The design of the Batman Returns costumes is one of the most striking aspects of Tim Burton's '90s superhero film. When Burton decided to direct a sequel to his 1989 blockbuster Batman, he had unexpected creative control, allowing him to indulge on the production design and costumes for the 1992 follow-up. Both Catwoman's unsubtle sexuality (thanks to her slinky suit) and Penguin's gleeful gruesomeness inspired controversy, while the Caped Crusader himself got an expensive and largely unnoticed makeover.
Initially, Pfeiffer was afforded no bathroom breaks while shooting. Not just because she was at the center of a huge production, but because it was more or less impossible. Her suit was a skintight, vacuum sealed, latex and silicon caked catsuit that contained no secret zippers, flaps, or convenient ways to relieve herself.
"Originally, they didn't leave me a way to use the restroom in the suit," she says. "So that also had to be remedied as well."
Danny DeVito's bodysuit added a good 100 pounds of weight to the actor. Although it was an uncomfortable suit to wear, DeVito actually loved it. The thing made him feel so disgusting and bad about himself that it helped him get into character.
"We made a body suit for him that must've weighed 100 pounds," according to costume designer Mary Vogt. "It was such a miserable, horrible thing to wear, and we thought 'How will we ever get this horrible thing on this actor?' Well, he loved it." Just the experience of being the Penguin was so upsetting that he thought it put him in the perfect mood to play the villain.
In both Burton's Batman and its sequel, the Caped Crusader appears fond of big, theatrical turns to the left or right. Michael Keaton's Batman turns aren't just a flashy, full-body way to maneuver around set. While in the suit, the actor was completely unable to turn his head. The cowl was created as one piece, giving Batman the most striking silhouette and, in effect, locking Keaton's gaze straight ahead at all times.
While these Batman whips might play like a dramatic and flashy display of superheroic flair, they were necessary for him to simply look in another direction without using his neck. “It was a practical move early on to move in a certain way because they hadn't refined the suit and it wouldn't function properly, " Keaton explains. "I got around that by making bigger, bolder and stronger moves from the torso up, and it worked."
Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman suit was an intensely skin-tight, latex fit. To get into the suit, she didn't just wiggle in and zip up, she was actually sealed inside. Shrinking the suit around her body to fit her form, she was stuck the suit by almost air-tight mechanisms.
"It was the most uncomfortable costume I've ever been in. They had to powder me down, help me inside and then vacuum-pack the suit," Pfeiffer explains. "The first time I put the outfit on, I thought, 'I can't walk, I can't breathe, I can't hear. I'm really unhappy. I can't act."