Michael Keaton Reveals Why He Didn't Return for Third Batman Movie: 'I Just Can't Do It'

Michael Keaton dropped out of a third Batman movie after playing the DC superhero in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns

Michael Keaton in Batman
Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Michael Keaton is revealing why he hung up his cape after two Batman movies.

The actor, 70, chose not to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman in 1995's Batman Forever after playing the famous DC hero in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns, both of which came from director Tim Burton.

Keaton explained his decision in a recent episode of In the Envelope: The Actor's Podcast, per CBR, attributing his decision partly to a change in vision when Joel Schumacher came on to direct Batman Forever. (Schumacher died in 2020 at 80 years old after a year-long cancer battle.)

"It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman," Keaton said, referring to his understanding of the character. "To me, I know the name of the movie is Batman, and it's hugely iconic and very cool and [a] cultural iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic."

Michael Keaton and Joel Schumacher
Frazer Harrison/Getty; Venturelli/WireImage

Keaton continued, "I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. [Everyone would say] Batman, Batman, Batman does this, and I kept thinking to myself, 'Y'all are thinking wrong here.' [It's all about] Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?… Who becomes that? What kind of person [does that]?"

When Schumacher was brought on to direct what was supposed to be Keaton's third Batman film, he and the actor clashed over the character's future. While Keaton wanted to remain true to the character he formed while working with Burton, Schumacher was more interested in the story told by the Batman comics.

"When the director who directed the third one [came on] I said, 'I just can't do it,' " Keaton recalled. "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."

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Keaton added, "I remember one of the things that I walked away going, 'Oh boy, I can't do this.' "He asked me, 'I don't understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,' and I went, 'Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it's pretty simple.'"

Keaton was eventually replaced in Batman Forever by Val Kilmer. In Schumacher's second Batman film, Batman & Robin, George Clooney played the Gotham superhero, although the actor has since admitted it wasn't his best role.

While Keaton walked away from Batman decades ago, he is reprising his role in The Flash, which is set to premiere in theaters Nov. 4, 2022.

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