Michael Keaton didn’t have to star in Batman Forever to be Batman... forever. Twenty-eight years after bidding farewell to the role, the actor arguably remains the most beloved big-screen Dark Knight of all time thanks to the one-two punch of 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns. And now Keaton is reportedly in the very, very early stages of suiting up in the cape and cowl again.
According to a blockbuster scoop in The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. is talking with the Oscar-nominated Birdman star about bringing his Batman back to the ever-expanding DC Extended Universe. Keaton would make his grand return in the long-in-the-works Flash movie that’s supposed to star Ezra Miller as the version of the Scarlet Speedster he played in Justice League. After that, Keaton would potentially hang around to play the Caped Crusader as a Nick Fury-esque mentor to such new heroes as Batgirl, who is getting her own movie.
As you might imagine, this news rocked the Twitter Batcave to its very foundations.
Naturally, the specifics of Keaton’s arrival in the DCEU are being kept under wraps. But it’s long been rumored that the Flash movie — which is currently set to begin production in 2021 with Andy Muschietti behind the camera — is going to be based on the popular Flashpoint storyline that involves multiple timelines and universes. That would allow Keaton’s older Batman to exist alongside both Ben Affleck, who played Batman in Batman v. Superman and Justice League but has since left the franchise, as well as Robert Pattinson’s younger version of the character in Matt Reeves’s franchise reboot The Batman, which reportedly takes place during Bruce Wayne’s second year fighting crime.
It’s worth noting that The CW’s Arrowverse recently re-visited Keaton’s Bat-verse in the multipart, multi-universe crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. That miniseries included a brief scene on Earth-89, where viewers caught a glimpse of Robert Wuhl’s Gotham City newshound Alexander Knox from Tim Burton’s 1989 franchise-launcher. Another Crisis Easter Egg was a Gotham City Gazette cover that teased a wedding between Keaton’s Bruce Wayne and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina “Catwoman” Kyle — who got hot and heavy in Batman Returns.
For his part, Keaton has never expressed any lingering regret about surrendering the keys to the Batmobile after Batman Returns. In fact, the actor reportedly turned down $15 million when he walked away from Batman Forever after being underwhelmed by the script and incoming director Joel Schumacher’s vision for the film. “The script never was good. I didn’t understand why [Schumacher] wanted to do what he wanted to do,” Keaton told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. I hung on for many meetings, and I was polite up to a point about saying, ‘Look. … are you getting this, and do you understand?’ But I knew it was in trouble when he said, ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?’” In a bizarre bit of timing that was much remarked upon on Twitter, Schumacher passed away on the same day news of Keaton’s return to the Batcave broke.
In the past, Keaton — who went on to play winged characters in Birdman and Spider-Man: Homecoming — has said that he’d only play Batman again if Burton was calling “action.” But he’s also spoken with obvious affection about his place in superhero movie history. “I’m proud of the choice I made, in terms of how to play Batman,” he told Shortlist Magazine in 2014, adding that he wasn’t jealous of latter-day Dark Knights like Christian Bale or Affleck for one simple reason: “Because I’m Batman. I’m very secure in that.”
That same year, he spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the joys of playing Gotham’s strangest bachelor, Bruce Wayne. “Now I can say this, because for many reasons, I never allowed myself to say it at the time: It was never about Batman for me. It was always about Bruce Wayne. He’s funny! He’s screwed-up! The guy is the coolest motherf***** in the world, and he’s messed-up!” To answer a question that Keaton’s messed-up hero posed way back in 1989: Yes, we wanna get nuts.
Batman and Batman Returns are currently streaming on HBO Max.
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