20 Years After ‘Batman & Robin’ Joel Schumacher and More Reveal What Really Happened

People behind the commonly dubbed “worst Batman movie ever made,” take a look back after 20 years since its debut. This film was so divisive that Warner Bros. sent our Dark Knight to movie jail for several years. However, this film has turned into a cult classic, and although there are moments where it’s just downright awkward (Batman on roller skates, RIP),  it had such a collection of big hits! Director Joel Schumacher collected such gems: George Clooney, Oscar nominee Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the world’s top and wanted actors of the time, a star line-up of actors, with great producers, it’s still shocking how poorly this film was received.

One of the many speculated reasons the movie tanked is because Batman & Robin fell victim to franchise-frenzy. Companies were trying to squeeze all they could out of Batman, which is why there was so much ridiculous camp. There was more focus on the commercial than there was placed in the actual movie. One paparazzi shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger was worth $10,000. Another reason was that it was an expensive cast. Schwarzenegger signed up for $25 million in 1997. He was paid 1 million per day he spent on set. “The cast ate the money up,” says producer Peter MacGregor-Scott. “It’s tough when you wake up in the morning and just spent $25 million! Oh dear. But he was great.”

The Hollywood Reporter presents us with some fun and not-so-fun facts behind the scenes of Batman & Robin, including Schwarzenegger’s battery acid leak… ouch.

Here’s something extra for all of you Batman & Robin conspiracy theorists out there. Storyboard artist Tim Burgard remembers working from an earlier script in which Mr. Freeze’s lines were written for someone more like Stewart than Schwarzenegger: “All the dialogue was for Mr. Freeze, you could tell it was meant for somebody who would deliver it in a Shakespearean fashion. It was hysterical; in my head, I was reading Freeze’s dialogue as Schwarzenegger.” As Burgard recounts it, subsequent versions of the script swapped out Freeze’s original lines for the puns that made it into the film (The Hollywood Reporter).

(An interesting fact on the above photo, Stogie Kenyatta, who played a thug working for Mr. Freeze said, “Jon Bon Jovi came by and he brought Cuban cigars for Arnold. So Arnold had them color it white so he could smoke it in the scenes.”)

Access Hollywood also aired audition tapes of men wanting to play the small role of Antonio Diego, little Bane before he bulked up. Michael Reid, the chosen actor says, “I just threw myself against the wall and screamed, the top of my lungs.” Those must have been some interesting audition tapes…

Clooney seemed like the chillest actor on set. An actor who played another of Mr. Freeze’s henchmen, Joe Sabatino had this to say about Clooney: “He definitely has a great game of basketball. Because they would always be playing pickup basketball games.” Sabatino has his own tale too, he once walked out onto the Warner Bros. lot during his lunch break for a workout, only to notice the woman working out next to him was Cindy Crawford. “At the time she was single, and I was like, ‘I’d really like to talk to you, but I look like a monster!'” he says. “She laughed and was really nice. I was like, when you get to meet Cindy Crawford, and you’re looking like a monster, it’s not that great a thing.”

(Just had to remind you of those skates, but onto more serious topics)

Alicia Silverstone, who played Batgirl, was a victim of body shaming. I wish this wasn’t something new, but it isn’t. It’s great to hear that the film crew was supporting Silverstone throughout, and director Joel Schumacher would say that he didn’t want to paint her as “just this little blond girl in a boarding school costume.” Yet, the way the media and public handled it was disgusting. There were jokes made that she could not fit into her costume.

There were a lot of Batmen, Robins and Mr. Freezes.

There was a Batman for every scene, including the scene with bat-skates.

“We had to have people for the ice skating, we had to have drivers, we had to have all the guys that could do the acrobatics.  We had several doubles for both Batman and Robin, because each guy brought a different skill set. One guy had to do all the incredible skating, one guy had to do the areal gymnastics.”

Says George, and the same went for Mr. Freeze.

We would have a couple of other Arnolds, standing around ready to get in their suits at any one time,” says Jeff Dawn, Schwarzenegger’s makeup artist.

“It was so easy to hide the real Arnold with all of that stuff on. It’s really important to the close-ups, and that’s about it. Everyone else could be a double or a stunt person. It’s so time-consuming and uncomfortable that we’d only use Arnold for what we needed Arnold for.”

So…bascially they paid him 1 million dollars per ice-pun?

Batman & Robin (1997) aka Batman and Robin
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Shown from left: George Clooney (as Bruce Wayne), Michael Gough (as Alfred Pennyworth)

Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman had expressed worries to Schumacher

And Schumacher admits that his worries were right. There was so much switching between the cast and crew, they were jumping projects with no time to rest.

As film composer, Elliott Goldenthal puts it: “It seems like you never have enough time, and seeing the posters all over Ventura Boulevard or Sunset Boulevard or the subways in New York, you are reminded how few days you have left to complete the project.” So it seems that it was an exhausting time.

With exhausted writers and directors and casts, it gives a strong recipe of a box office flop.

Still, Batman & Robin opened at No. 1 on June 20, 1997, with $42 million on its way to $238 million worldwide on a $125 million budget. It ended its box office run nearly $100 million short of Batman Forever‘s haul.

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 —,” Schumacher says, but the changes his tone after remembering the film’s most criticized factor, “The nipples! That was the greatest! That was the absolute greatest. That two rubber things, the size of pencil erasers would be a big f—ing deal.

However, even after all the scrutiny, the blame, Schumacher was surprised on how big this film has/had become. It’s a cult classic, reigniting so much of the world’s interest in Batman. Nowadays, you’re a questionable Batman fan if you hadn’t watched Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. He had fantasies of creating more, but now at age 77, says he’s fond of his past.

I think I’m one of the luckiest people that ever lived. I got my dream. I got it so much bigger than even I could have dreamed it,” he says. “You know, I’m just a kid whose parents died very young who was on his own and grew up behind a movie theater before TV, and I wanted to tell those stories, and look what happened.”

Arnold Schwarzenagger, Alicia Silverstone, Joel Schumacher, Chris O’Donnell & George Clooney (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)


Sharna Jahangir

Lover of all things Batman. A Masters of Information Science student at the U of Toronto. Passionate about defending citizens as much as Batman, a published in A.I. researcher at National Defense. Junior Editor at Engineering.com. A graphic artist, avid blogger, scientific analyst, Sharna's not the best at maintaining a secret identity, but more than strong enough to protect her loved ones.