On its 30th anniversary, Luke Owen looks at a few things you might not know about Tim Burton’s Batman…
Today marks the 30th Anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman (or Batman ’89 as it’s known nowadays). It was a movie that changed the landscape of comic book movies, broke the mould that came before it and wrote the blueprint for how to market a summer blockbuster.
To celebrate this occasion, let’s look at some things about the movie you may not have known.
And if you think we’re joking, just look at our face. Do we look like we’re joking?
1. The film was nearly totally different
After the success of Richard Donner’s Superman: The Motion Picture, Warner Bros. started work on script for a Batman movie in 1980.
Tom Mankiewicz (who had an uncredited writing role on Superman: The Motion Picture) wrote a script that was very light in tone and was reminiscent of the 1966 Batman TV show starring Adam West and it would have told the origins of both Batman and Robin. The script also featured Barbara Gordon (who would go on to become Batgirl) and The Penguin alongside The Joker. The plan was to release the movie in 1985 with a $20 million budget.
However, certain releases changed this course.
The first release was Tim Burton’s 1985 movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which had taken $40 million against a $7 million budget, making Burton a hot property for directing gigs. The second release was Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which convinced Warner Bros. that the best course of action was to not make a campy comedy movie and give it a serious dark tone much like the comics.
With Burton on board, the Mankiewicz script was thrown out and a new script by Sam Hamm was written based on a 30-page treatment by Julie Hickson. Robin’s role was reduced to a cameo and there was a scene written in which a young James Gordon would look after Bruce Wayne the night his parents were killed.
It still wasn’t until the success of Burton’s Beetlejuice that the movie was greenlit. Due to the writer’s strike, Warren Skaaren re-drafted the movie which eventually removed Robin from the movie all-together. Although you can see the animated storyboard (featuring the voice cast of Batman: The Animated Series) which shows how it would have looked:
2. Robin could have been played by Eddie Murphy or Kiefer Sutherland
While Robin was still a feature of a Batman movie, there were two names that were put forward (and even offered) for The Boy Wonder.
When Batman was in its campy phase prior to 1985, Eddie Murphy was considered for the role of Robin. At the time, he was a very hot actor with big-hit movies like Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop as well as a successful turn as the host of Saturday Night Live. Once the movie was turned dark, Murphy’s name became a non-starter.
Shortly after The Dark Knight, Murphy was rumoured to be playing The Riddler in the then untitled “Batman 3”. This was however reported by UK newspaper The Sun and entirely untrue.
One actor however who was offered the role was Kiefer Sutherland. The future Jack Bauer turned down the role, a decision he regrets to this day. In an interview with On The Box, Sutherland said, “I’d just finished Stand By Me and Young Guns about the time that Warner Bros. were making the first Batman film with Michael Keaton and I got a call which asked me if I would be interested in playing Robin. I was like: ‘as in Robin with tights? No!’ I didn’t realise they were going to make the coolest movie ever! They didn’t have a Robin in the end, but I was only 19 so my agent could have helped me out a bit on that one.”
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