George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Now Robert Pattinson: See Batman's Evolution On the Big Screen

The Twilight star is taking on the major role of playing the caped crusader

By Cydney Contreras Jun 01, 2019 12:26 AMTags
Robert Pattinson, Batman MaskNeilson Barnard/Getty Images/E! Illustration

Robert Pattinson is saying goodbye to the small town of Forks, Washington and hello to the big city of Gotham.

The Twilight star has officially been named as the man who will play Batman in the upcoming film The Batman, set to be directed by Matt Reeves. According to The Hollywood Reporter he beat out stars Nicholas HoultArmie Hammer and Aaron Taylor-Johnson for the highly-sought after job. 

By landing this role, Robert is joining an elite group of men who have played the caped crusader. Over the years, stars like Michael Keaton and George Clooney have tested out the iconic black suit, with Ben Affleck being the last star to drive the Batmobile.

However, not everyone is able to do the character justice. In February, Affleck said he was ready to pass on the torch. "I couldn't crack it... I thought it was time to let someone else take a shot at it. They got some really good people, so I'm excited," he explained. 

Why Robert Pattinson No Longer Hates "Twilight"

It's safe to say Pattinson is following in the footsteps of some major stars. But, no pressure!

Adam West

The star made history as one of the first stars to play Batman on both television and film, starring in the cult-classic 1960s ABC series and 1966 movie of the same name.

West, who died after a short battle with leukemia at the age of 88 in 2017, beat Lyle Waggoner for the role that would make him a household name after producer William Dozier saw him play the James Bond-like spy Captain Q in a Nestlé Quik commercial.

After Batman ended its three-season run in 1968, West lent his vocals to various animated projects related to the character over the years. West wrote in his 1994 autobiography that he was "profoundly disappointed" to not reprise the role in Tim Burton's 1989 movie, arguing that he could have "played the part differently" for the gothic take.

Michael Keaton

When fans debate who the O.G. Batman is, many point to Keaton as the clear winner. Along with Jack NicholsonDanny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer, who respectively played Joker, The Penguin and Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman in 1989 and Batman Returns in 1992, Keaton's performance set the standard and heightened audience's expectations for all the Batmans to come.

But Burtons decision to cast his Beetlejuice star was a controversial one at the time, with Warner Bros. receiving thousands of letters from fans in protest—and even some of the executives were skeptical.

"I thought they were joking when they told me Michael Keaton was cast," producer Michael Uslan admitted to The Hollywood Reporter. "We've been at this for seven-and-a-half years now to do a dark and serious Batman and they appeared to want to hire a comedian."

But for Burton, Keaton was the perfect choice for his darker take on Bruce Wayne. 

"They're somebody who's intelligent and kind of screwed up," Burton told Hollywood Reporter. "And Michael has such an intensity that it's like, 'Yeah, I could see that guy wanting to dress up as a bat.' It's all rooted in psychology, Jekyll and Hyde and two sides of a personality, light and dark, and he understood that."

After a successful two-movie stint, Keaton was set to reprise the role for a third time in Batman Forever, but ultimately hung up the cape and cowl after Joel Schumacher replaced Burton and he had creative differences with the filmmaker over the tone of the project.

"It was always Bruce Wayne. It was never Batman. To me, I know the name of the movie is Batman, and it's hugely iconic and very cool and... because of Tim Burton, artistically iconic," Keaton explained on In the Envelope: The Actors Podcast in January. "I knew from the get-go it was Bruce Wayne. That was the secret. I never talked about it. Batman, Batman, Batman does this, and I kept thinking to myself, 'Y'all are thinking wrong here.' Bruce Wayne. What kind of person does that?… Who becomes that? What kind of person?"

And after a 30-year break and a foray into the Marvel Universe as Spider-Man adversary Vulture, Keaton is returning as Batman in the upcoming Flash movie, set to be released on Nov. 4.

Val Kilmer

After Keaton stepped away from the cowl, the search was on to find Batman Forever's new leading man. An offer was made to Ethan Hawke, but he turned it down, a decision he later regretted.

"I just didn't want to go to the Knicks game and have everybody go, 'Wow, you were a great Batman!' That wasn't my f--king goal in life," Hawke told Details in 2013. "Now I wish I'd done it because I could have used it to do other things."

Kilmer reportedly beat out Keanu Reeves, Kurt Russell and Johnny Depp to become Schumacher's Batman. But the Top Gun star's stint was short-lived, with the actor choosing not to return for 1997's Batman and Robin after realizing audiences were more interested in the sets, props and suits than the actor. 

"That's why it's so easy to have five or six Batmans," Kilmer told The New York Times in 2020. "It's not about Batman. There is no Batman."

Schumacher's take? "He sort of quit," the late filmmaker admitted to Entertainment Weekly in 1996, "and we sort of fired him."

George Clooney

Oh, who could forget the 1997 film Batman & Robin? Well, its leading man certainly can't and likely wishes he could. In 2019, Clooney confessed he "wasn't good" in the role.

With the movie fast-tracked after the massive success of Batman Forever, Schumacher decided to bring "even more fun and games" to moviegoers. Before the ER star nabbed his titular role alongside Chris O'Donnell as Robin, the director was interested in casting William Baldwin to replace Kilmer. But after seeing Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn, Schumacher knew he had found his new Bruce Wayne. 

"George very much a man, a wonderful actor and, of course, he's extremely handsome," Schumacher told Film Scouts. "He not only looks very much like Bruce Wayne in the comic books...but I also think that George has brought a real humanity and humor to the piece, an accessibility that I don't think anybody else has been able to offer, and that's his unique contribution."

Unfortunately, Clooney's superhero stint was short and not-so-sweet, with critics ripping the movie apart and viewers failing to connect with the more cartoon-ish take. (Though it grossed $238 million at the box office, it has a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is viewed as one of the worst superhero movies of all time.)

"What I learned from that failure was that I had to rethink how I was working because now I wasn't just an actor getting a role, I was being held responsible for the film itself," Clooney told The Hollywood Reporter.

And when asked during a 2021 Q&A if he would ever don the suit again, Clooney joked, "I did one superhero movie and I f--ked it up so bad they won't let me near the set." 

At least we will always have the bat nipples.

Christian Bale

Bale took the character to new heights and became a generation-defining superhero with a darker, edgier interpretation of the well-known character in Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed trilogy.

 For 2005's Batman Begins, the search for the new Bruce Wayne was vast, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson, future Superman Henry Cavill, Eion Bailey and Cillian Murphy all testing for the role, with Murphy later being cast as the villainous Scarecrow. Josh Hartnett revealed in 2015 that he turned down the part, and Nolan said he met with Heath Ledger, who had no interest in superhero movies at the time. (The late actor would go on to win a posthumous Oscar for his iconic turn as the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight.)

Ironically, Bale was the first potential Batman Nolan met with in relation to the project, with the filmmaker talking about the actor's audition in a Warner Bros. featurette.

"The testing process on this kind of performance, it's not about acting ability or chemistry or any of those things," Nolan explained. "It's about being able to project this extraordinary iconography, really, from the inside. It's visual iconography. Christian, somehow he figured this out before the screen test. That you could not give a normal performance. You could not give an ordinary performance. You had to project massive energy through this costume, in order to not question the costume."

After losing a third of his body weight for The Machinist, Bale had just six weeks to get in superhero shape after getting the Bat Signal. 

"My metabolism had to get back up to speed, because my heart had got used to a whole different way of living for some time," Bale told the BBC.

 He returned to his regular weight by eating high-calorie foods and then packed 35 pounds of muscle on top of it, before realizing he overdid it.  "Actually, I gained too much weight in the run-up to Batman Begins," Bale told Train. "I wasn't the size that Christopher Nolan wanted, so I had to cut down 20 pounds or so just before shooting—I was a lot beefier at first."

Bale suited up for three films, ending his watch in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, with many calling his Bruce Wayne/Batman the most definitive. But the star admitted to being disappointed with his take. 

"I didn't quite manage what I hoped I would throughout the trilogy," Bale told Yahoo Movies in 2016. "Chris did, but my own sense of self is like, 'I didn't quite nail it.'"

Ben Affleck

Even after being warned by George Clooney, the actor didn't realize the immense pressure that came with playing Bruce Wayne when he signed on to play the superhero in 2013 and the Internet immediately dubbed him Batfleck.

After starring in several ensemble DC movies (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League, plus an uncredited cameo in Suicide Squad), Affleck never made his own standalone film, though he was initially set to star and direct one. After Affleck stepped down in 2017, Matt Reeves was brought in to reboot the franchise. 

"I tried to direct a version of it and worked with a really good screenwriter, but just couldn't come up with a version, I couldn't crack it," Affleck told Jimmy Kimmel in 2019. "So I thought it was time to let someone else take a shot at it. They got some really good people, so I'm excited."

David Mazouz

Mazouz was cast as a young Bruce Wayne in Gotham, Fox's prequel series about Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) before he became the police commissioner. And after five seasons, the actor finally got to wear the iconic cape when the show staged a 10-year time-jump in its series finale in 2019. He shared the responsibility with another actor, Mikhail Mudrik, who helped bring the older version of Batman to life.

"David is a strapping young man, but our Batman suit is for someone who is 6-foot-4," showrunner John Stephens explained to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And yet the face that you see under the cowl is a hundred percent David Mazouz's face."

When it came to perfecting his Batman growl, Mazouz revealed he received advice from McKenzie, who voiced the Caped Crusader in the 2011 animated series, Batman: Year One.

Will Arnett

Okay, so technically the comedian never physically donned the iconic black suit, but the Lego Movie just wouldn't have been the same without the vocal talents of the Arrested Development star—which is why he got a stand-alone spin-off, The Lego Batman Movie.

Robert Pattinson

Goodbye, Batfleck. Hello, RBattz.

Twitter nearly combusted when it was announced in May 2019 that the Twilight star would be sporting the iconic cape in Matt Reeves' The Batman. Other contenders for the role included Nicholas Hoult, Armie Hammer and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

After rocketing to superstardom as the vampire Edward Cullen, Reeves said he was impressed by the British actor's unusual career choices, particularly his performance in Good Time

"I thought, 'He's got this kind of Batman intensity to him,'" the director told the Toronto Sun. "But there was also a real vulnerability in his eyes that made me say, 'This is the guy.' It's funny, I started writing the movie for Rob having no idea if he would want to do it." 

Given his streak of indie movies, even Pattinson's agent was surprised when he said he was interested in playing Batman. 

"I was very, very focused on it, and I don't know why," Pattinson admitted to Jennifer Lopez during an appearance on Variety's Actors on Actors series. "It just kind of kept coming back into my head."

For Pattinson, it was Reeves' more psychological take on the character that appealed to him. 

"Normally, when you see Batman he arrives and beats people up," he told GQ. "But he's having conversations, and there are emotional scenes between them, which I don't think have been in any of the other movies."

Still, the role was taxing, with the Tenant actor calling his time as Batman "by far the most difficult thing I have ever done."

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