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Val Kilmer looks back and realizes why playing Batman was never actually ‘about Batman’

By Jacob Oller
Val Kilmer Batman Forever

Val Kilmer's sole performance as Batman, in director Joel Schumacher's 1995 Batman Forever, wasn't a particularly auspicious take on the famous comic book role. It wasn't as formative as Michael Keaton during the Tim Burton films, nor as lambasted as George Clooney in Batman & Robin. It didn't have the longevity of Christian Bale during Christopher Nolan's trilogy, nor the unfulfilled potential of Ben Affleck's DCEU performance.

It was in between it all, one of the strangest entries into the superhero's on-screen canon. However, with a new Batman on the way from Robert Pattinson (in writer/director Matt Reeves' The Batman), Kilmer has recently provided some insight on playing the caped crusader — and it may prove useful to a newcomer to the franchise.

Speaking to The New York Times, Kilmer recalled playing the role and one fateful incident on set that revealed Batman's true nature. Filming Batman Forever, the actor was about to remove his bulky black costume when an unexpected presence stopped him: billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett was on set because his grandchildren wanted to see Batman. Kilmer kept the suit on, but the kids didn't really want to chat. They just wanted to put on the cowl and get in the Batmobile.

This was pivotal for Kilmer. Batman wasn't supposed to be a real person behind the mask that can be talked to or interacted with, but an anonymous symbol that others can find themselves in. “That’s why it’s so easy to have five or six Batmans,” Kilmer explained. “It’s not about Batman. There is no Batman.”

Obviously, there is no Batman. Not only would that be a waste of money, but a poor response to urban crime. But Kilmer's point stands: the Batman fandom at large may get flustered at casting news, but ultimately Batman's portrayers always find their spot in the canon. Because it's not about Batman, it's about the Batman story.

Kilmer did share one more story from his time playing the hero, this time an origin story. He said that he was in Africa in 1994 when he chose to pop into a bat cave. Later that day, that led to him calling his agent...who had been trying to get in touch with him for weeks. Why? Because Michael Keaton was finished with Batman and the door was now open for Kilmer to step in. No matter how good Pattinson is in The Batman, he probably won't be able to match Val Kilmer's real-life Batman origin story.