It's always interesting to hear what the experience of playing Batman is like, from those who have had to embody the character. It's especially interesting to hear from the small circle of actors who have played Batman in live-action, having to walk around in The Dark Knight's costume with some kind of deeper meaning and understanding behind his motivations. Well, Val Kilmer stepped into the Batman movie franchise at a pivotal time, starring in the 1995 Batman Forever film by Joel Schumacher. In a recent interview, Kilmer dropped a somewhat... unusual take on what makes Batman so appealing to the masses.
According to Val Kilmer, Batman is so popular because "There is no Batman."
Speaking to NYT, the Kilmer recounted a story from the set of Batman Forever where Warren Buffet came by to show his grandkids the set, and presumably meet Kilmer. According to the actor, the group was so enamored with the Batman costume and props, he was all but invisible. That's when Kilmer says he came to the idea that Batman isn't meant to be seen as a real person, "That’s why it’s so easy to have five or six Batmans. It’s not about Batman. There is no Batman.” The interviewer goes on to explain how Kilmer breaks it down further, saying that his time playing Batman was "torture" for the actor, as for him Batman was (essentially) a mannequin meant for fans to project onto, instead of an actual dynamic character for him to dig into as an actor.
There's a lot more to this in-depth feature on Kilmer, who has been out of the limelight for years, after suffering from an aggressive throat cancer (which he contends wasn't cancer, per se?). It left the actor's vocal chords decimated, and greatly altered his physical appearance, sparking all sorts of rumors in celebrity gossip circles. The interview makes it clear that Kilmer definitely has his own view of the world - one that some may deem, "eccentric" by certain standards...
More to the point, that explanation of Batman being a formless character for people to project onto, doesn't exactly do him any favors. Kilmer's Batman Forever performance was widely criticized for being flat, dry, and lacking charisma, with even kind reviewers like Roger Ebert calling him "completely acceptable," at best. So, perhaps Kilmer's experience with Warren Buffet revealed the wrong lesson? Maybe the actor should've considered that Batman is bigger than any actor ever playing him?
As it stands, this little anecdote from Kilmer may reshuffle some DC movie fans Batman actor ranking orders. How about yours?
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