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Michael Keaton first stepped into the cape and cowl of Batman (and his alter ego Bruce Wayne) in 1989. And while he would go on to star in the sequel, Batman Returns in 1992, he never returned for the next film — despite both movies' overwhelming success.
"To me, I know the name of the movie is Batman, and it's hugely iconic and very cool and culturally iconic and because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic," says Keaton of the role. "I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. But everybody said, 'Batman... You should be Batman... Batman does this,' and I kept thinking to myself, 'Y'all are thinking wrong here.' It's about Bruce Wayne. Who's that guy? What kind of person does that?"
Keaton's desire to focus on the famous billionaire playboy behind the world's greatest detective is only part of the reason for his quitting the part. Some of it had to also do with the new direction and tone of the film that would go on to become Batman Forever, as Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys) was picked to direct and he wanted to leave behind the tone that Burton had established in the previous films.
"I walked away going, 'Oh boy, I can't do this’," says Keaton. "[Schumacher] asked me, 'I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad,' and I went, 'Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it's pretty simple.' It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman."
Even if he didn't return to Gotham City back in 1995, Keaton will now be reprising his role three decades later — and donning his old 1980s batsuit — in not one but two upcoming projects set within the DC Extended Universe. The first is Andy Muschietti's The Flash, which premieres later this year and will see Ben Affleck also return as Batman and newcomer Sasha Calle debut as Supergirl. The second is HBO Max's upcoming Batgirl movie. While there is no release date set for that project yet, Leslie Grace (In the Heights) will star as Barbara Gordon, who fans know quite well is Commissioner Jim Gordon's daughter, and the first person to take on this particular mantle.
Of course, that isn't the only Batman content Bat-fans can expect this year, as 2022 also sees the release of The Batman in March, with Robert Pattinson in the lead role opposite Zoe Kravitz's Catwoman (AKA Selina Kyle). The duo will try and stop the Riddler (Paul Dano) as he torments Gotham City because of a specific issue he seems to have with the Wayne family itself.
The Flash speeds into theaters on Nov. 4, 2022.