Batman is one of the most recognizable characters of the 20th and 21st centuries. His stories have sold countless millions of comics and he’s been reinvented and put through the ringer more times than almost any other superhero. So why is it so hard to find a good Batman actor? Along with having an incredibly long real-life history, the mental and physical toll that even the best Batman actors have had to suffer through have made the role of the Caped Crusader very hard to accurately cast. Actors who have played Batman have been from all over the cinematic map; lifelong actors, auteurs, and straight-up goofballs have portrayed the Dark Knight, but none of them have been absolutely perfect.
Pick any Batman film - especially the most revered titles, like Tim Burton’s 1989 piece that’s held up as one of his masterworks or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night, considered by many to be the apex of the entire Batman franchise - and you can find issues within each performance. While Keaton and Bale each have their own strengths and weaknesses, they also don’t manage to find their way into being the perfect Batman. And no matter how Robert Pattinson plays the Caped Crusader in the upcoming The Batman, his casting alone is enough to divide fans.
This just goes to show that no matter how well you stack the deck in your favor, when it comes to Batman, you may not be able to find the diamond in the rough. Keep reading to find out why it's hard to cast a good Batman.
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The Casting Depends On The Story A Director Wants To TellPhoto: Warner Bros.
The perfect Batman can mean a lot of things. Depending on which era of Batman the film you're making is inspired by, you'll have a different "perfect" actor. If you're making a movie that's inspired by his days as a detective in the '30s, you want someone who arguably looks and acts appropriate for a lithe man in his 30s. If you're leaning into the gritty world of Frank Miller's Dark Knight stories, then you need someone who's built like a tank and can act crazy with no inhibitions. This is the easiest qualifier to pull off for Batman because actors tend to look era-appropriate for whenever we're living, it's just unfortunate the preferred actor look at the moment is "wide meat man."Agree or disagree?
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The People Who Make These Decisions Fundamentally Misunderstand The CharacterPhoto: Warner Bros.
The people at the top of the Batman film chain (producers, directors, general suits) aren't nerds who know everything about the Dark Knight and who are working to make a wonderful film; they're throwing everything against the wall and trying to make a film that's going to make money. They don't care that Bat-Nipples or every version of a Bat-Vehicle isn't really what the character is about. They just want to make a good domestic and foreign return on their investment while selling some toys.Agree or disagree?
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It's A Huge CommittmentPhoto: Warner Bros.
If you're going to play Batman, you shouldn't have anything going on for the next ten years, because that's all you're going to be doing. Scheduling isn't the most romantic part of movie making, but it may be the most important. If you've ever tried to make a film, whether it be a short, feature, a student thing, or whatever, then you know the importance of making sure your main actors have the time to appear in your thing. If they don't, then you have to go down the list of people who aren't exactly what you want but who can show up. A Batman film is pretty much like that but with hundreds of millions of dollars behind it. If an actor really doesn't want to dedicate the better part of a decade to playing this character and dealing with the press, fallout, and everything else that comes along with it (And, honestly, why would they?), then you have to cast someone who is interested.Agree or disagree?
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Sometimes Actors Make Weird ChoicesPhoto: 20th Century Fox
On paper, a lot of actors seem like they would make a good Batman, but then when they get on set they start making weird decisions. While a lot of people like Adam West, you have to admit that he's doing a weird thing with his voice that doesn't make sense for any version of Batman (it's only now that his iteration of the character is appreciated for being camp). When you move into the modern sphere of Batman films, there are plenty of strange decisions that were made: Val Kilmer's almost-English accent, Clooney's lack of regard for anything in the film (Who can blame him?), and Ben Affleck's decision to be as wide as the state of Texas are a few things that come to mind.Agree or disagree?