Though Batman Returns scared off many viewers with its dark storyline and psychosexual undertones, a third entry in the Batman franchise was never in doubt. But with the continuation of the series came a number of significant changes. First, Warner Bros. replaced the departing Tim Burton with Joel Schumacher in the director's chair. And even more dramatically, there was a new face under the cowl itself - gone was Michael Keaton, with Val Kilmer in his place.
Though Schumacher was eventually perceived as a villain by fans of the first two entries, the Lost Boys director genuinely wanted the Batman franchise to succeed and for Batman Forever to be as big a hit as possible. The proof is in the casting decisions, which included Tommy Lee Jones - fresh off an Academy Award win - and Jim Carrey, who was flying high on the trifecta of Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask.
Turns out those two stars couldn’t have been more mismatched; their behind-the-scenes acrimony only added to the already dicey situation brewing thanks to Kilmer’s reportedly difficult behavior. Though Batman Forever was a financial success - it was the second-highest-grossing film of 1995, behind only Toy Story - many involved in its production consider it a regrettable experience. Even Schumacher, who's no stranger to larger-than-life situations, said he’d never work with Tommy Lee Jones again.
A Stunt Driver Wrecked The Batmobile On The First Day
The Batmobile in Batman Forever is huge. During the design phase, the vehicle went through myriad incarnations - and at one point, even featured work from HR Giger (Alien). Ultimately, Giger's ideas didn't look quite right when the thing was finally built.
The Batmobile ended up being constructed by an effects team that was new to big-budget studio productions. They went above and beyond the previous designs and built a giant Batmobile that was so hard to drive, a stunt driver wrecked it on day one. Production designer Barbara Ling told The Hollywood Reporter:
Unfortunately, the first day the stunt guy drove the Batmobile, he actually had an accident. The fins acted as a very big wing. For a stunt guy getting used to that, when you go to make a turn, it's the weight value of how that wing created a flow to the back tires. He tried to do a 360 and that wing flipped him around. That was the first day and we saw the driving and we said 'Oh great! Repair.' Then they got the hang of it. It's not a normal car.
Robin Williams Was Supposed To Be The Riddler, But He ‘Wouldn’t Commit’
Prior to the production of Batman Forever, there were rumblings that Robin Williams was going to take on the mantle of the Riddler. It wasn't the first time his name had floated around the Batman universe; he was famously used as bait to get Jack Nicholson to take the role of the Joker.
Before hiring the rubber-faced Carrey for the role, Schumacher wanted Williams to play the Riddler, but he claims the actor kept playing coy with the studio, forcing him to move on to other casting options. Schumacher told Forbes:
I was going to make it with Michael Keaton, and then Robin Williams - I met with him a few times, he wanted to play the Riddler. But I don't know, for some reason he just wouldn't commit. I don't know, we would meet and it would be a great meeting, and then he wouldn't commit yet.
Marlon Wayans Got A Paycheck To Not Be In The Movie
A longstanding rumor about Batman Forever was that Billy Dee Williams received a paycheck for being replaced as Harvey Dent by Tommy Lee Jones. While Dee refutes that claim, one actor who still receives residuals for not lifting a finger for Batman Forever is Marlon Wayans. His payday goes all the way back to Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
During pre-production for Burton’s sequel, he wanted to include Robin, which he saw as a young Marlon Wayans. But as the film started to become overstuffed with villains, Burton had to remove pieces of the puzzle. Among the casualties was Robin's role, which was cut with the intention of including him in the third film. When Schumacher took the reins, Wayans was fired and replaced with Chris O’Donnell. For his part, Wayans is okay with getting fired, mostly because he still got paid:
I still get residual checks. Tim Burton didn’t wind up doing three, Joel Schumacher did it and he had a different vision for who Robin was. So, he hired Chris O’Donnell.
Joel Schumacher Had To Personally Meet With Worldwide Distributors So They’d Carry The Movie
Batman Returns was technically a box office success, and in the two decades since its release, the film has maintained a cult following and enjoyed a strong critical re-appraisal. However, it made $145 million less in theaters than the first film in the series, so Warner Bros. viewed it as a failure. There was a mass panic among parents who thought that buying Batman Returns Happy Meals would turn their children into BDSM-crazed, leather-clad maniacs, so film distributors weren’t necessarily jazzed on a new Batman movie.
Schumacher took it upon himself to assure distributors across the world that Batman Forever would be a family-friendly movie that didn’t have any of the psychosexual undertones of the previous entry. He told Forbes:
I also had to go around the world, because no one wanted another Batman movie. So I had to meet with all these distributors in Asia, also a lot of the toys and merchandise had been returned, it was a loss or something on that. I had to go to toy fairs and toy conventions in Las Vegas, and I had to get up in front of all these people who didn’t want it and talk about how great this is going to be. I believed in it, I really did.