Actress Michelle Pfeiffer is known for a variety of roles, but among genre fans, her iconic portrayal of the powerful, weird, and captivatingly feminist Catwoman in Batman Returns trumps all others. However, Pfeiffer’s first foray into the world of DC and the Caped Crusader was almost as a more traditional damsel in distress: Vicky Vale.
As a photojournalist, Vale was a major player in Tim Burton’s Batman, where she gets entangled in a conflict between Batman and the Joker—all while becoming romantically entangled with Bruce Wayne. The role eventually went to Kim Basinger, replacing Sean Young who had been injured in a horse-riding accident.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on Batman’s 30th anniversary, actor Robert Wuhl (who played Vale's colleague Alexander Knox) explained that Warner Bros. was "very happy to replace" Young after an unfavorable table read in front of executives, just not with Basinger. At least, not initially.
After the "blessing in disguise" that was Young’s accident, Wuhl explained that producer Jon Peters sought Pfeiffer to take over the role of Vale. But Batman himself, Michael Keaton, was the one to shoot it down.
"To put a little fly in the ointment, Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer had previously dated and broken up," Wuhl said. "At the time, Michael told me he was trying to get back with his ex-wife [Caroline McWilliams]. Keaton was firmly, and underline firmly, against that casting of Pfeiffer and he and Peters got into it."
Thankfully, circumstances changed for the sequel (including Annette Bening, who was originally cast Catwoman, becoming pregnant) which allowed for Pfeiffer to flex her acting chops and perform one of the best superhero origin scenes in comic movie history. But it all could’ve ended with Pfieffer giving a very different vibe to Vale, simply because of a failed relationship.