Batman: Michael Keaton admits that Tim Burton hiring him was a “ballsy move”

In a new career retrospective, Michael Keaton admits there was a lot of resistance to him being cast as Batman, with Tim Burton going to bat for him.

Last Updated on April 5, 2024

Keaton Batman

Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Michael Keaton and chat about his new movie, Knox Goes Away, which he also directs. Keaton is still out there promoting the film and recently ran down some of his best roles with GQ, including Batman. In the interview, which is really fascinating, Keaton remembers the controversy that surrounded his casting initially by director Tim Burton, which he calls a “ballsy move.” 

For those who may not have been around in 1988, when Keaton’s casting was first announced, may fans hated him getting the role as his career up to that point had largely been focused on comedy roles. Indeed, he had many comedy hits in the 80s, including Night Shift, Johnny Dangerously, Gung Ho, The Dream Team, and Beetlejuice. In fact, it was his work on that last movie that directly led to his casting, as him and Burton had a great working relationship on it. In 1988, he had started to dip his toe into more dramatic fare, with him earning raves for his portrayal of a drug addict in the drama Clean and Sober. In fact, it was an early screening of that film that sold the producer, Jon Peters, on him playing the Caped Crusader.

However, once he was finally cast, there were many other challenges ahead of him. If you think about it, the only big superhero in movies at the time was Christopher Reeve in the Superman films, and he wasn’t saddled with as cumbersome an outfit. Keaton really had no idea how to even move as Batman, with him calling the suit a “deep lonely thing.” But, in the end, Keaton said the key was just to “work the suit baby; that thing will get you three-quarters of the way there.”

One notable thing he mentioned, as far as his approach went was that he never thought about Batman. “It was ALWAYS Bruce Wayne,” he says, “you start with that.” He adds, “he witnessed the murder of his parents; that’s a lot to start with, especially if you take the Frank Miller approach, which was what we took.” Indeed, Keaton would notoriously play the screen’s deadliest Batman.

One thing he also notes is how physically challenging it was. He remembers working out to try and be fit to play the role, which he says was exactly the wrong approach. He remembers Jack Nicholson, who was playing Joker walking up to him and simply asking, “What are you doing that for?” “I didn’t have an answer for him; he just walked off,” he remembers, laughing. “I approached it totally wrong. It’s better to be real, small, little and thin inside, so there’s room to breathe. 

He also looks back at the movie fondly, remembering how much of a phenomenon it was. “I was part of something that was a friggin game changer in terms of how they make those movies. That changed everything.”

Knox Goes Away is currently out. Read my review here!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.