Exactly 25 years ago today, Michael Keaton completed one of the most iconic portrayals in the Dark Knight’s history when Batman Returns released theatrically. Director Tim Burton sought to push the envelope in his follow-up to 1989’s Batman, increasing the number of villains while delivering more of his signature cinematic flair, One constant remained between the two films, however, and that was Keaton’s performance. Even amid the increasingly chaotic nature of the players and plot, the actor maintained an intense screen presence.
To mark the anniversary of Batman Returns, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with several of the film’s cast and crew to discuss the sequel’s production, and one tidbit demonstrates just how dedicated Keaton was to delivering a performance that he felt would do the role justice. In an era dominated by actor egos, Keaton requested that his Dark Knight have fewer lines.
“My version of the script had more a lot more Batman and Bruce Wayne speeches,” screenwriter Daniel Waters revealed. “Michael Keaton would go through the script and say, ‘Hey, that’s a great line, but you gotta cut it. This is a good speech, but you gotta take it out.’ He wanted to have very minimal dialogue, especially in the Batsuit. When I saw the final film, I realized he was exactly right.”
A request of that sort would have been atypical for any actor in any generation, but it’s particularly surprising given the state of Hollywood at the time. Actors in the 1980s and 1990s famously fought for more lines in a never-ending attempt to boost their status. Yet Keaton’s sole focus remained on what would be right for the character. He felt that Batman would be better conveyed through imagery than any spoken word, explaining, “Once I realized how powerful the suit was in terms of an image on screen, I just used it.”