point in his career. Keaton’s casting was met with backlash among comic book fans at the time. The actor had already worked with Burton on 1998’s comedy “Beetlejuice.”

“When they said ‘We’re thinking of doing Batman,’ I said, ‘Wait, you’re thinking of making a movie about Batman?’,” Keaton said. “The fact that Tim said ‘That guy, I want that guy’ … The fact that people cared one way or another so much is still baffling. But that was a ballsy move on his part. We also had a nice working relationship from ‘Beetlejuice,’ so he felt that he and I could get along and would work well together.”

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Mark Hamill told Wired magazine last year that the backlash Keaton faced over his Batman casting is part of what inspired him to take on the voice role of the Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series,” which originally aired from 1992 to 1995. Hamill has earned widespread acclaim and fan adoration for his performance as the Batman villain. Seeing Keaton overcome backlash to become an iconic Batman gave Hamill the confidence he needed that comic book fans would be willing to accept the Luke Skywalker actor as the Joker.

“I had a confidence that really helped me because there was this big outcry that Michael Keaton was gonna play Batman,” Hamill said at the time. “‘Oh, he’s Mr. Mom, he’s a comedy actor.’ I mean, they hadn’t even seen him [in the role] and they didn’t realize how great he would become. But, there was great controversy.”

Elsewhere in the GQ interview, Keaton remembered a memorable encounter he had with Jack Nicholson on Burton’s set. Nicholson played the Joker in the film.

“I was training to be really fit. One day Jack Nicholson walked by me and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m working out.’ And he said, ‘What are you doing that for?’” Keaton remembered. “I didn’t have an answer for him and he just walked off,” he said. “I approached it totally wrong. It’s better to be really small and little and thin inside the thing. You can move, you can breathe inside. I don’t know what I was thinking, I just thought ‘I’m an actor, I’m gonna do all this stuff!’”

Keaton would reprise the superhero in Burton’s 1992 sequel “Batman Returns.” While there were plans for a third movie, Warner Bros. ultimately went in a different direction. Burton exited and Val Kilmer took over the Caped Crusader for 1995’s “Batman Forever.” Keaton would later reprise Batman in a supporting role in 2022’s “The Flash.”

Watch Keaton’s full GQ interview in the video below.

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