Since Batman first leaped onto the silver screen, there have been two actors who have not reprised the role, and they both chose so after starring in a Joel Schumacher film. Batman & Robin was such a critical failure that options of a sequel were impossible beyond what George Clooney might think about it, but Batman Forever had done well at the box office, and there were still those who defended its change of perspective after Tim Burton’s versions. Nevertheless, Val Kilmer refused to play Bruce Wayne again. His experience on set could have been better, as it became known then, but recently he has been able to give more details about it.
Now, Val Kilmer stars in Val, an autobiographical documentary produced by Amazon Prime and A24 based on several interviews with the actor and hundreds of hours of home footage. Throughout it Kilmer (who has spent the last years fighting throat cancer) reveals several secrets of his career, and specifically delves into his relationship with a character like Batman.
The actor was a fan from the beginning: when he was a child his father took him and his two brothers to the set where the 1960s TV show with Adam West was shot, and he even got to sit in the Batmobile. His experience with the vigilante as an adult was less idyllic.
“Whatever boyhood excitement I had was crushed by the reality of the Batsuit. Yes, every boy wants to be Batman. They actually want to be him… not necessarily play him in a movie,” he assures in the documentary. In the early 90’s Kilmer was quite famous thanks to a series of releases like Willow, Top Gun and Tombstone, so in 1995 he replaced Michael Keaton in Batman Forever. Soon after starting filming, he realized that the Batsuit where he had to stuff his body was going to cause him a lot of discomfort. “I couldn’t hear anything and after a while people stopped talking to me.”
Kilmer intensely envied Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, who as Two-Face and the Riddler had no need for a uniform, and shortly after going into production he tried to come up with strategies to maintain his dignity. It only occurred to him to put his arms on his hips, and modulate his performance in view of the spirit that he believed he perceived on set. “It made no difference what I was doing. I tried to be like an actor on a soap opera. When I would turn to Nicole [Kidman]… I couldn’t count how many times I put my hands on my hips,” he explains in Val.
The actor approached the role of Bruce Wayne, therefore, as if he were a soap opera character, and as filming concluded, he refused to return as Batman to star in The Saint instead. Although Batman is not a role he remembers fondly, he does seem to have good memories of a previous film, given that Kilmer will reprise his role as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise, which opens on November 17.
Meanwhile, three other actors are set to hit the screen as the Caped Crusader next year: Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will return in The Flash, while Robert Pattinson is currently wrapping up the highly anticipated The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves.