Sixteen years later, George Clooney still regrets suiting up as the Caped Crusader.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, the Academy Award winning actor and producer revealed that he kept a photo of himself as Batman “prominently displayed on his office wall, as a cautionary reminder of what can happen when you make movies solely for commercial reasons.”
Around the time he signed onto “Batman & Robin,” Clooney was still best known as the original McSteamy on the NBC drama, “E/R.”
The big-budget action flick, co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone, was going to be his big break.
“My phone rang, and the head of Warner Bros said, ‘Come into my office, you are going to play Batman in a Batman film’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ I called my friends and they screamed and I screamed and we couldn’t believe it!” Clooney told Total Film Magazine.
“I just thought the last one had been successful so I thought I was just going to be in a big successful franchise movie.”
He thought wrong.
“Batman & Robin” was considered a commercial drain when it hit theatres in 1997 — earning a domestic lifetime gross of $US107 million on a production budget of $US125 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The Joel Schumacher-directed film earned a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 11 Razzie Awards nominations, including Worst Picture.
It threatened to derail the entire franchise.
The next Batman movie was Christopher Nolan’s saving-grace reboot “Batman Begins,” in 2005.
“With hindsight it’s easy to look back at this and go, ‘Woah, that was really s— and I was really bad in it,'” Clooney said. “It was a difficult film to be good in.”
He quickly realised that he needed to steer clear of flashy movies that are “wastes of money.”
“At that point I realised I’d better start picking better. My next three movies were ‘Out Of Sight,’ ‘Three Kings and O Brother,’ ‘Where Art Thou?'” Clooney said, according to Digital Spy. “It was, ‘OK, at last I understand now what I want to do.'”
Clooney’s time in Gotham City continues to influence his work. The actor prides himself on fighting for provocative movies under increasing pressure from distribution companies to churn out tent-pole films.
The actor argued that by evaluating Sony Pictures based on its revenue and not the quality of its content, Loeb makes it nearly impossible to produce meaningful but risky pictures, like Clooney’s Oscar-winning “Argo” or his current time-period project, “The Monuments Men.”
In “Argo,” the studio’s leap of faith paid off. It grossed $US232 million worldwide on a production budget of $US44 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
“The Monuments Men” is equally promising as an untold story of World War II. Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman star as a crew of art historians and museum curators on a mission to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis, before Hitler destroys them. Written and directed by Clooney, it arrives in theatres December 2013.
Watch the trailer:
The dramedy is a far cry from the campy action-adventure “Batman & Robin.”
Clearly, Clooney let his conscience — and a photo of him as the Bat — be his guide.