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Michael Keaton reveals why he originally walked away from Batman role

Michael Keaton in Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Michael Keaton has spoken about why he stopped playing Batman in the '90s, revealing that he couldn't get on board with the movies' change in tone.

The actor played Batman for two movies and walked away from the role during the development of 1995's Batman Forever, which saw Joel Schumacher take over from Tim Burton as director. Val Kilmer replaced Keaton as the Caped Crusader. 

"It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman," he told the In the Envelope podcast (via Variety). "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?"

Keaton continued: "When the director who directed the third one came on, I said, 'I just can’t do it.' 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."

Schumacher allegedly told Keaton,  "I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad," to which the actor responded, "Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple."

However, Keaton is stepping back into the Batsuit – he's taking on the role again in The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, alongside Ben Affleck's version of the character after Barry Allen accidentally destroys the timeline. He'll also star as the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batgirl movie on HBO Max.

The Flash zooms onto the big screen on November 4, 2022. In the meantime, make sure you're up to date with the DCEU with our guide to watching the DC movies in order.

I’m an Entertainment Writer at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections – I help bring you all the latest news and the occasional feature, too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.