B89-30: WSJ Reports on & Reacts to the Casting of Keaton as Batman


If you were too young — or not around 30 years ago — back in the late 1980s, then you didn’t get to experience the “Batmania” surrounding the release of Tim Burton’s BATMAN starring Michael Keaton in 1989.

I was a 23-year-old recent college graduate back in the Summer of 1989 and getting to experience it was not only awesome but one of the greatest “Batman” experiences of my life.

Additionally, you wouldn’t have got to experience the madness surrounding the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman.

I can’t imagine how it that would’ve played out today in the age of the internet, social media, and instant news!

Scratch that.

I know exactly what would’ve happened.

It would’ve been the same freakout of nonsense we got with the casting of…

Heath Ledger as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in BATMAN v SUPERMAN

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and…

Ben Affleck as Batman in BvS.  ANYWAY…

Truth be told, I had a semi-freakout over MK’s Bat-casting back in the day.  I wasn’t one of those who penned a letter of DC Comics/Warner Bros. in “outrage,” but I did assume that the casting of Keaton as Batman meant that they were making a film based on the 1960s TV series, and not a “dark and serious” movie.

RELATED: Jett Discusses Keaton’s Casting as Batman on the “Outrage, Outrage, Outrage!” Podcast

Here is what the WALL STREET JOURNAL had to say about aforementioned “outrage” over the casting of Keaton as Batman…

Best known as a wacky prankster in Burton’s 1988 comedy, Beetlejuice, Keaton has a receding hairline and a less-than-heroic chin. He stands an estimated 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs in at 160 pounds or so, and “looks like a hundred guys you see on the street,” says Beau Smith, a Batman fan in Ceredo, W. Va. “If you saw him in an alley wearing a bat suit, you would laugh, not run in fear. Batman should be 6-2, 235 pounds, your classically handsome guy with an imposing, scary image.”

Not at all, says Burton. “Michael Keaton is basically an ordinary guy, a regular human being,” he says. “I thought it would be much more interesting to take someone like that and make him into Batman. I met with a number of very good, square-jawed actors, but the bottom line was that I just couldn’t see any of them putting on a bat suit.”

This line is less than persuasive to Batman’s fans. Hundreds of passionate and humorless protest letters have poured into the offices of publications that cater to comic-book fans and collectors. Many of the letter writers voice strong suspicion that Warner may pull a fast one, springing on an unwary public a cynical sendup rather than a celebration of Batman.

Warner Bros., a Warner Communications Inc. unit, is “after the money of all the people who only remember Batman as a buffoon with a twerp for a sidekick in the campy TV series from the ’60s,” says J. Alan Bolick, a real-estate appraiser in Suwanee, Ga. “Hollywood is just in it for the money, and Warner Bros. has been doing a bit of duplicity. I don’t think Mr. Burton has any intention of making a serious Batman movie. But Batman has been part of everyone’s childhood. He deserves a bit of respect.”

Fans have circulated petitions demanding a different cast, and they booed Warner representatives who had the audacity to show up at a comics-fan convention with a photograph of Keaton. A few fans also dislike the casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, a pathologically evil Batman archenemy. Mr. Nicholson, it seems, is guilty of having a sense of humor.

“How can you have Jack Nicholson playing a villain and not have him be funny,” says David McDonnell, editor of Starlog magazine, a monthly devoted to science-fiction media.

However, I first sorta came around in late 1988/early 1989 when I saw the following picture in the pages of either COMICS SCENE or STARLOG...

Michael Keaton as Batman in BATMAN (1989)

And then I saw this and I was sold…


And the rest is history!

Check me out on the “50,000 People Hate Keaton as Batman” episode of the OUTRAGE, OUTRAGE, OUTRAGE! podcast which details the history — and “fan outrage” — over the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman back in 1988. – Bill “Jett” Ramey