Tim Burton may have danced with the devil in the pale moonlight while filming 1989’s Batman, but that doesn’t mean he understood much of what he said. While working with Jack Nicholson, Tim Burton said the Oscar-winning actor was far from easy to communicate with on set.
In a new interview with Tim Burton in Empire, the director reflected on working with Jack Nicholson. “Jack has a very abstract way of speaking. So he would say things to me and I’d go, ‘Yeah, I get it,’ and then I’d go to someone, ‘What the fuck was he just talking about?’ So there was this weird communication: non-linear, non-connective…But it was very clear to me. I felt like we had a good sort of caveman-style communication.”
Still, Jack Nicholson offered Tim Burton support in what would end up being far more important ways. “[Nicholson] protected me and nurtured me, kept me going, by just not getting too overwhelmed with the whole thing. I felt really supported by him in a very deep way. I was young and dealing with a big studio, and he just quietly gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do. And him being a voice of support had a lot of resonance with the studio. It got me through the whole thing. It gave me strength.”
Overall, it translated into a gigantic success, as Batman went on to pull in over $250 million, making it the highest-grossing movie of 1989 and one of the biggest hits of the entire decade. Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker in Batman is certainly a major reason for this, and his turn stood for some time as the most iconic take on the character (until Heath Ledger), helping give the franchise a much-needed reboot and the actor a wider fanbase.
Tim Burton of course isn’t the only one who acknowledged Jack Nicholson’s unique presence. As Michael Keaton put it, “The only thing that happened when I did the first Batman was, I was very nervous and self-conscious about being with Jack, because he’s so strong on film.” One wonders if Pierce Brosnan would have felt the same way…
What do you think of Jack Nicholson’s performance in Batman? Where does it rank in the list of best Joker actors? Let us know in the comments below!