Batman Returns: 10 Things You Didn’t Know

Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer) in Batman Returns

Warner Bros.

The follow-up to Tim Burton’s 1989 reimagining of the Dark Knight, Batman Returns, is a fan favourite! This gothic flick sees Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader return to battle against two worthy adversaries: Michelle Pfieffer’s enchanting Catwoman and Danny Devito’s devious Penguin.

Here are 10 things you might not have known about the film… 

1) The monkey bit Danny Devito’s crotch 

Danny Devito as The Penguin in Batman Returns
Warner Bros.

Talking on the Graham Norton show, Danny Devito explained that the Penguin make-up terrified the monkey on set. During a dry run where the monkey was supposed to climb down the set and deliver a note to the Penguin, the animal leaped at his crotch, and sank his teeth in. Fortunately, there was enough padding to stop the monkey from doing any damage. 

2) Jack Nicholson played a part in the casting of the Penguin 

Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman
Warner Bros.

Danny Devito was convinced to accept the role of The Penguin by a friend – none other than Jack Nicholson, the Joker himself! Nicholson had done extremely well in financial terms from Tim Burton’s 1989 reimagining of Batman, so he assured his friend it was worth accepting the villainous role in its sequel. 

3) Danny Devito refused a body double for a fruit throwing scene 

Oswald Cobblepott in Batman Returns
Warner Bros.

It’s very common for big Hollywood stars to have body doubles for less pleasant or more physically demanding / punishing scenes. For the scene where the Penguin (or Oswald Cobblepot) is pelted with fruit by an angry crowd, Danny Devito was offered a body double. The actor refused, however, and took the onslaught of fruit himself. 

4) Michelle Pfieffer was vacuum sealed in her costume 

Michael Pfieffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns
Warner Bros.

One of the most iconic costumes in movie history, Michelle Pfieffer’s skin-tight Catwoman suit made a lot of jaws drop when the film was released in 1992. To make the suit extra tight, once she had slipped into it each day, a vacuum was used to suck any air out. This meant that Pfieffer could only manage filming for short bursts before she became too light headed. She got through sixty catsuits during filming. 

5) The animatronic and real penguins bonded well 

Penguins with rockets in Batman returns
Warner Bros.

For the Penguin’s enormous army of birds, the film used a mixture of real king penguins that had been shipped over from captivity in England, alongside animatronic penguins. One day, when they were packing away the animatronic birds, they found a real penguin cuddled up against it, sleeping. 

6) Michael Keaton requested a zipper for the Batman Returns costume 

Michael Keaton in Batman Returns
Warner Bros.

Between 1989’s Batman and its 1992 sequel, there were a few subtle modifications made to the suit. One such modification was suggested by the lead actor himself. Having struggled to pee between takes on the first movie, Michael Keaton requested a zipper be part of the costume in Batman Returns. The designer obliged him. 

7) Burgess Meredith was offered a role in Batman Returns 

Burgess Meredith as Penguin in Batman
Warner Bros

In the original 1960s Batman series, which starred Adam West as the Caped Crusader, the villainous Penguin was played by Burgess Meredith. The actor was offered a cameo in Batman Returns, as Oswald Cobblepott’s father, who dumps his son’s carrycot into the sewer. Meredith was unwell at the time, and so the role ended up going to Paul Reubens instead. 

8) Michelle Pfieffer put a real bird in her mouth 

Catwoman eats a bird
Warner Bros.

For the scene where Catwoman puts the Penguin’s pet bird in her mouth, the crew had prepared small feathered puppets. However, Pfieffer decided that it didn’t look realistic enough, and so used a real bird instead. It definitely paid off, as in the finished film, the bird flies from her mouth, which never would have looked convincing with a puppet. 

9) Christopher Walken almost wasn’t cast because he scares Tim Burton 

Christopher Walken as Max Shreck
Warner Bros.

Walken was fantastic as Max Shreck, but he almost wasn’t offered the role. When the casting department suggested him to Tim Burton, the director said that it wasn’t a good idea. Prompted to explain what he meant, Burton confessed, ‘he scares the hell out of me.’ Of course, Walken was cast in the end, and Burton cast him again years later in Sleepy Hollow. 

10) The studio constantly had to replace stolen Catwoman bus stop ads 

Selina Kyle aka Catwoman
Warner Bros.

In promotion of the movie, posters of the film’s characters were put in bus stops throughout the states. The Catwoman posters were constantly being stolen. The studio had to send out countless replacements. It became such an issue that the police had to guard bus stops in certain cities. 

There you have it – 10 things you might not have known about Batman Returns!

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