The character of Batman creates in comic book form during the late 1930s. He portrays 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 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 debuts in the DC comic book Detective Comics in 1939. The first actor to portray the character on the screen was Lewis Wilson in the 1943 serial Batman. The character becomes an instant sensation with comic book audiences, and the serial takes advantage of the comic series’ popularity. Lewis had been born in 1920, and his parents were also thespians. Lewis leaves acting after the Batman serial finishes filming. He didn’t feel the money he is making from the work is sufficient to provide for his family. He goes work for General Foods, and another actor takes 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 appears in several films before taking on the part of Batman, including two John Ford films in 1939. These films are Young Mr. Lincoln and Drums Along the Mohawk and Lewis. They find prominent success working in horror features through the 1940s before taking on the role of Batman in 1949. Horror features that Robert is in during the decade include The House of Horror and Queen of the Amazons.
Robert’s time playing Batman comes when he casts 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 receives as the character, though the serial is the first and only time that he plays him. The character didn’t bring back to the screen until nearly two decades later, at which point Robert is near death. Robert’s last film was The Ballad of Josie, in which he appeared alongside Doris Day. The film releases in 1967, just a year after the 1960s Batman series premiers.
The creative team wants in a lighter direction with the 1966 Batman television series. They aim for a style more reminiscent of Andy Warhol than of the original comics. They found their Batman in Adam West, a relatively unknown television actor. The Batman actors on this list never become household names. Adam West remains one of the most popular and iconic actors, even after his death in 2017.
Alongside Adam West, Burt Ward portrayed the character of Robin. The show is popular during its first few years but ends after its third season. Because the diminishing ratings do not justify the show’s large production budget. Adam is grateful for the role that makes him a star, but regrets playing Batman. The fact that he feels that he typecasts in similar roles for several years after the show’s cancellation.
Adam West receives a few negative feelings about the effect that playing Batman on his career. He later comes to embrace his time as the character more gratefully. He references the role of Batman in a voice capacity during an episode of The Simpsons. Also, reunites with Burt Ward for 2003’s Return to the Batcave. Adam’s most memorable role in the years leading up to his death is his recurring voice-acting gig. As Mayor Adam West on the hit adult animated sitcom Family Guy.
The 1966 Batman series is a hit at the time. A stain on the franchise that won’t wash off for nearly a quarter of a century. The series communicate to adults and teenagers in the audience that Batman is 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 is this darker atmosphere that goes on to define the series into the new millennium. He becomes 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 know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Michael Keaton is already a star when he gets his role in 1989’s Batman, but he’s 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 disappoint when Michael Keaton announces as the actor that is to portray Batman in his first-ever big-screen blockbuster. Infamously, there are even petitions calling for the actor to replace. 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 rein 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 get angry at the adult content and intense violence of the film, especially the fact that it aims at children and advertises via children’s meals at fast food chains. Michael returns 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 its 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 meets with a mixed reception, and Val hates working on it to the point where he never returned to play the character again. Val’s issue is that people are 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 its follow-up feature, Batman & Robin. While Batman Forever meets with mixed reviews, Batman & Robin meets 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!