The 1989 classic Batman turns 27 this week. On June 23, 1989, it opened in theaters and created a legacy that few could have predicted. Batman is responsible for re-energizing the superhero film genre and is credited for its influence in molding the modern superhero film. The movie was a global box office success and has left behind an unprecedented legacy.
First off, allow me to take a moment to honor the cast members who are no longer with us. Michael Gough, Pat Hingle and Jack Palance were class acts, and their contributions to the world of film will never be forgotten.
Let's see what the surviving cast of Batman has been doing.
Michael Keaton — Bruce Wayne/Batman
Famed for his early comedic performances — including Night Shift, Mr. Mom and his legendary performance as the titular character in Beetlejuice — there was initial outcry when Keaton was cast in Batman. Many feared he would make the franchise comedic, much like the 1966 TV series. Man, how wrong they were. Keaton not only delivered, but reinvigorated the character and to this day is still called the greatest Batman by fans and critics alike.
After his resounding success, in the early '90s Keaton would reprise his role in Batman Returns (1992) as well as star in the thriller Pacific Heights and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. He turned down the chance to return for a third time in 1995's Batman Forever, because of director Tim Burton's departure and his disapproval of the light-hearted script. Keaton went on to work across genres in films including Multiplicity, Jackie Brown, Jack Frost, White Noise and Herbie Fully Loaded, as well as providing voice work for mega hits Cars and Toy Story 3.
Keaton's already successful career hit new heights in 2014 when his role in Birdman earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. While he didn't take home the Oscar, he did nab the Golden Globe. Since then, he has starred in 2015's Oscar-winning Spotlight and will next be seen in the upcoming McDonald's biopic The Founder as well as playing the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Keaton is nothing short of Hollywood royalty, truly one of the all-time greats.
Jack Nicholson — The Joker
Jack Nicholson's time in the spotlight spans the better part of six decades. He has carved out one of the greatest careers in Hollywood, starring in countless films. He is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Oscar in every decade between 1960 and 2010 (the other being fellow Batman alumnus Michael Caine). Those numbers say it all. Nicholson has accomplished all there is to accomplish in cinema.
He already had a legendary career well before 1989, starting in the likes of Roger Corman's The Raven and The Terror, both in 1963, and eventually headlining critically acclaimed fare like Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Witches of Eastwick. As the Joker in Batman, Nicholson delivered an enigmatic and unforgettable performance that helped set the standard for on-screen comic book villains.
Since then, Nicholson has starred in Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes as well as leading all-star casts in A Few Good Men, Mars Attacks!, As Good as it Gets, About Schmidt, Anger Management and Something's Gotta Give. His most recent starring role was in 2006's The Departed, which received universal acclaim. Despite being initially rumored to have retired, Nicholson has said he doesn't consider himself as such, and is just being much more selective about film roles.
It may have been six years since his last film role, but whenever Nicholson does return, we will rejoice. The three-time Oscar winner has certainly had an incredible career, and another film would be the icing on an already delicious cake.
Kim Basinger — Vicki Vale
Georgia girl Kim Basinger started her career as a model in New York. However, after taking acting classes, she quit modeling and headed to LA. It wasn't long before she took starring roles in both film and TV, including the short-lived '70s TV series Dog and Cat, '80s drama Hard Country, thriller Mother Lode, Bond epic Never Say Never Again, and sci-fi comedy My Stepmother is an Alien.
But it was Basinger's performance as Vicki Vale that really put her on the map. Over the next few years she starred in a string of successful movies including Final Analysis, The Real McCoy, Wayne's World 2 and The Getaway. Her 1997 new-noir mystery L.A. Confidential received critical acclaim, earning Basinger an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Having continued to work steadily for the past two decades, she will next appear in 2017 sequel Fifty Shades Darker.
Robert Wuhl — Alexander Knox
Known for his comedic performance as newspaper reporter Alexander Knox in Batman, you may also recognize — or not, as it were — Wuhl as the pitch man at the beginning of Madonna's "Material Girl" music video.
Wuhl isn't just an actor; he's a comedian and writer, perhaps also known for creating and starring in the HBO TV Series Arliss, which ran for seven seasons from 1996–2002. Outside of Arliss, Wuhl also starred in Blaze, Missing Pieces, Mistress, Blue Chips and Cobb. He also appeared in The Bodyguard as the host of the Oscars.
As a writer, he's won two Emmy Awards for penning the Academy Awards. He hasn't made many appearances in film or TV as of late, but having amassed a résumé as lengthy as his, he's earned a rest. But keep an eye out — I wouldn't be surprised if Wuhl (like his Batman character) popped up out of the blue on our TV screens again.
Billy Dee Williams — Harvey Dent
Yet another Hollywood legend, Billy Dee Williams has been appearing in film and TV since the '50s. Perhaps best known for his role in the Star Wars films as Lando Calrissian, the screen icon has amassed decades of roles and thoroughly deserves to be considered one of the greats.
Playing Harvey Dent in Batman, Williams portrayed the role with the class and determination expected of the Gotham City DA. In fact, he was supposed to return for a sequel when the character would become Two-Face, but Joel Schumacher's light-hearted Batman Forever completely changed the game and replaced Williams with Tommy Lee Jones.
Since Batman, he has appeared mostly in TV in the likes of Dangerous Passion, Message from Nam, Epoch: Evolution, plus comedy classic The Ladies Man, as well as providing voice work for The Lego Movie. His move into television is marked with guest appearances on NCIS, Private Practice and Glee.
Jerry Hall — Alicia Hunt
Jerry Hall made a name for herself as a model long before her days as an actress. In fact, in the '70s she shared an apartment in Paris with Grace Jones and the legendary Jessica Lange as they all pursued careers on the catwalk. In 1989, Hall appeared in Batman as Alicia Hunt, Carl Grissom's girlfriend who was in love with Jack Napier. When Jack became the Joker, Alicia became his art project.
Outside her career as a model, Hall had minor roles in Freejack, RPM and Vampire in Brooklyn. She also appeared in Bejeweled, Savage Hearts, Princess Caraboo and six episodes of TV's Cluedo. She can be seen next in the upcoming Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
So there you have it. The cast of Batman is indeed quite the star-studded affair. They've all gone on to have remarkably varied careers since 1989, while the movie's legacy has gone from strength to strength. Batman was indeed a revolutionary masterpiece and, 27 years later, it still holds up incredibly well. In fact, dare I say that it's superior to the majority of Batman films that followed.