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.
There’s no rule in Hollywood requiring stars to get along while working together. Though it's nice to imagine an on-set utopia, that's often not the reality - and certainly wasn't in the case of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey during the production of Batman Forever.
In the late '90s, there were rumblings about Jones's antagonistic behavior during the shoot, specifically towards Carrey, although the Riddler actor never substantiated the claims. That changed in 2014 when Carrey was promoting Dumb and Dumber To. While speaking with Howard Stern, Carrey explained that he was looking forward to working with Jones, but was disappointed when the actor turned out to be not only cantankerous but disdainful in a pointed, personal way:
I love [Jones]. I mean, he's amazing. But he was a little crusty... I walked into a restaurant the night before our big scene in the Riddler's lair and the maître d said, 'You're working with Tommy Lee Jones, aren't you?' I said, 'I am.' He said, 'He's in the back corner.' I said, 'Oh, great. I'll go say hello.' And I went up to say hi and the blood drained from his face in such a way that I realized that I had become the face of his pain or something. And he got kind of shaking and hugged me and said, 'I hate you. I really don't like you.' And I was like, 'Wow, okay, what's going on, man?' And he said, 'I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'
For those who follow behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama, Val Kilmer's prickly on-set behavior is no secret. As the iconic title character in Batman Forever, he was apparently in vintage form. It certainly wasn't the only film set on which he caused problems - in fact, he famously soured the experience for virtually everyone on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau a year later - but it was the highest-profile.
Kilmer's behavior may not have reached Moreau levels on Batman Forever, but director Joel Schumacher did say the actor was a pain to deal with. In Entertainment Weekly’s coverage of Batman and Robin, Schumacher said Kilmer was "childish and impossible." In a later article, he admitted it was a mistake to cast Kilmer and Jones when he knew they were famously difficult. Schumacher said:
I was told that Val was difficult and wasn't [right] for me… I'm tired of defending overpaid, overprivileged actors. I pray I don't work with them again.
Michael Keaton really likes working with Tim Burton. The two worked together three times over the course of five years - a trio of films that helped establish A-list stardom for both - and in 2019, the two reunited for the live-action adaptation of Dumbo.
As for Joel Schumacher - who took over behind the camera of Batman Forever after Burton helmed the first two installments - Keaton says he initially tried to touch base with the director to work out ideas for the story. When he was ignored, however, he decided he didn’t appreciate that treatment and moved on - regardless of how much money he might lose by withdrawing from the role. Keaton explained to Marc Maron during his 2013 appearance on the WTF podcast:
The guy who’s doing them now, Chris Nolan, he’s so talented, it’s crazy. [Christian Bale] is so talented. It’s so good… You look at where he went, which is exactly what I wanted to do when I was having meetings about the third one. I said, 'You want to see how this guy started. We've got a chance here to fix whatever we kind of maybe went off. This could be brilliant...' I could see that was going south.
Inspired by the way some athletes shaved their jersey numbers into their hair, Carrey seriously entertained the idea of shaving his hair into a giant question mark, with the dot arriving at the top of his spine. In the end, the 'do didn’t appear.
The severe cut would have made it impossible for the actor to grow back his hair in time for the next installment of Ace Ventura - and, to make matters trickier, Carrey was getting ready to go to divorce court. The actor joked that the giant question mark would make him look like he was "questioning the judge’s judgment" in divorce proceedings.