It’s kind of ironic that the star of Batman Forever was actually only Batman once. Val Kilmer took over the role of the Dark Knight from Michael Keaton when Joel Schumacher grabbed the reins of the franchise from Tim Burton and steered it into a campier direction. The 1995 movie was a hit and Kilmer’s interpretation of Bruce Wayne has its fans, but nonetheless, George Clooney replaced him in the much-maligned Batman & Robin (1998).
So, why did Kilmer hang up his cape after just the single appearance? Well, the famously eccentric star spoke to The New York Times for an enlightening profile piece, during which the topic came up. Kilmer recalled how Warren Buffet and his family came to visit the set one day, so the actor made an effort to stay in his Batsuit for the kids. However, the tycoon’s grandchildren didn’t pay him any attention as they were too enthralled with the props and taking a ride in the Batmobile.
This resulted in Kilmer having a major revelation. “That’s why it’s so easy to have five or six Batmans,” he said, explaining his take on why audiences accept different actors under the cowl. “It’s not about Batman. There is no Batman.”
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In other words, the star ended up seeing the superhero as more of a cipher than an actual living, breathing character in his own right. Obviously, hardened Bat-fans would have some strong words to say in response to that, but in Kilmer’s defense, you can understand how he came to that conclusion while making Forever, which cut out a lot of the psychology of Burton’s movies, leaving Bruce less textured.
Of course, it’s also worth remembering that we’re not actually sure Kilmer did decide to vacate the role himself, as Schumacher has said he didn’t invite the actor back after he was such a pain during production, hence why famous nice guy Clooney stepped in for Robin. Whichever version of events is true, it’s clear that Kilmer had no desire to play Batman forever after his experiences on Batman Forever.