Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, and More Stars Who’ve Played Batman

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    If the suit fits! Batman is arguably one of the most iconic superheroes to ever be created, but not all have been lucky enough to strap up as the caped crusader.

    George Clooney, Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer are part of a growing list of actors who have stepped into the dual role of billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman. Lewis Wilson was the first to don the suit for 1943’s Batman, followed by Robert Lowery in The New Adventures of Batman & Robin in 1949. However, of the stars who have been so fortunate, Christian Bale’s performance is among those that’s resonated with fans years after his run as the iconic character.

    Bale starred as the caped crusader in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” franchise in the late 2000s. The Fighter actor spoke to The Guardian in 2016 about what he believed that he could have done better in the role. “I didn’t quite manage what I hoped I would through the trilogy. [Director] Chris [Nolan] did, but my own sense of self is like, ‘I didn’t quite nail it,’” he explained.

    “Batman, he’s this very, very dark, messed-up character,” he continued. “I found when I put on the suit I went, ‘I just feel like a bloody idiot if I don’t use this as a means to [show] his true, monstrous self that he allows to come out in that moment.’”

    Affleck succeeded Bale in 2017’s Justice League and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Neither film was well-received by critics, but the DC Extended Universe installments each earned more than $500 million at the worldwide box office. (Justice League raked in $657.9 million, while Batman v Superman drummed up $873.6 million, according to IMDb’s Box Office Mojo.)

    The Academy Award winner confirmed his departure from the DCEU in January 2019. Thereafter, Warner Bros. announced in May 2019 that Robert Pattinson would be the next Batman. In the upcoming film directed by Matt Reeves, Zoë Kravitz was also tapped to star as Selina Kyle — a.k.a. Catwoman. (Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Pfeiffer have previously played Selina Kyle/Catwoman.)

    “Batman’s not a hero,” Pattinson said in a New York Times profile from October 2019. “He’s a complicated character. I don’t think I could ever play a real hero — there’s always got to be something a little bit wrong. I think it’s because one of my eyes is smaller than the other one.”

    Pattinson’s turn as the Dark Knight was slated to hit theaters in June 2021, but production was shut down amid 2020’s novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Scroll down to see the actors that have tackled the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, across film and television, over the years.

    Adam West

    The late star played the superhero with great believability for three seasons on the 1960s live-action series Batman. He starred on the show alongside Burt Ward, who played Dick Grayson/Robin — Batman’s sidekick. Later in his career, he revisited the role again by voicing Batman in two direct-to-video movies: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders in 2016 and Batman vs. Two-Face in 2017.

    Speaking to Moviefone the year before his 2017 death, West shared his biggest takeaway from playing Batman. “Well, the only feeling I really have almost every day is I’m the luckiest actor in the world,” he said in 2016. “How many of us, maybe [William] Shatner, [Clint] Eastwood, a few, get a chance to become an icon of a kind, and do something that has life, longevity, and makes people happy? Hey, I guess they’re calling me ‘The Bright Knight.’ I like to make people happy. Enough violence. Enough explosions, you know?”

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    Michael Keaton

    The Academy Award nominee appeared in Batman in 1989. Keaton’s casting in the Tim Burton-directed flick was a controversial choice at the time due to his comedic background, sparking criticism from die-hard fans. However, the celebrated actor ultimately won audiences over with his take on the brooding character.

    In 2017, while gearing up to appear as Spider-Man’s nemesis in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Keaton dished on whether he prefers to play the hero or the villain. “They’re both fun. I think actors tend to be drawn toward, not necessarily villainous, but [yeah] probably villainous characters,” he said during the Marvel film’s press conference, per Den of Geek. “It kind of tends to be often true when you delve into the dark side, it gets interesting. Because the reality is the lead or hero sometimes by the nature of the piece has to be, not one-dimensional, but has to represent a thing very strongly. Whereas supporting actors or character actors often — they’re more dimensional.”

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    Christian Bale

    The Welsh-born star played Batman/Bruce Wayne across three films in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy: Batman Begins in 2005, The Dark Knight in 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. The franchise’s last two films grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

    Ahead of the Dark Knight Rises’ release, Bale opened up to Collider about whether he would miss wearing the Batman suit. “For all the discomfort and the heat and the sweat and the headaches and everything from it, when you sit back and watch the movie at the end of the day, you go: ‘Well, that’s f–king cool. I will miss that, I liked the good bit of rubber,’” he said at the time.

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    Val Kilmer

    Kilmer succeeded Keaton in the dual role in 1995’s Batman Forever, but this was a part he only got to play once in his career. During an appearance at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo in 2012, he compared Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy to his own Batman film.

    “[Nolan’s films] are doing what I hoped we would do, but didn’t do. I think because of Tim Burton’s success on the first film and [Jack] Nicholson being so amazing that they kind of got carried away with the idea of the bad guy being immune to rules somehow,” he explained. “In the original film, the Joker gets the hell kicked out of him and thrown off the bell tower. He suffers, and that sort of went away. Things became cute. It’s entertaining, but I think what they’re doing with the Batman films now is more in the original spirit of the character.”

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    Lewis Wilson

    Wilson was the first actor cast to play the Dark Knight for Batman in 1943. He was also the youngest actor to tackle the role at 23. His performance faced criticism for his voice as Batman and his physique.

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    Will Arnett

    It’s no secret that Arnett boasts an incredibly charming voice. Arguably, this makes the Arrested Development alum the perfect choice to voice the fictional hero in the Lego Movie franchise. Arnett has appeared as Batman in both The Lego Movie in 2014 and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part in 2019. He also scored his own spinoff with 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie — a flick that earned $311.9 million worldwide.

    In a 2017 profile with the Los Angeles Times, Arnett revealed that he carefully considered the character’s motivations and how he’d tackle the role before coming on board. “Lego Batman doesn’t know that he is an animated character — and by that, I mean, I approached him as a character I’m playing with an inner life,” the BoJack Horseman alum explained. “I’m not just talking in that voice.”

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    Ben Affleck

    Affleck only appeared in two films as the caped crusader: Justice League in 2017 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. His version of the caped crusader also made a cameo in Suicide Squad in 2016. However, he never starred in a solo Batman film before parting ways with the part in 2019.

    In March 2020, Affleck revealed why he decided to pass on the chance to be Batman again in favor of appearing in The Way Back, a film that follows a character who struggles with alcoholism. “I had an opportunity to write and direct and star in a stand-alone Batman and it happened in a point in my life when I lost interest in those stories,” he explained in an interview with YouTuber DeWayne Hamby for BeliefNet. “I’ll go see Robert [Pattinson]’s [movie]. I think it’s gonna be great. He’s great. But this is the kind of story I’m interested in telling now.”

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    Robert Lowery

    Lowery was the second actor to play Batman on the big screen. In 1949, he donned the suit for The New Adventures of Batman & Robin. His turn as the Dark Knight was better received than his predecessors.

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    George Clooney

    The Academy Award winner played the caped crusader in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin in 1997, but the film was panned amongst critics and fans alike. Years after the film’s release, Clooney, told Variety in April 2019 that he “screwed it up so badly.” He also told Deadline in September 2013 that the poorly-received movie is “a cautionary reminder of what can happen when you make movies solely for commercial reasons.”

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    Kevin Conroy

    Conroy has gone the majority of his career — more than 27 years — helming the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, beginning with Batman: The Animated Series from 1992 to 1995. Thereafter, he continued to lend his voice to the Dark Knight in an assortment of animated spinoffs, including Justice League Action and Superman: The Animated Series.

    Outside the cartoon realm, Conroy made an appearance on The CW’s Catwoman series as Bruce Wayne opposite Ruby Rose’s Catwoman/Selina Kyle. “The wonderful thing is that Ruby, whom most of my work was with, is an incredibly generous and supportive actress,” he told Nerdist in December 2019 of working with Rose. “She’s very giving, and I felt really safe with her. Because I hadn’t done anything on-camera in terms of acting in almost 25 years! My career took a voice-over hard right in the mid 90s.”

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    Diedrich Bader

    Bader stepped up to voice the character for Batman: The Brave & The Bold, which aired from 2008 to 2011 for three seasons. His extensive background in voice acting, including films like Ice Age and shows such as Lloyd in Space, only furthered his ability in capturing the iconic character’s voice.

    Bader previously opened up about his process for finding the voice of an animated character. “You do want to come in with ideas but you don’t want to be too locked in, because they may have different ideas,” he explained to Verité Entertainment in 2016. “One of the fun things about it is getting in and creating something in a room with somebody. You have to be completely open, but you have to read the script multiple times so that you can get the sense of humor, what they’re doing [and] where they’re going.”

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    Robert Pattinson

    The Good Time actor was cast in the coveted part in 2019, beating out Nicholas Hoult and Armie Hammer after Affleck announced his departure that same year. Though a teaser trailer for Pattinson’s The Batman was released in August 2020 by Warner Bros., the film experienced major delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. The film is scheduled to premiere in March 2022.

    MEGA; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Comics

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