Michael Keaton has had a stunning career resurgence in recent years. He has starred in the last two movies to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards (Birdman and Spotlight) and is getting some buzz for his role as Ray Kroc in The Founder, which tells the story of how McDonald's became a massive franchise. Still, many will always think of him as Batman to some degree, since he starred in the two Tim Burton directed Batman movies and very nearly in the third of the series, which was helmed by Joel Schumacher. But he had the good sense to bail on the project because in his words, "It sucked!"
The Oscar nominee was a recent guest on The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast, where he discussed his decision not to be in Batman Forever, which is famously a very bad movie by most accounts. According to Michael Keaton, the script was bad from the very beginning and it was actually director Joel Schumacher who ensured he wouldn't be playing The Dark Knight in Batman 3. Here is what he had to say about the moment he knew he was about to make a very bad movie.
"It sucked! The script never was good. I couldn't understand why he wanted to do what he wanted to do. I hung on for many meetings. I knew it was in trouble when he [Joel Schumacher] said, 'Why does everything have to be so dark?'"
Elements of both Batman and Batman Returns may be a little outdated by modern standards, but Tim Burton definitely understood that the dark and gritty nature of things is what makes the legendary DC Comics character work. On the flipside, Joel Schumacher made a very glitzy, colorful and zany couple of Batman movies with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, the latter of them killing the franchise for nearly a decade. So it was probably pretty smart for Michael Keaton to step aside and let Val Kilmer step in as Bruce Wayne for that one. Even he didn't want to stick around for Batman & Robin, which saw George Clooney donning the Batsuit and featured famously prominent "Bat nipples" for some reason.
Michael Keaton's decision to not return for a third go as Batman was probably for the best, since he wound up working very steadily elsewhere throughout the 90s and early 2000s. But during the podcast he also revealed that things were pretty bleak for a bit and it wasn't until his appearance in the Adam McKay comedy The Other Guys in 2010 that things took a turn. That relatively small part really pushed him in a new direction.
"Things weren't looking great. I started getting really, really locked in and narrowing the focus and narrowing the energy and narrowing the vision and honing it and really thinking about what I wanted to do."
That led to his Oscar-nominated role in Birdman, which in turn led to his role in Spotlight. Now, he is heading back to the world of superheroes as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is due out later this year. The movie is still about six months away, but it is a pretty safe bet based on the trailer alone that his role as a Marvel supervillain in the upcoming Spider-Man movie will probably turn out better than a third go at Batman would have. The Founder is playing in limited release now with a wide rollout set for January 20, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is set for release on July 7, 2017.