Sean Young very much wanted the role of The Catwoman. During preproduction she arrived at the studio in a Catwoman costume to confront the makers of the movie. She used other people scouting the studio grounds, using walkie-talkies to communicate, to track down the producers. Tim Burton hid behind his desk so as to avoid seeing her. Young had been cast as Vicki Vale in Batman but was replaced after she broke her collarbone during filming.
Christopher Walken, remembering a film he'd seen previously, requested from director Tim Burton cuff-links made from human molars for his character, Max Shreck. The movie in question is The Great Gatsby, in which an unsavory friend of the title character, who had been involved in the 1919 World Series Black Sox scandal, sports a pair of molar cuff-links.
Neither Tim Burton nor Michael Keaton had been signed up in advance for a sequel; Burton came on board only after the script met all his demands (he hadn't been entirely happy with the first Batman's screenplay), whilst Keaton only agreed to do the second film after a serious hike in salary.
Sam Hamm's original screenplay draft had the Penguin and Catwoman going after hidden treasure. Dissatisfied with that, Tim Burton brought in Daniel Waters, writer of Heathers, who came up with the concept of an evil business mogul backing a bid for the Mayor's office by the Penguin.
Security was so tight on the production that even Kevin Costner was refused permission to visit the set. Warner Brothers employed a private investigator firm when some shots of Danny DeVito in costume made it into the tabloids.
The production wanted to use King Penguins but the only tame ones in captivity were at a bird sanctuary in the Cotswolds deep in the English countryside. So the birds were flown over to the States in the refrigerated hold of a plane, they were given their own refrigerated trailer, their own swimming pool with half a ton of fresh ice every day, and had fresh fish delivered daily straight from the docks. Even though the temperature outside frequently topped 100 degrees, the entire set was refrigerated down to 35 degrees. The birds also had a round-the-clock bodyguard. Clearly the birds enjoyed the experience as, following their stint in Hollywood, most of them had mated and produced eggs - the sure sign of a contented penguin.
In the US, McDonald's were forced to cancel a Happy Meals promotion with the film, after parents protested about its violent and sexual nature being inappropriate for young children. But The Coca-Cola Company continued its promotional run.
It was intended that the character of Robin be introduced in the sequel to Batman. Reportedly, Tim Burton collaborated with DC Comics artist Norm Breyfogle to redesign the Robin costume so that it would coincide with the one planned for the film. Kenner Toys even went so far as to produce a corresponding action figure, but when Robin was eventually written out of the script, Kenner released the toy anyway, as the character newly rendered in the comic books.
The first script draft of Batman Returns was intended to be a direct-sequel to the previous Batman. As a result, sub plots and continuity from the first film that would have been addressed included gift shops selling fragments of the destroyed Bat-Wing, further revelations into the past of the now deceased Jack Napier AKA Joker, and even Bruce Wayne proposing to Vicki Vale by the end of the film. However, Tim Burton was uncomfortable in making a direct sequel and as a result, the script was rewritten. However, several plot elements from the original script did make it into the final draft. This included the Penguin and Catwoman's alliance, their framing of Batman, and the Dark Knight's escape via Bat-Glider. Further elements even made their way into the third film, Batman Forever, most notably the storming of Wayne Manor and the Batcave.
Marlon Wayans was signed on to play Robin in this movie and Batman Forever - he even went through costuming for the five minutes that he appeared in the script. But when the script was re-written and Joel Schumacher took over as director, the role went to Chris O'Donnell. Wayans was paid for both movies.
When Selina is seated at her desk in Shreck's office, the lamp casts a shadow through her eyeglass frames, creating an outline of the pointed "cat's eye" mask that was worn by Catwoman in the original DC comic series and had also been featured as part of the costumes donned by Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt in Batman and Batman, respectively.
When the Penguin is being persuaded to run for mayor, Josh (Steve Witting) - one of Shreck's hired image consultants - places a cigarette holder in his mouth, which he promptly spits out. This not only serves as a reference to previous incarnations of the Penguin from both the Batman TV show and comic book series, but also, with the corresponding line - "Reclaim your birthright." - hints at what is more explicitly revealed in the back-story: that Tucker Cobblepot, the Penguin's birth father, once occupied a high-level political office in Gotham City. Tucker is also seen smoking a cigarette in a holder at the beginning of the film.
Warner Bros. had to constantly submit new Catwoman posters for various cities as many of the bus stop ads were being stolen. It soon got so bad that police officers had to patrol bus stops in order to catch perpetrators before they could break the Plexiglas containers. Today the large scale Catwoman bus ads are worth a great deal of money.
During an A&E Biography, Michelle Pfeiffer said that her Catwoman costume was vacuum sealed once she was fitted into it for scenes, so she actually had only a short amount of time to perform before she would have to have it opened or she could become light headed and pass out. She also admitted that when she first was learning to use the whip she accidentally cut her trainer's face with it, at which he acted as a complete gentleman and continued with their training.
The catsuit was so tight on Michelle Pfeiffer that she often had trouble hearing her own voice. Tim Burton had to tell her to lower her voice register because she would often shout her dialogue instead of just saying it.
The only Batman sequel up to and including The Dark Knight to feature the same Batman actor from the previous film, with no supporting characters having been recast (Gordon, Alfred). Though Christian Bale reprises the title role in The Dark Knight, the characters of Rachel Dawes and Barbara Gordon are played by different actresses.
The makeup artists who created the Penguin's look decided to move away from previous depictions of the character. Instead of just giving Danny DeVito a pointy nose, they created prosthetics to make his face look more "avian". Additionally, they studied deformities such as curvature of the spine and syndactyly. Some comic book artists (such as Tim Sale) subsequently drew the Penguin as "deformed" in different Batman comics.
In an interview for television, Stan Winston told a little anecdote about how his crew were collecting the mechanical penguins after a day's shoot and found one of the live penguins snuggled up asleep against a mechanical one.
According to the book 'Movie Magic' by 'Robin Cross', Penguin's army consisted of real penguins, actors in glass fiber suits, animatronic puppets controlled by puppeteers, and computer animation. A technique called flocking was used where several penguins would imitate a master penguin, allowing control over large numbers.
When asked during a 2007 talk show appearance if she ever felt nostalgic and put on cat suit to amuse her husband, Michelle Pfeiffer stated that once filming was over, she never wanted to see the costume again for as long as she lived.
When Michelle Pfeiffer moved house in 2004, she found the whip she had used during filming. Feeling reminiscent, the actress went out to her yard and attempted some whip play, but according to her she was "a bit rusty."
Bruce Wayne chastises Alfred, saying "Who let Vicki Vale into the Batcave?" This is actually writer Sam Hamm's none-to-subtle jab at the rewrites give to his script by Warren Skaaren. Hamm's script never included a scene where Alfred leads Vicki into the cave, and as the script was re-written during production, Hamm felt this was a particularly sloppy revision.
The final Christmas ball scene is quite symbolic: since it is a masque party all the guests are in disguise. The only two guests there who actually aren't wearing masks are Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. This implies that their real personalities are Batman and Catwoman respectively, and that their public appearance without a costume is just a disguise for the society.
Although this is considered to be the darkest of the four original Batman films, it was lambasted as too grotesque and pessimistic. Strangely enough it is the only one of the four films which does not include a single reference to the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents (which was always regarded as the crucial driving force for his anti-criminal crusade).
The first Batman film in the original series in which the actor playing Batman (Michael Keaton) gets top-billing followed by the actor playing the main villain (Danny DeVito as the Penguin). In Batman, Keaton was behind Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker (although during the end credits of that film, Keaton was top-billed over Nicholson).
A Penguin action figure based on his comic book counterpart was released as part of Kenner's line of figures based on the film, as Danny DeVito's image of the character was deemed too scary for kids. The figure in fact was a repaint of the Penguin action figure released in 1980s Super Powers Collection toy-line by Kenner (the original one had a blue costume, whereas the one released to promote the film has a black costume).
The character Vicki Vale from Batman (played by Kim Basinger) was going to made her return to this film. She was featured in Sam Hamm's early draft of the film when it was intended to be a direct sequel of the previous one, but due to the fact that Tim Burton doesn't like making sequels, decided to exclude her. She's only mentioned during the conversation between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, where Bruce mentions that Vicki ended their relationship because ultimately she could not accept his dual life, as well as when Bruce reminds Alfred of him letting her into the Batcave in the first film. According to Entertainment Weekly, Basinger was also a rumored candidate for the role of Catwoman, a role that was also planned for Sean Young, who had been cast as Vicki Vale in Batman but ultimately replaced by Basinger after Young broke her collarbone during filming. Michelle Pfeiffer was also one of the actresses considered to play Vicki Vale in the previous film.
Tim Burton used a heavy animal motif throughout the film. There are several scenes involving bats, cats and penguins which symbolize Batman, Catwoman and the Penguin respectively (as evidenced by the film's tagline "The Bat, the Cat, the Penguin"). Also some of the Penguin's goons have their own pets (Organ Grinder has a monkey and the Poodle Lady a dog).
1992 was a year with a unifying theme for Steve Witting -- that of getting assaulted and removed from scenes by characters played by Danny DeVito. First, in Hoffa, he appears in a single scene as a representative of the federal government investigating in Jimmy Hoffa's office, where he is promptly shoved and kicked out by Danny Devito's Bobby Ciaro. Then, in his only other movie that year, he has the unfortunate distinction of a slightly meatier role, in which his nose is nearly bitten off by DeVito's Penguin in a more memorable scene of Batman Returns.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final shot of the film, in which Catwoman is seen looking at the Bat-signal, was added as an afterthought, literally weeks before the film opened. The shot had to be filmed on a weekend, less than a day after conception, with a double for Michelle Pfeiffer. That single shot cost $250,000.
Daniel Waters's original script originally had the Bat-Signal blinking on and off at the end of the film as a sign that Selena's electrocution of Max had disrupted the power supply of the city. Tim Burton instead opted to end the film with Catwoman looking out at the signal over a snowy sky, hinting at her survival and possible appearance in a future film.
The character of Max Shreck was a re-write of District Attorney Harvey Dent; accordingly, most of his plot points would have perhaps made more sense if Shreck were D.A. instead of a corrupt businessman. The explosion at the end of the film was a means to injure Dent and produce the scars that would lead to his transformation into Two-Face for the third movie in the series. Reportedly, Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent in the first Batman movie because he knew that the character would eventually become Two-Face. Williams' contract to appear in the sequel is rumored to have been bought out by Warner Bros. at a heavy price.