15 Bonkers 'Batman Returns' Behind-The-Scenes Stories

Batman Returns, Catwoman

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Tim Burton recently had a lot to say about the new Batman movie, what with people back in the ‘90s yelling that his take on the masked vigilante was “too dark.” Then again, what really is darker: A noir-Nirvana Batman with some classic Pattinson emo-tones, or Danny DeVito salivating what looks like crude oil from his charcoal-colored mouth and looking like he’s definitely eaten several cats and probably a kid somewhere in his life? 

Burton might feel slighted by the initial reactions to his risky rendition of ol’ Batsy, but there’s no denying that his movies have become the stuff of legends — no doubt with some help from an incredible cast. Seriously, if a cast like this was to be announced today for some upcoming superhero movie, the internet would probably implode. Also, don’t anyone ever forget we have Burton to thank for casting Christopher Walken in a comic book movie.

On that note, let’s take a look at some of the behind-the-scenes tales that contributed to a Batman movie so edgy that McDonald’s pretty much got Burton fired because they couldn’t come up with a child-friendly toy tie-in, and the Batman movie that gave an entire generation nightmares thanks to DeVito on that yellow ducky boat.

Batman Was Almost An Angry Ranting Maniac

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Boy, talk about too dark. Screenwriter Daniel Waters said that if it wasn’t for the legendary Michael Keaton, Batman/Bruce Wayne would’ve had a lot more “Reply Guy” energy. Said Waters about Keaton: 

“He’s the only actor I know who would go through my script and go, 'I should say less here. I should say less here.' I had so many angry Batman rant speeches and he was like, 'Eh, Batman would never say that … Batman should just say this line right here.' And, you know, usually he was right.”

Christopher Walken’s Character Was Originally Penguin’s Brother

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Not only did Burton’s Batman sequel boldly feature a total of three villains, but Christopher Walken’s Max Shreck was a completely original Gotham villain. The character was originally written as Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot’s brother — the child kept by Penguin’s parents and the brother that would’ve caused a classic movie sibling rivalry.

Tim Burton Didn’t Want To Do A Sequel

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Said Sam Hamm, screenwriter of Burton’s Batman (1989): “Tim was very adverse at the end of the day to the idea of coming in doing a sequel. He thought, ‘I said what I have to say about Batman. I don’t really know if I want to do this.’ And he was very reluctant to get involved. And finally, the way that got to him was to say ‘What if the second movie is really just a Tim Burton movie?’ And that got his attention and got him thinking about what he could do with it again. How extreme could you go with Penguin? How extreme could you do with Catwoman? What if you didn’t have to worry about the fidelity to the mythology?”

Everything makes so much sense now.

Sean Young Really Wanted To Play Catwoman

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The Blade Runner actress was so set on playing Selina Kyle that she dressed up in her own idea of Catwoman’s attire, barged into the filmmakers’ office, and announced herself as the next feline villain.

Said Warner Bros. executive Mark Canton: “My office door flew open, which says a lot about how different security is these days, and Michael Keaton and I saw Sean Young dressed as Catwoman leap over my sofa and say, 'I am Catwoman!' We looked at each other and went, 'Whoa.'”

During the Shadows of the Bat documentary, Young herself said that she thought an aggressive approach was the only way because “That’s what Catwoman would have done.” 

The Real Penguins Had Their Own Dressing Room (And Dictated The Set)

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Danny DeVito explained: “I’m the kind of guy that loves being on set, but it was cold as sh*t because we had real penguins and they had to keep the water really cold. They had these massive air conditioners. I was the only one really comfortable, because I had pounds and pounds of face prosthetics and the body padding, not to mention the heavy coat.”

The penguins had their own area in the Warner Bros. lot, all kit out with a swimming pool and a “refrigerated dressing room.” 

That Was A Live Bird In Michelle Pfeiffer’s Mouth

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And the bird wasn’t even sedated or anything. Tim Burton said he’d never been so impressed by an actor. “She had a live bird in her mouth while the camera was rolling. It was four or five seconds, and then she let it fly out. It was before CG, it was before digital. It was so quick, it seems like it was an effect.”

Pfeiffer said she didn’t think at the time — she just did it. “I look back and say, ‘What was I thinking? I could’ve gotten a disease or something from having a live bird in my mouth.”

The Original Sequel Would’ve Had Penguin And Catwoman Go On A Treasure Hunt

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Yes, give us the one where Selina and Oswald murder rich Gotham men (and frame Batman for it) while secretly collecting Raven statues and ultimately breaking into Wayne Manor in search of buried treasure hidden in the Batcave (that even Bruce doesn’t know about). Batman II, originally drafted by Hamm (who wrote Burton’s first Batman movie), would also have featured kid orphan Robin with some killer martial arts skills. 

Danny DeVito Was Responsible For Penguin’s Black Mouth

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Penguin’s black saliva really irritated McDonald’s and their attempt at creating toy tie-ins for the movie. And that was all on DeVito: “The black saliva was a concoction that I came up with after working with the makeup and the special effects people. Basically, it’s kind of like mild mouthwash with food coloring in it. We had it in a jar with a nozzle on it. Before every scene, I’d squirt it into my mouth. Luckily the taste wasn’t that bad.”

Cobblepot’s Most Famous Clown

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Doug Jones played the Thin Clown, the menacing gang member of Penguin's posse. Jones would go on to play many iconic characters, including the Faun and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth.

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The Movie Totally Hogged The Warner Bros. Burbank Lot

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More than half of the entire Studio Lot (a 62-acre compound) was turned into Gotham City and used to film the movie in which Michelle Pfeiffer was more cat than anyone in CATS. 

Marlon Wayans Almost Played Robin (And Still Got Paid For It)

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On The Tonight Show, Wayans said he was cast as Robin for the sequel and got paid, even after they decided to scrap his part because there were too many characters in the movie. It seems the idea was to bring him in as Dick Grayson when Burton did his third Batman movie, Batman Forever, which we know ended up going to Joel Schumacher, who cast Chris O’Donnell as Batman’s sidekick.

Michelle Pfeiffer Initially Lost Her Part To Annette Bening

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Pfeiffer said she was obsessed with Catwoman when she was little and felt devastated when Bening was cast over her. But then Bening became pregnant and the plans ultimately changed. Which is great, because we got to see Pfeiffer do this glorious scene: 

Danny Elfman Wrote The Iconic Theme On A Plane

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Sure, Elfman wrote the theme for Burton’s first Batman film, but it’s still part of what makes Return so dark and epic. That theme song came to Elfman on a plane, which is not the best place to start singing and writing down an epic, big saga tune. 

“On the way home, the thing f**king hits me,” said Elfman. “And it was like, what do I do? I’m on a 747. How do I do this? I am going to forget this all. I’m going to land and they’re going to play some f**king Beatles song, and I’m going to forget everything.” So he went to the restroom every ten minutes to hum a bit and write down what he could.

Animal Rights Groups Protested The Production Of Batman Returns

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When word got out that some of the penguins would have rockets strapped onto their backs, PETA and the like said “Nope” and petitioned that there should be no moving and filming of penguins outside of Antarctica. The production, however, worked with the penguins’ curator to make sure the animals were comfortable at all times. 

Michelle Pfeiffer Mastered The Whip As Catwoman

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When Pfeiffer ultimately got the part, she became absolutely determined to master the art of that whip. “I trained for months with the whip master. On our first day together, I caught his face with the whip and it drew blood. It completely shattered me.” 

She did all her own stunts with that whip and freaking nailed it:

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