Batman & Robin turns 20 years old today! Director Joel Schumacher and some of the cast look back at the most polarizing installment of the 1990s Batman series. Included is a horrifying story about the time battery acid leaked into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mouth. Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, which was Burton’s second and final Batman movie. To many, it was also the last good Batman movie until Christopher Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight in 2005. 1997 saw the release of Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, a movie that fans and critics tore apart, making it out to be the nail in the coffin for the Batman series that Burton had started.
Though there are plenty of reasons why the movie didn’t perform to expectations, the first reason would have to be the hunger to keep the franchise going. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Batman & Robin was going to happen no matter what, with or without Schumacher. The director also admits that the movie might have been a little too franchise heavy and learned what it means to make a movie that is “when you have something in the movie that they can make toys out of.” The movie was also rushed and saw a fourth person in 8 years to portray Batman. Schumacher had previously worked with Val Kilmer for Batman Forever and it was assumed that Kilmer would be involved with the fourth movie. That was not to be the case. Schumacher says this.
“Batman Forever, when we were on the world tour, it just went to (Kilmer’s) head. I’m not going to get into that. He wanted to do Island of Doctor Moreau because Marlon Brando was going to be in it. So he dropped us at the 11th hour.”
George Clooney would famously step in to wear the infamous Batman suit that showcased his nipples, another odd decision for a movie that was pretty odd to begin with. Uma Thurman signed on to play Poison Ivy after Schumacher saw her on the cover of Vanity Fair. The director also shoots down the myth that Julia Roberts was originally wanted to play Poison Ivy. Schumacher says this.
“Julia and I did two movies together back to back. We’re friends. She would have picked up the phone and called me.”
Robert “Jeep” Swenson was chosen to play Bane after the stuntmen on Batman Returns recommended him. Schumacher said, “I think he had the biggest biceps on record at the time. He was a sweet guy with a young family.” Swenson unexpectedly died of heart failure at the age of 40 soon after the premier of the movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast to play the main villain, Mr. Freeze. Schumacher also debunks another myth that Patrick Stewart was originally up to play the villain, “it’s a wonderful idea, but no one ever suggested him.” But, Storyboard editor Tim Burgard seems to remember that the original lines for Mr. Freeze were written in a more “Shakespearean” style, which seems to suggest that someone other than Schwarzenegger was up for the part. Nevertheless, Schwarzenegger received top billing with a hefty payday of $25 million or about $1 million a day.
Celebrities like Jessie Ventura and Jon Bon Jovi would stop by the set to hang out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and smoke cigars. Bon Jovi would hand deliver the Cuban cigars to the set, which Schwarzenegger would have painted white so that he could smoke them during filming (for real). There was an 11 person team required to get the actor into his makeup and costume for Mr. Freeze. The team had to work fast because Schwarzenegger had a strict 12-hour limit per day written into his contract and would have handlers feeding him and massaging his hands while he was in the makeup chair.
Makeup artist Jeff Dawn recalls spraying Arnold’s face with Christmas tree flocking, which may or may not have been poisonous. Dawn does remember battery acid leaking into Schwarzenegger’s mouth from the red LED light that was held between his teeth and tongue. Arnold was not happy and would shout, “It tastes like s$#%! What’s in my mouth?” Hopefully that moment is captured somewhere because that could definitely become a new signature phrase for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor also agreed to shave his head for the part, but chickened out at the last minute, adding an additional 1 hour and 45 minutes to apply a bald cap in the makeup chair.
Alicia Silverstone was brought on to play Batgirl in hopes that young women would come to see Batman & Robin in theaters. She was a teenager at the time and was the victim of body shaming on the set and in public thanks to the cruel joke of storyboard editor Tim Burgard. At the time it was rumored that the young actress was having trouble fitting into the tiny Batgirl costume. Burgard says this.
“I heard she was in the costume department being synched into a corset to fit into what they were going to try to do the costume. So I did a cartoon of what I thought she looked like… I did it as a movie poster, Clueless 2: The Casting of Batgirl. It was a private joke, just the guys in the art department.”
The joke drawing got out, but Burgard got to keep his job because he “luckily” never signed it. What a great guy. Schumacher says that he wanted Batgirl and Robin to have a competitive edge, so that’s why he threw in that wacky motorcycle stuff.
Contrary to popular belief, Joel Schumacher didn’t have another Batman movie idea that he wanted to do before Batman & Robin. Fans have long thought that the director wanted to do Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Schumacher says that was not the case at all. In the end, the movie was a critical flop. Schumacher explains.
“It was such a scandal! It was like I had murdered babies or something, and in hindsight, I’d say wasn’t it an innocent world where a Batman movie , which was from comic books could be, The nipples! That was the greatest! The absolute greatest. That two rubber things, the size of erasers would be a big f$%^&*$ deal.”
Joel Schumacher has taken the blame for failure of the movie and he has apologized over and over again. There are many flaws to the movie, but at least it seems like for the most part, they had fun making it. George Clooney would dominate during pickup basketball and Arnold Schwarzenegger got to drink battery acid.