George Clooney has revealed the lesson he learned from starring as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Joel Schumacher's 1997 film Batman & Robin. “I’d gotten killed for doing Batman & Robin and I understood for the first time — because quite honestly when I got Batman & Robin I was just an actor getting an acting job and I was excited to play Batman — what I realized after that was that I was going to be held responsible for the movie itself not just my performance or what I was doing. So I knew I needed to focus on better scripts, the script was the most important thing."
The lesson that being a headlining star also came with the burden of actually carrying a film, forever changed George Clooney's outlook on filmmaking. After Batman & Robin, he started approaching his career from this mantra: "You can’t make a good film out of a bad script, it’s impossible. You can make a bad film out of a good script."
Batman & Robin might've been a hard teachable moment for George Clooney, but it's served him well. Shcumacher's film was a breaking point of sorts for Clooney; he ended his run as a would-be hunky franchise leading man, and leaned into making more personal decisions about his career, partnering with eccentric auteurs like Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven), David O. Russell (Three Kings), Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and The Coen Brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty) as they all became Award-winning successes in the 2000s and 2010s. When Clooney wasn't helping catapult other directors to bigger heights, he also established himself as a filmmaking talent all his own, writing, producing, and directing films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Leatherheads, and The Men Who Star At Goats.
That's all to say: the pain of Batman & Robin arguably led to the box office success and award-winning prestige that George Clooney would enjoy in his career thereafter. Maybe everything actually does happen for a reason.
Still, Clooney isn't totally over the trauma of his failed Batman; the actor reportedly told Ben Affleck not to play Batman in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: "I’ve been a big flop and I’ve bombed in things. And, I’ve had big successes and it doesn’t mean that they listened. Ben didn’t listen to me and he ended up doing a great job and I was wrong. But, I can only impart my wisdom from my experience. I just said don’t have nipples on the suit."
George Clooney's new sci-fi drama Midnight Sky is currently streaming on Netflix.