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Fans might've been heartbroken when Warner Bros. Discovery decided not to release its all-but-finished Batgirl movie over the summer, but we’re not so sure Michael Keaton felt quite the same sting. After all, it’s tough to be too tearful when a neatly-stacked pile of cash can double as your tissue box.
Instrumental in the late 1980s in rejuvenating the pop culture appeal of DC’s iconic hero after decades of dormancy, Keaton reportedly was paid $2 million to reprise his original Batman role for Batgirl. Before being shelved due to reportedly mixed test screenings and the studio’s decision to consolidate the branding strength of its other in-the-works DC projects, the film was set to debut at HBO Max this fall — more than 33 years after Keaton first donned the cowl.
Via The Hollywood Reporter, Keaton — who later went on to satirize his association with superhero royalty in 2014’s Best Picture-winning black comedy Birdman — contributed “about a week’s worth of work” to his Batgirl appearance, described by unnamed sources as “a glorified cameo.” Both he and fellow Batman alum J.K. Simmons (as the Snyderverse-era Commissioner Jim Gordon) were set to appear in the scrapped Leslie Grace-starring movie.
In all, Keaton had originally signed on to bring his Burton-vintage Batsuit out of comic book retirement for a total of three Batman appearances in upcoming DC film projects: Batgirl, The Flash, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The fates, though, haven’t exactly aligned to assure he’ll end up seeing all the quality Bruce Wayne screen time that fans might originally have hoped for. Presumably, we'll at least still get to see him in The Flash. Hopefully.
In addition to canceling Batgirl, the studio entertained the idea of also shelving The Flash over star Ezra Miller’s publicized behavior and attendant legal troubles before recommitting to a June 23, 2023 release date. And via THR’s report, Keaton’s scheduled cameo in director James Wan’s Aquaman sequel (due in theaters on Dec. 23 of next year) “may have been cut,” with his role reportedly going instead to Ben Affleck’s version of the Caped Crusader, based on separately-reported comments from star Jason Momoa earlier this summer.
Not long after Batgirl was shelved, Keaton’s role in the movie was reported as slight; a “pivotal cameo” in which Gotham’s elder protector served as a wizened advisor to main player Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). Since the studio’s tax write-down of the film requires that it never monetize the movie after its cancelation, it’s likely that Keaton’s unseen finished footage will forever stay vaulted away somewhere deep within the Batcave.
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