Michael Keaton Will Always Be Batman, Just Ask Him

By December 14, 2014

When recently asked about Ben Affleck’s casting and upcoming portrayal of the Dark Knight in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, former Batman Christian Bale had a rather surprising reaction: envy. In an interview with Empire magazine (via ComicBookMovie), Bale revealed some initial shock at the fact that he would not be bringing the guardian of Gotham City to life in his next cinematic appearance. When asked about how he responded to the news of Affleck’s casting, Bale said,

I’ve got to admit initially, even though I felt that it was the right time to stop, there was always a bit of me going, ‘Oh go on… Let’s do another.’ So when I heard there was someone else doing it, there was a moment where I just stopped and stared into nothing for half an hour. But I’m 40! The fact that I’m jealous of someone else playing Batman…I think I should have gotten over it by now. I haven’t spoken with Ben, but I emailed him offering bits of advice that I learned the hard way. I would imagine he is doing everything he can to avoid anything that I did.

Bale is a special breed of actor, in that he entirely immerses himself in the roles that he is playing. When he first portrayed the character in 2005’s Batman Begins, Bale talked in supplementary material on the film’s DVD about how Batman was sold to him as a far more “dangerous and volatile” character than he’d seen portrayed before. or many comic book fans (including this one), that is one of the many reasons his portrayal is seen as the closest to the modern comics. It’s also plain to see that his embodiment of Batman resonated with the actor, likely giving a hint as to why Affleck’s casting affected him in the way that it did.

The subject recently came up with the actor that first embodied Batman in a serious capacity. According to Short List, Keaton was asked about how the original Tim Burton-directed Batman films changed the superhero genre and the Hollywood blockbuster. He said,

Tim changed, or started, everything. And I’m proud of the choice I made, in terms of how to play Batman. It’s probably easier now because Tim paved the way, and if I did anything to pave the way, I’m proud of that, too. I’ve never seen [a superhero movie] beginning to end. Oh actually, I saw the first Spider-Man – I thought that was really good. You can step into it more easily now, is my guess. Technically, [superhero movies] do everything for you. They create a world where all you’ve basically got to do is show up, not f**k it up too much and you’ll come off OK.

The most telling element of the interview, though, was when Keaton was asked whether or not he felt similarly to Bale when he discovered news of Affleck’s casting. In true, concise Keaton fashion, and perhaps also in true Batman fashion, Keaton responded simply and effectively. He said,

No. Do you know why? Because I’m Batman. I’m very secure in that.

There are no doubt countless fans all over the world who agree wholeheartedly with Keaton, and for many, he rightly stands as the definitive Batman for an entire generation. While Burton’s films are generally more loose when it comes to the representation of the characters in the source material, but Keaton himself always had a solid handle on what Bruce Wayne and Batman were like in the predominant source material from the 1980s.

In a way, since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns has been cited as a primary influence on Batman v Superman, Affleck’s portrayal of the character may be similarly inspired by much of the same material that Keaton’s was. It will ultimately be up to the creative team of the film and DC Entertainment to show us a Batman that’s hard-edged, tired, and weary, while also recgonizably the Batman that so many comic book readers know from the character’s monthly adventures.

For more on Batman and the upcoming crossover film, be sure to keep an eye on GeekNation!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.
  • David Johnson

    Of all the Batman Movies before Nolan took the reins, Keaton was the only One I Liked!!!