Val Kilmer has addressed the circumstances that led to him leaving the role of Batman behind after just one movie. In a huge new interview with the New York Times, the actor says he had an epiphany on the set of Joel Schumacher’s 1995 Dark Knight effort, Batman Forever, when billionaire Warren Buffett visited the set with his grandchildren.
According to Kilmer, he kindly waited to meet Buffett’s kids as he was told they wanted to see Batman, but when they arrived to find a Batsuited Kilmer ready to engage with them, they snubbed him for the Batmobile and various props, and he realised that it didn’t matter who was in the suit, and that Batman is purely a blank slate that we project ourselves on.
“That’s why it’s so easy to have five or six Batmans. It’s not about Batman. There is no Batman,” he said, also noting that he does ultimately feel some guilt about being a ‘difficult’ actor to work with, and acknowledging that he ended up persona non grata in Tinseltown after incidents like the sudden abandonment of his proposed Batman sequels.
“In an unflinching attempt to empower directors, actors and other collaborators to honor the truth and essence of each project, an attempt to breathe Suzukian life into a myriad of Hollywood moments, I had been deemed difficult and alienated the head of every major studio,” he said. “Everyone has to work out their own salvation. How to live and by what morality, and I found that the part that I feel bad about is hurting somebody in the process.”
Batman Forever director Schumacher remembers it all going down in a slightly less poetic way, however.
“He wanted to do Island of Doctor Moreau because Marlon Brando was going to be in it,” he told THR. “So he dropped us at the eleventh hour.”
Kilmer disputes this in the NYT interview, saying that on paper it was scheduling difficulties with The Saint that saw him replaced with George Clooney in 1997’s Batman & Robin, but there’s certainly no love lost between Schumacher and the Top Gun star. Schumacher recalls that the warring egos of Kilmer and co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey on Batman Forever were interminable all round, also correcting the notion that Kilmer was just ‘difficult’.
“[Jones] was fabulous on The Client,” he told Vulture in 2019. “But he was not kind to Jim Carrey when we were making Batman Forever. And I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever, I said he was psychotic.”
“Tommy is, and I say this with great respect, a scene stealer,” Schumacher explained. “Well, you can’t steal the scene from Jim Carrey. It’s impossible. And, I think it irked Tommy. No, he wasn’t kind to Jim. He did not act towards Jim the way an Oscar winner with a star on Hollywood Boulevard, being the oldest member of the cast, and having such a distinguished career and the accolades to go with it, should have acted towards Jim. But what happens on the set stays on the set.”
He concluded “Here’s the difference between Val Kilmer and Tommy Lee Jones. I don’t care what state Tommy is in emotionally, when that camera rolls, there is no bad take. Val is a different story,” he explained. “But he was a fabulous Batman.”