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Batman Producer Michael Uslan Talks About The Legacy Of Superhero Movies
Posted by Joseph Lee on 07.03.2014



Now that the 1989 Batman movie is 25 years old, Superhero Hype spoke with producer Michael Uslan about the legacy of the superhero film. Uslan was the driving force behind the film as he acquired the film rights in the late 1970s and fought to get it made. He's been the executive producer on every Batman film to date. Here are highlights:

On learning Tim Burton wanted Michael Keaton to play Batman: "I was the very first one that was apoplectic when I heard about Michael Keaton that Tim [Burton] wanted. I went absolutely crazy, and the difference between this fanboy and other fanboys is that I was in the inner circle, and had access, and when I asked Tim about it, that's when I learned truly the genius of Tim Burton and his vision. Tim said to me, "You understand that we're attempting to do something revolutionary – the first true dark and serious comic book superhero movie." He said, "Now, how do we get world audiences to buy this – to take it seriously?" He said, "You've got to admit that once Jack Nicholson was hired, we can't just have an unknown actor play Batman. Nicholson would wipe the screen with the guy." I said, "I totally get that." He said, 'Now, for me to take a serious actor' – and this is circa '88, '87 – so it would have been people like Dennis Quaid, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, he said 'I don't know how to show them getting into a bat suit without getting unintentional laughs from the audience.' Then he goes, 'But I've worked with Michael Keaton and I know the whole key to making this work – to capturing the world audiences to accept a superhero comic book movie seriously is to make it about Bruce Wayne, not about Batman.'

On the legacy of Batman: "So, nobody had ever seen anything like this before, and it was a game changer. Yes it conquered the box office, but its impact was way, way, way beyond the box office numbers. The impact was – let's start with this – Summer of 1989. You were walking across Time Square in New York or if you were walking through downtown Butte, Iowa, you could not walk 25 steps without seeing someone in a Batman t-shirt or a Batman hat. What other movie has been marketed in history without the name on the posters? Just an oval bat symbol, and everybody knew what it was. What movie in history, to that point at least – and remember, this is before social media, before computers, before cell phones were popular – what other movie was in a situation where people were inundating movie theaters with telephone calls to find out at what movie the Batman trailer was playing at? They would go to the movie theater, pay to see that movie, watch the Batman trailer, and leave. It was unbelievable. It was having this impact that all of a sudden, comic books and superheroes had this new hipness to them. There was a coolness to them. There was an adult market that was taking it in. Again, thanks to another key piece with Jack Nicholson, adding great credibility to what was being done, and I'll get to the genius of Tim Burton and Anton Furst in a minute. So that became the game changer for the comic book industry. That was a game changer for the movie industry. The movie industry has never been the same since, and if you look at it now, go online and look at the top twelve or thirteen movies of 2014, half of them are comic book movies. The other half are either animated or summer-related, pretty much. It was a complete game changer, and it was stunning."

On the film opening the door for more superhero movies: "it has created a worldwide audience for the mythological folklore known as the American superhero. Many of these characters are now part of the world culture, not simply the American culture. They are comic books. It was good for the comic book industry in general, because it's no longer looked down upon. It has become the breeding ground for creativity for intellectual property whether you're talking about Broadway, TV, movies, animation, video games… It's impacting fashion in our culture, and girls are now deeply involved in it, it's spawned cosplay, which I think is culturally very important. So at the end, what I claim is that this was a stepping stone to the final acceptance and recognition for comics, superheroes, and their creators to the point where I say the geeks have inherited the earth."





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