Director Joel Schumacher, who died on Tuesday at the age of 80, leaves behind a complicated legacy. While on one hand he is credited for introducing audiences to the talents of Matthew McConnaughey, on the other, he has long been accused of ruining the Batman franchise.
On the 20th anniversary of 1997’s Batman & Robin, Schumacher apologised to fans for letting them down. “Look, I apologize. I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed because I think I owe them that. A lot of it was my choice,” he told VICE. “No one is responsible for my mistakes but me.”
Elaborating on the decision to hire George Clooney for the title role, Schumacher said, “[Clooney] was an obvious choice because he was a rising star on ER. I had a talk with him and he was like, ‘Alright, if you do it I’ll do it.’”
Batman & Robin was critically reviled for its campy tone, lurid sets, and hyper-sexualised costumes. “I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby,” Schumacher reflected on the fan dissent.
Clooney was hired after actor Val Kilmer dropped out. Kilmer played Batman in Batman Forever, also directed by Schumacher. “What’s interesting to me is if you see Tim [Burton’s] and my version, you can see how innocent viewers were back then. It’s really interesting to me, because if you see Tim’s and my [films], you’d understand how innocent the audience was back then when it demanded to have more of a family-friendly Batman. Then when you see Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, the last one especially where he’s dealing with real class and economic problems, you see how the audience has changed in the fact that they can accept and want darker and darker subject matter.”
It would take several years for Warner Bros to recover from the failure of Batman & Robin. In 2005, Christopher Nolan rebooted the series with Batman Begins. The character was once again recast with Ben Affleck, and then Robert Pattinson.
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