It Wasn’t Batman Forever for Kilmer
It is a question being asked all over Hollywood: Has actor Val Kilmer made a blunder of legendary proportions by letting the lead role in “Batman and Robin"--Warner Bros. fourth installment of the Caped Crusader--slip away?
Not since Alec Baldwin walked away from the Jack Ryan role in Paramount Pictures’ franchise of films based on Tom Clancy’s best-sellers--only to be supplanted by Harrison Ford in “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Games"--have insiders wondered why an actor would seemingly not do everything possible to hold on to such a bankable role.
George Clooney, the heartthrob star of NBC’s hospital drama “ER,” captured the coveted role of Batman this week after Kilmer reportedly got into a nasty spat with Warner Bros.
Some say that although Kilmer wanted desperately to do the part, Warner Bros. wanted guarantees that there would be no scheduling conflicts when Kilmer films “The Saint” for Paramount. Others say it was merely a case of a talented but difficult actor making demands on a studio that sees the “Batman” franchise as more important than any actor.
"[Kilmer] really wanted it,” said one source familiar with the negotiations. “His agents won’t admit it, but they played their cards the wrong way. In a friendly way, scheduling can be worked out. But if you make threatening demands, [the other party] will say, ‘Don’t threaten me,’ and threaten you back. If you are nice, everybody likes you.”
Rick Nicita, Kilmer’s agent at Creative Artists Agency, declined to comment, as did other parties involved in the deal.
On Friday, sources confirmed that Clooney was offered a deal by Warner Bros. between $25 million to $28 million to star in “Batman and Robin” and two additional films.
In fact, sources stressed that the deal with Clooney has been set for some time, as has a deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger to star as the villain Mr. Freeze. Scheduling conflicts with both actors, however, still need to be resolved. Already signed to co-star are Chris O’Donnell as Robin, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.
Clooney is to start filming soon on “One Fine Day” with Michelle Pfeiffer for 20th Century Fox. After that, he has signed with DreamWorks SKG to make “The Peacekeeper,” a role that will take him around the world, including Croatia. He is also in the second year of a five-year contract with “ER,” which is produced by Warner Bros., and has pledged to carry out the contract.
To understand why Warner Bros. would go with another actor, one has only to look back at the history of the “Batman” franchise and its importance to Warner Bros. The first two films starred Michael Keaton. “Batman” in 1989 grossed $251 million domestically while the sequel, “Batman Returns” in 1992, took in $163 million.
Sources said Keaton got 10% of the gross for the second film and wanted more for the third installment, “Batman Forever.” Meanwhile, Robin Williams had wanted a percentage of the gross to be cast as the Riddler. Warner Bros. balked and signed Jim Carrey for $6 million and no gross points. The studio also hired Kilmer.
But while Kilmer proved to be a comfortable replacement for Keaton, stories surfaced about his behavior on and off the set. “He’s petulant, selfish,” said one source, noting that Kilmer fired four drivers in three days and was abusive with some people connected with the production. Troubles also surfaced in his private life. His marriage to actress Joanne Whalley-Kilmer--who was pregnant at the time--was falling apart.
In recent weeks, stories surfaced in the trade press that Kilmer wanted his friend Robert Towne to do the script on “Batman and Robin,” even though director Joel Schumacher insisted on Akiva Goldsman, who was an integral writer on “Batman Forever.”
Still, Kilmer has his defenders. They note that there has been no shortage of work for the actor. He recently completed “Ghost in the Darkness” with Michael Douglas for Paramount and sources say the picture was finished under budget and Kilmer was a dream to work with.