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Michael Keaton's Returning to Batman—So Here's a Reminder Why He Left in the First Place

He's back in The Flash and Batgirl, but he was originally going to come back for Batman Forever.

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Michael Keaton's Batman stands surrounded by images of Jack Nicholson's Joker in the Bat Cave.
For Michael Keaton, it was all about Bruce.
Image: Warner Bros.

Michael Keaton is all in on Batman again. We know he’s returning to the cape and cowl for this year’s The Flash and recently we heard he’d be kind of passing the torch in the upcoming Batgirl as well. It’s exciting to see, especially when you remember why he left in the first place.

For years, Michael Keaton has been open about the fact he was, originally, going to reprise the role in 1995's Batman Forever. He’d played the role in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns and took several meetings with director Joel Schumacher about coming back for part three. In a new interview with Backstage (via Indiewire) though, Keaton expands a bit on quotes we ran way back in 2011 about the reason he walked away.


“I remember one of the things that I walked away going, ‘Oh boy, I can’t do this,’” Keaton said. “[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.’”

Keaton explained that misunderstanding between the two men of what makes the character so interesting was his sign that it just wasn’t going to work out. Because, for him, the darkness is the point. “It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman,” Keaton said. “That was the secret. I never talked about it. [Everyone would say] ‘Batman, Batman, Batman does this,’ and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Y’all are thinking wrong here.’ [It’s all about] Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?… Who becomes that?”


Which brings us all the way back to The Flash and Batgirl. Sure, after 30 years there’s a chance the actor is coming back just because he’ll be getting rewarded handsomely for it, but part of us hopes it’s also because these new stories finally go back to Keaton’s love and understanding for the core of the character: the tragedy of Bruce Wayne.

The Flash opens November 4. Batgirl does not yet have a release date.

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