Michael Keaton Kept Ex Michelle Pfeiffer From Role in First "Batman"
They dated before the first time he starred as Bruce Wayne.
While Michelle Pfeiffer is known for her iconic portrayal of Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, in 1992's Batman Returns, she came close to having her first encounter with the Dark Knight three years earlier. Producers actually picked her to play Bruce Wayne's photojournalist love interest Vicki Vale in 1989's Batman. However, due to objections raised by star Michael Keaton, her ex, Pfeiffer was shut out of the film, and the role ultimately went to Kim Basinger. Read to learn why Keaton opposed Pfeiffer's casting and how she eventually got her chance to make her mark on the franchise.
Another actor had the part before Pfeiffer or Basinger.
Long before either Pfeiffer or Basinger were considered for the role, yet another actor had nabbed the part, which originally included a couple of horseback riding scenes, according to Den of Geek. That actor was Sean Young, known for her parts in Blade Runner and Dune. However, while brushing up on her equestrian skills in the weeks before filming, Young was thrown off a horse and sustained a fracture that caused her to lose the job. Ironically, the horseback scenes were later cut.
Producers eyed Michelle Pfeiffer as her replacement.
Following Young's departure, producers set out to find a new Vale. While Basinger ultimately secured the part, actor Robert Wuhl (who played reporter Alexander Knox) revealed there was some behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the casting in a 2019 Hollywood Reporter look back at the film for its thirtieth anniversary.
According to him, the powers-that-be "were very happy to replace [Young]," following a reading where she complained that her character's role had been reduced. However, Wuhl also said that producer Jon Peters had originally hoped to put not Basinger, but Michelle Pfeiffer in Young's place.
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Keaton was "firmly" against casting Pfeiffer.
That choice was reportedly vetoed by the Batman star because Keaton and Pfeiffer had recently dated, presumably while he was separated from his wife, Benson actor Caroline McWilliams.
"To put a little fly in the ointment, Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer had previously dated and broken up," Wuhl said. "At the time, Michael told me he was trying to get back with his ex-wife. Keaton was firmly, and underline firmly, against that casting of Pfeiffer and he and Peters got into it."
Keaton's word prevailed, and Basinger was approved and quickly flown out so filming could begin. Keaton and McWilliams divorced in 1990.
Pfeiffer almost missed out on playing Catwoman too.
Batman went on to be a blockbuster hit, earning more than $400 million at the box office. A sequel, Batman Returns, was soon in the works, and required casting a new female lead: the anti-heroic Catwoman. And both Pfeiffer and Young were eager for a second chance at the superhero franchise.
As part of her self-promotional campaign, Young delivered an audacious audition for the role while wearing a homemade catsuit and later appeared on The Joan Rivers Show explaining her unusual efforts. That was all in vain, however. Meanwhile, Pfeiffer was heartbroken when Annette Bening was initially cast, telling THR, "As a young girl, I was completely obsessed with Catwoman. When I heard that Tim [Burton] was making the film and Catwoman had already been cast, I was devastated."
Fortunately for Pfeiffer, Bening became pregnant and dropped out, leading to Pfeiffer being offered the role that famously had her hold a live bird in her mouth, chug milk by the quart, and lick Batman's face. This time, her casting was an apparent non-issue for Keaton, who had finalized his divorce from McWilliams in 1990.