For the second time this year, I will have to miss the premiere of a heavily-anticipated movie due to preparations for my mission trip. I’ll be going to Mississippi next weekend and will miss the opening of “Batman Begins.” But I’ll see it soon enough. I’d like to go to the IMAX theater in Nashville and see it there.
While whetting my appetite, I was looking at some trivia on IMDb related to the moves that were produced between 1989 and 1997. This new movie essentially restarts the franchise; it’s not really a sequel or a prequel to those movies, more of a remake.
Anyway, I found a couple of very interesting facts about casting which I’d never heard before.
When “Batman Forever” came out in 1995, I recall explaining to my editor at the time — a movie buff — that Tommy Lee Jones was playing the same character that Billy Dee Williams had played in the original 1989 movie. In “Batman,” Billy Dee played district attorney Harvey Dent, essentially a cameo role. As comic book fans know, and as is briefly explained in “Batman Forever,” Dent is horribly disfigured and becomes the bitter criminal Two-Face.
Well, it turns out that Billy Dee was well aware of Harvey Dent’s ultimate destiny when he played the straight district attorney part in the first movie. In fact, he apparently had it written into his contract that he would get to play Two-Face in a sequel. When the producers eventually decided to cast Jones, they reportedly had to pay Billy Dee a large sum to buy out his contract.
The other piece of trivia concerns another Williams — Robin Williams. When the producers of the original movie were trying to convince Jack Nicholson to take the part of The Joker, he held out for a lot of money. At one point, they made a big show of talking to Robin Williams about the part, and sure enough Nicholson came around. But he needn’t have worried: according to IMDb, Nicholson made so much from his share of the profits, marketing and merchandising that he holds the record for the best compensation of an actor for a single film.
Anyway, the producers later tried to recruit Robin Williams for the part of The Riddler in “Batman Forever” — but he was still furious at having been used as bait to threaten Nicholson, and insisted on an apology from the producers! Whatever happened after that, Jim Carrey ended up with the part.
“Batman Begins” looks like it will return to the serious tone of the first movie, avoiding the campiness into which the other movies slipped. I can’t wait to see it, but I’ll have to wait.