Robin Williams was offered the role of The Joker when Jack Nicholson hesitated. He had even accepted the role, when producers approached Nicholson again and told him Williams would take the part if he didn't. Nicholson took the role and Williams was released. Williams resented being used as bait, and not only refused to play The Riddler in Batman Forever (1995) but also not to be involved in any Warner Bros. productions until the studio apologized.
Before the Joker enters the Gotham City Cathedral with Vicki, he requests over the walkie-talkie for "transportation for two" to arrive in ten minutes. Between entering the cathedral and the arrival of the Joker's helicopter, the action inside the cathedral unfolds in real time.
At the beginning of the film, Knox enters the press room and is handed a cartoon sketch of a "batman", which is a bat in pin stripe suit. It is signed by Bob Kane, who is the original creator of the Batman comic book.
Michael Keaton casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman caused a controversy amongst comic book fans, with 50,000 protest letters sent to Warner Bros. offices. Bob Kane, Sam Hamm and Michael Uslan also heavily questioned the casting.
According to actor Pat Hingle (Commisioner Gordon) in his Special Edition DVD interview, there was a flashback scene shot, but not used, that reveals that after Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, Bruce was cared for by Gordon, who was then a young street patrolman. The still photo of the young Bruce Wayne being held by an unseen policeman in the newspaper story that Vicki Vale and Alex Knox reads, is from that scene. Although discarded, the idea was re-used for the re-boot film, Batman Begins (2005) with Gary Oldman as Gordon. Also, the idea of this fateful meeting between Gordon and the future Batman has been incorporated into the DC Comic series to further explain the alliance between Gordon and Batman.
Sean Young was originally cast as Vicki Vale, but broke her collarbone while filming a horse-riding scene with Michael Keaton. The scene was subsequently written out of the script. Tim Burton suggested replacing Young with Michelle Pfeiffer but Keaton, who was in a relationship with Pfeiffer, believed it would be too awkward. She went on to portray Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992). Jon Peters suggested Kim Basinger and she was cast.
In order to combat negative rumors about the production, a theatrical trailer was hastily assembled to be distributed to theaters. To test its effectiveness, Warner Bros. executives showed it at a theater in Westwood, California to an unsuspecting audience. The ninety-second trailer received a standing ovation. Later, it would become a popular bootleg at comic book conventions, and theater owners would report patrons paying full price for movie tickets just to have an opportunity to see the trailer, and leaving before the feature began.
Michael Keaton was unable to hear while wearing the Batsuit. He said that his claustrophobia helped get him in the proper mood to play Batman. "It made me go inward and that's how I wanted the character to be anyway, to be withdrawn," he said.
Jack Nicholson revealed in an interview that the strange dance the Joker does when he exits Vicki Vale's apartment (when he raises his arms, blows a raspberry, and runs off) was something called the "bird dance" which he improvised during the take. He took it from a friend of his, the actor Clegg Hoyt.
While actress Kim Basinger has blond hair, Vicki Vale was red headed in the comics. According to Batman creator Bob Kane, Vale was supposed to be blond in the comics, and her hair came out red due to a coloring error in her first appearance.
In the original script with Robin included, the Flying Graysons (John, Mary, and Dick) are introduced at the parade scene. The Joker shoots the trapeze artists sending John and Mary to their deaths and leaving Dick to survive. Dick later becomes Robin in full costume at the end. The special edition version of the DVD release of Batman (1989) features an animated storyboard sequence of The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence (2005), where Dick Grayson was voiced by Jason Hillhouse, and Batman and the Joker were voiced by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill respectively.
There was to have included a scene in which the Joker took over a public ceremony, held Mayor Borg hostage (causing Borg to experience a breakdown), unveiled a statue of himself, and laced the Gotham City Police Department's coffee with a non-lethal poison, which would have explained why there are no police in the parade scene.
Don Johnson and Dale Midkiff were considered for Harvey Dent. Billy Dee Williams took the role with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams' contract.
Lt. Eckhardt's surname was not new to the Batman universe; in the original Detective Comics, the name of Harvey Dent/Two-Face's (failed) plastic surgeon was Dr. Eckhart. Coincidentally, the actor who plays Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight (2008) is named Aaron Eckhart.
During filming, a young Tim Burton was having trouble shooting a scene with Jack Palance. When filming a scene with Palance, Burton called out "Action!" and a few minutes later, Palance didn't show up in his shot. 'Tim Burton' later cut the take and walked on the set, only to find out that Jack had a hearing problem. The deaf, but irritated Palance asked Burton, "I've made more than a hundred films, how many have you made?" Burton said, years later, that it was a "whiteout" experience he would never forget. Despite this incident, Burton was happy to have him involved with the film.
Batman creator Bob Kane was to make a cameo in the film, but became ill, and shooting of his scene was not rescheduled. Kane had drawn and signed the "Batman" sketch used by reporters to tease Knox, and Kane was to be the cartoonist who presented it. Kane would later cameo in the movie's second sequel Batman Forever (1995).
Adam West, who played Batman in the TV show Batman (1966), admitted that he was disappointed that he was not asked to reprise the role in the movie. Also, in his 1994 autobiography, he stated that, despite belief to the contrary, he was never asked to make a cameo appearance as Thomas Wayne, adding that he would have declined the role if it were offered to him.
According to Michael Keaton, his background in comedy proved useful in playing Batman because it gave him instincts in how to shape scenes and build dimension into his character. For example, in the scene when Vicki and Bruce are having dinner, Keaton suggested that they be seated far apart at a very long table and his line of dialogue, "I don't think I've been in this room before." In another example, he contributed the idea of Bruce hanging like a bat after sleeping with Vicki. "It makes all the other stuff even weirder and darker because you're thinking, 'This guy's off,'" Keaton said.
The first draft of this movie was written in 1980 by Superman (1978) co-writer Tom Mankiewicz and told the story of Batman's and Robin's origins. The villains were The Joker and The Penguin, and Rupert Thorne and Barbara Gordon were also to appear. At the end Robin was to appear in costume (much like Batman Forever (1995)). It was going to be released in 1985 with a budget of $20 million, but with producers Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker booted off the production, the project was shelved until Jon Peters and Peter Guber picked it up. In 1985, after the surprise success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), the studio offered the job to Tim Burton. Unsatisfied with the Mankiewicz script, Burton and his then girlfriend Julie Hickson wrote a 30-page treatment of the project. This treatment was approved by both the producers and studio. In 1986 Burton met Sam Hamm, who had just received a two-year contract with Warner Brothers, and gave him the job of writing a screenplay based on Burton's and Hickson's treatment. However, the writing process stretched too long and Hamm couldn't write further drafts of the script because of the writers strike. In his place, Burton got Beetlejuice (1988) co-writer Warren Skaaren to continue writing. Nearly three years after working on the project Burton didn't get the film green-lit until the box-office result of Beetlejuice (1988). Batman (1989) began filming in October and it only took 12 weeks to shoot.
In Sam Hamm's original script, the first time we see Smylex's effect (called Smylenol in the script) is on the two female models, who are only represented as cardboard cut-outs in Joker's commercial. The original scene has them in a bikini photo session with a photographer who is urging them to smile more as he snaps away. The girls begin to giggle, which at first pleases the photographer, then their giggles become laughter, then uncontrollable helpless hysterics, which has the photographer going from mild annoyance to complete horror as the exhausted girls expire from forced hilarity, with the ghastly Joker-like grins frozen on their faces. As it was originally intended, the death scene is much more protracted than the one with the female newscaster, depicting death by Smylex as a particularly agonizing, if mirthful, way to go.
The name of the Joker's Alter-Ego, Jack Napier was created by the filmmakers. In the comics, The Joker was never given a real name, and whatever real name he has is yet to be definitively revealed. The name Jack Napier is intended to be a play on the word "jackanapes" as well as a reference to actor Alan Napier, who played Alfred in the TV show Batman (1966).
A scene was cut from the parade sequence (but made it in the comic book version of the script) where the crowd discovered that all the money that the Joker was handing out was counterfeit. In a follow-up to the Joker's earlier line that he wanted "My face on the one-dollar bill," all the dollar bills that were thrown to the crowd had the Joker's picture in place of George Washington's.
Two separate soundtracks of the movie were released, one featuring the songs by Prince, and the other of Danny Elfman's score. The Prince CD included songs not used in the movie, and other unused songs were released as B-sides on the singles released from the album.
The Joker's line "Take thy beak from out my heart" (said at Vale's apartment) is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". The full line is 'Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!' (the "beak" being of the raven).
The name of the song The Joker is singing when he's electrocuting Rotelli with the hand buzzer is "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." It was composed in 1896 by Theodore August Metz with lyrics by Joe Hayden.
When the production design team arrived at Pinewood Studios in England to build the sets, they discovered the atmosphere processor set from Aliens (1986) in one of the sound stages, with most of the Aliens' nest and eggs still intact.
Even though she was a character created for the film, Alicia Hunt was based on the character of Circe (the original Black Mask's ex-girlfriend and henchgirl). He also targeted Circe and forcibly disfigured her with the chemicals in order to force her to reunite with him. Circe would ultimately kill herself, leading Black Mask to replace her with a mannequin that he talked to as if it were a real person. In this film, all those elements were incorporated in the relationship between Jack Napier/The Joker and Alicia Hunt.
Neither Tim Burton nor Michael Keaton had any previous exposure to the Batman comic books. Executive producer Michael Uslan provided them with reference material for the film. Burton was given every issue of Batman's first year in comics before Robin was introduced - Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) through #37 (March 1940) - while Keaton was given the graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns."
Among the props there is a royal throne chair, used by The Joker. This throne was originally made for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production Queen Christina (1933) with Greta Garbo. It is a true replica of the Swedish Queen Kristina's Silver throne, a gift from the Councillor Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie for her coronation in 1650 and used until 1975 at the annual commencement of Swedish Parliament sessions.
Robin Williams was considered for the role of The Joker; he would later be considered for The Riddler as well. Jack Nicholson got the role of The Joker but demanded top-billing and a lucrative deal that gave him royalties on all merchandise.
The theatrical trailer for Batman includes not only sequences presented without music, but there are also some alternate takes used in the trailer that were not used in the movie. Specifically: (1) The Joker shoots his television after saying "I have given a name to my pain." Nicholson loads his gun while speaking this line - in the film, he reveals the gun after speaking the line, and the explosion is also a different take. A wide shot was used in the finished film, but in the trailer, a close-up is used for Nicholson's line. (2) Michael Keaton's line "My life is really...complex" is shown here as a close-up which is a different take than the one used in the film. Additionally, in the movie, the take used is from a different camera position. (3) Robert Wuhl is seen asking the question, "Lieutenant, is there a six foot bat in Gotham City?" In the movie, a different take was used, with different things occurring in the background. Regarding this trailer, on the special edition DVD, Warner Bros. has removed the final screen card which originally indicated the film's release date in North America: June 23 (1989).
When the Tom Mankiewicz script was in development, the directors associated with the project included Joe Dante and Ivan Reitman. Producers wanted an unknown to play Batman and the cast wish-list included William Holden as Commissioner Gordon and David Niven as Alfred, Bruce Wayne's faithful butler.
The character of Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) was a character created for the movie. In the script the character was killed during the parade scene. In an interview with Starlog Magazine done at the time, Wuhl joked that his character should become Robin in the sequel.
Promotional material included Alfred's last name (Pennyworth) and Gordon's first name (James). Neither of which were mentioned in the movie. However, the name "James Gordon" does appear on the table at the press conference early in the film.
Patsy Kensit auditioned for the role of Alicia Hunt, but she was considered too young for Jack Nicholson. Instead, Kensit opted to star in Lethal Weapon 2 (1989). Jerry Hall was eventually cast after having been spotted by a crew member at Pinewood Studios during one of her breaks from filming a chocolate commercial.
Although this film played a large part in creating the '12' certificate for UK Cinema releases, the BBFC chose not to use it for video releases until 1994. Therefore, when this film was released to video in 1990, the certificate was upgraded to '15'. It has remained unchanged ever since. See also: Batman Returns (1992).
Corto Maltese is also an island country in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, one of Tim Burton's inspirations for Batman. It is named for a man from Hugo Pratt's Italian series of comic books, of which Frank Miller is a fan.
It took two hours for the makeup team to change Jack Nicholson into the Joker. 355 silicone adhesive had to be used due to Nicholson's allergy against spirit gum. Prosthetic makeup designer Nick Dudman used acrylic-based makeup paint called PAX for Nicholson's chalk-white face. It was tricky finding the right shade of white in contrast to the dark sets and Batman's black suit since a pure white would blur out Nicholson's face.
Before signing his contract, Jack Nicholson demanded approval over the makeup designer and his designs. The designer of the Joker makeup turned out to be Nick Dudman. He sculpted six Joker designs, two of which were chosen by him and Tim Burton and sent to Nicholson. After approving to one design, Nicholson signed the contract.
Tim Burton received a lifelong ban from any and all Comic Con events after the release of this film, due to it having some 'fundamental (*sic) deviations from the canon. The deviations he got the most heat for were primarily: the decision to make the Joker the killer of the Waynes and, strangely enough, that Vicky Vale went into the Batcave. Burton reveals this on a DVD commentary track for the film, where he also absolutely denies being responsible for these decisions.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Though the murderer of the Waynes is shown here to be Jack Napier, who eventually becomes the Joker, in the comics the name of the killer is Joe Chill. The method of the killing and the effect and consequence it had on the young Bruce Wayne is the same in both comics and movie. The Joe Chill scenario would later be used in Batman Begins (2005).
Joker falls to his death during the climactic battle with Batman. In the comics, it had become a long standing trademark for the Joker to appear to be killed at the end of a story, only to return in a later one.
The climax of the film; with Batman, Joker and Vicki on the roof of a cathedral, is inspired by the climax of Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Appropriately, there is a second influence from Hugo: the Joker is inspired by Gwynplaine from The Man Who Laughs.
In the film Jack Napier, The Joker, is the murderer of Batman's parents. One of the facts not addressed in the film that has its roots in the comic is that Batman would dream whichever villain he was chasing at the time was the one who murdered his parents. In addition, although this change bothered many fans, it was approved by Batman co-creator Bob Kane, who served as a consultant to the film. He said he would have done it in the comics if he had introduced the Joker at around the same time he had created Batman.
In the original draft by Sam Hamm the age of Jack Napier was specified as being 32 meaning that the Joker would be young. After the script went through many rewrites the producers had already secured Jack Nicholson for the role. Warren Skaaren who was the last credited screenwriter made his revisions and the age of Jack Napier changed to suit a middle aged man. The final revelation about the real killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne was a last minute addition by Tim Burton and Warren Skaaren in order to raise the stakes between Batman and Joker.