Michael Keaton may now be considered the best BATMAN of the movie bunch but back when he was cast, it was met with a lot of confusion, laughter, and head-shrugs. No one exactly knew what Tim Burton was doing by casting his BEETLEJUICE lead but once people saw the film, Keaton proved the naysayers wrong. If there was another reason for Keaton to feel some pressure wearing the cape and cowl is that Jack Nicholson was cast as the Joker and even in 1989, Nicholson was a true force and master of his craft. Since Nicholson was an established star and Keaton was still finding his way, the actor admits to getting a case of nerves working alongside such a heavyweight.
During an interview with Seth Meyers, when talking about Batman Michael Keaton elaborated on his experience and what it was like to share the screen with Jack Nicholson at the time:
“The only thing that happened when I did the first Batman was, I was very nervous and self-conscious about being with Jack, because he’s so strong on film, you know, and it ended up just being great. We became pals and everything.”
This comment made Meyers curious as to if Nicholson was aware of his power on set and Keaton believed that he was aware of it but he insisted that the actor also made sure everyone was relaxed on set:
“I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of it like that. That’s a great question. I would say yeah, he probably was pretty aware of his power. He had so much power on screen, you know, has. It was just cool. He made everybody feel really, really relaxed. Some day, in private, I’ll tell you how he would greet the crew in the morning, but I certainly can’t do it on national television [laughs].”
Keaton obviously got over his care of nerves because his portrayal of Batman is considered unsurpassed by many, including another critically acclaimed turn of the billionaire vigilante by Christian Bale in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy. Keaton’s BATMAN movies may be flawed in areas but he was able to capture the appropriate darkness as Batman and just the right amount of charm as Bruce Wayne. Keaton’s Batman is so well-loved that when news broke that he is currently in talks to reprise his role as an older Bruce Wayne in the upcoming FLASH solo movie, it sent the internet into a frenzy.
Honestly, I think just about anyone would be intimidated by Jack Nicholson in his prime so Keaton proved himself to be a real superhero by simply holding his own alongside one of the best actors to hit the big screen.