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Why Each Batman Actor Left the Franchise for Good

Since the character of Batman was initially created in comic book form during the late 1930s, he has been portrayed by a variety of different actors in other forms of media. These actors include Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck, as well as several others both before and after. Each of these stars had a reason for saying goodbye to the franchise, necessitating another replacement down the line. Join Facts Verse as we explore why each Batman actor left the franchise for good.


The character of Batman debuted in the DC comic book Detective Comics in 1939, and the first actor to portray the character on the screen was Lewis Wilson in the 1943 serial simply known as Batman. The character had become an instant sensation with comic book audiences, and the serial took advantage of the comic series’ popularity. Lewis had been born in 1920, and his parents were also thespians. However, Lewis left acting after the Batman serial was done filming, as he didn’t feel the money he was making from the work was sufficient to provide for his family. He subsequently went to go work for General Foods, and another actor took his place on the screen for Batman’s next serial.

After Lewis Wilson, the next actor to portray the character of Batman was Robert Lowery. Robert had previously appeared in several films before taking on the part of Batman, including two John Ford films in 1939. These films were Young Mr. Lincoln and Drums Along the Mohawk, and Lewis would go on to find even more prominent success working in horror features through the 1940s before finally taking on the role of Batman in 1949. Some of the horror features that Robert could be seen in during the decade included The House of Horror and Queen of the Amazons.

Robert’s time playing Batman came when he was cast in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin. The serial was a follow-up to 1943’s Batman, but Lewis Wilson was no longer available for the role. Robert was well received as the character, though the serial was the first and only time that he played him. The character wasn’t brought back to the screen until nearly two decades later, at which point Robert was near death. Robert’s last film was The Ballad of Josie, in which he appeared alongside Doris Day. The film was released in 1967, just a year after the 1960s Batman series premiered.

The creative team wanted to go in a lighter direction with the 1966 Batman television series, aiming for a style more reminiscent of Andy Warhol then of the original comics. They found their Batman in Adam West, a relatively unknown television actor. While the aforementioned Batman actors on this list never became household names, Adam West remains one of the most popular and iconic actors to ever portray the character, even after his recent death in 2017.

Alongside Adam West, Burt Ward portrayed the character of Robin. The show was immensely popular during it’s first few years, but was cancelled after it’s third season due to the slightly diminished ratings not justifying the show’s large production budget. Adam was grateful for the role that had made him a star, but also sometimes regretted playing Batman due to the fact that he felt that he was typecast in similar roles for several years after the show’s cancellation.

Despite the fact that Adam West had a few negative feelings about the effect that playing Batman had on his career, he later came to embrace his time as the character more wholeheartedly. He referenced the role of Batman in a voice capacity during an episode of The Simpsons, and also reunited with Burt Ward for 2003’s Return to the Batcave. However, Adam’s most memorable role in the years leading up to his death was his recurring voice-acting gig as Mayor Adam West on the hit adult animated sitcom Family Guy.

Although the 1966 Batman series was a hit at the time, it left somewhat of a stain on the franchise that wouldn’t be washed off for nearly a quarter of a century. The campiness of the series communicated to adults and teenagers in the audience that Batman was a character just for children. This greatly impacted interest in the character, as well as the overall profitability of his brand.

Comic book artist Frank Miller would reinvent the character of Batman in the 1980s, with a darker atmosphere. It was this darker atmosphere that went on to define the series into the new millennium, and it also became the direct inspiration for 1989’s Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Michael Keaton was already a star when he got his role in 1989’s Batman, but he was mainly a star in comedies. The actor had previously appeared in films like Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Beetlejuice. It was on Beetlejuice that Michael developed a working relationship with director Tim Burton, and this is why Tim thought of Michael when it came time for him to cast the character of Batman.

Comic book fans were appalled when Michael Keaton was announced as the actor that was to portray Batman in his first-ever big-screen blockbuster. Infamously, there were even petitions calling for the actor to be replaced. However, Michael’s performance ended up impressing both comic book fans and film critics alike, with many still believing him to be the absolute best to have ever portrayed the character. Legendary actor Jack Nicholson portrayed Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, in the film, and Michael Keaton held his own against him on the screen and then some.

The studio was taking a risk on director Tim Burton with 1989’s Batman, and that risk paid off. Subsequently, they gave the director free reign to make the sequel, which became 1992’s Batman Returns. With that free reign, Tim turned in a much darker and stranger film. Critics were confused, and audiences were terrified. Many parents were outraged at the adult content and intense violence of the film, especially given the fact that it was aimed at children and advertised via children’s meals at fast food chains. Michael had returned to reprise the role of Batman for the sequel, and maintained a great deal of respect for Tim Burton.

Batman Returns has since gone down in history as a cult classic and one of Tim Burton’s most unique and personal films. However, the studio was not happy with the impact that the film had on it’s audience. Though they wanted to keep Michael Keaton as Batman, they also wanted to find a new director. However, Michael wasn’t keen on continuing the role without Tim at the helm, and subsequently handed in his resignation after Tim’s firing from the second sequel.

The second sequel to 1989’s Batman was Batman Forever, which starred Val Kilmer in the titular role. The film was met with a mixed reception, and Val hated working on it to the point where he never returned to play the character again. Val’s issue was that people were more preoccupied with the character than with his performance.

The man that the studio hired to lighten up the tone of the franchise after Tim Burton’s Batman Returns was Joel Schumacher. Joel went on to direct both Batman Forever and it’s follow-up feature, Batman & Robin. While Batman Forever was met with mixed reviews, Batman & Robin was met with flat-out negative ones. Joel had certainly lightened up the tone that Tim had established in the first two blockbuster Batman features, starting with 1989’s Batman, but that didn’t help the fact that the films were now worse.

When Val Kilmer refused to return for Batman & Robin, George Clooney took his place. George Clooney was nowhere near the star that he is now, and has since come to regret taking the role. He was reportedly given $1 million to portray the character of Batman, while Arnold Schwarzenegger, who portrayed the film’s villain, received $25 million. As well, George claims that he and Arnold were never in the same room together, despite the two seemingly fighting on the screen together throughout the film’s climax.

Batman & Robin marked the end of Batman for a time, before the series was rebooted in 2005 with a grittier and more realistic atmosphere. That reboot was called Batman Begins, and it starred Christian Bale. Christian would go on to portray the character for three films, all of which were directed by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan. This trilogy of films was well received, though both Christian and Christopher agreed to call it quits after the third. Though the studio offered them both the chance to make another film, they refused on the grounds that their vision was complete.

Ben Affleck replaced Christian Bale for the 2016 feature Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck went on to portray the character two more times, once in Suicide Squad and once in Justice League. Although Ben Affleck’s performance as the character was fairly well received, the films themselves weren’t. Ben took great honor in being given the chance to play the character of Batman, and was devastated when critics and the audience poorly received the films he was cast in. This stress caused Ben to begin drinking excessively, and he ended up turning down the chance to direct and star in his own follow-up Batman feature due to the fear that he might drink himself to death.


Batman fans can look forward to the upcoming feature The Batman, which will feature actor Robert Pattinson’s debut as the titular character. Comment down below to share which of the aforementioned actors has been your favorite Batman, or if you were surprised to learn about the true reason that any of the actors ended up being replaced as the character. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

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