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What The Cast Of Batman Returns Looks Like Today

Appropriately enough, "Batman Returns," the follow-up to 1989's box office leviathan "Batman," proves an adage from a totally different Bat-sequel: what doesn't kill Batman just makes this franchise ... stranger.

Director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton came back for 1992's "Batman Returns," a movie that leaned into the quirky darkness only hinted at in the first of Burton's Bat-endeavors. The overall tone was gloomier, and the villains of "Batman Returns" were immediately more complex than Jack Nicholson's disfigured mobster with a clown gimmick. This put Batman himself in more nuanced, conflicted circumstances — particularly when it came to Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).

In the opening flashback scene, the wealthy Cobblepot couple gives birth to a child with flippers, pale skin, sharp teeth, and an abnormally oval-shaped torso. Shortly thereafter, the new parents throw their baby in the river. This literal outcast infant survives and grows up to become The Penguin (Danny DeVito). Selina Kyle is an awkward, overburdened corporate secretary until her casually misogynistic boss pushes her out the window of a tall building. Selina survives the fall and becomes the criminal Catwoman. 

In "Batman Returns," the Caped Crusader's up against adversaries who might not have turned to crime at all if the world had been kinder to them, which raises all kinds of questions about the nature of good and evil. Also, "Batman Returns" is a Christmas movie, which 1989's "Batman" is not.

What's the cast up to these days? How many of them are still with us? Let's find out.

Michael Keaton

Out of all the faces involved with "Batman Returns," it probably won't shock you to learn that Batman himself remains the most relevant. We'd be willing to wager most folks already know what Michael Keaton looks like today, as he still appears in movies and TV shows on a routine basis.  

The 70-year-old Keaton played prominent roles in two Best Picture Oscar winners from the past decade — namely, 2014's "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" and 2015's "Spotlight." Keaton also appeared in 2020's "The Trial of the Chicago 7," directed by Aaron Sorkin. As of this writing, Keaton's most recent major project was 2021's Hulu miniseries "Dopesick," alongside Rosario Dawson and Peter Sarsgaard, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries.

Keaton focuses a tad more on dramatic roles these days, but if he thought he was done with superheroes after he passed on "Batman Forever," he was very mistaken. In an ironic nod to his time as the Dark Knight (unless it's an ironic nod to his time as Birdman?) Keaton played the Vulture, another winged comic book icon, in 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming." As well publicized, Keaton is also slated to reclaim the cape and cowl and become Batman once again in 2022's "The Flash" and HBO Max's "Batgirl."

Michelle Pfeiffer

Like her two top-billed costars, Michelle Pfeiffer's bona fide A-lister status has hardly diminished since the early '90s. Her notable recent projects include director Darren Aronofsky's 2017 horror parable "Mother!" in which Pfeiffer played an enigmatic intruder in the home of the protagonist, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Pfeiffer was also in the Kenneth Branagh-directed 2017 ensemble caper, "Murder on the Orient Express," and her performance in 2020's "French Exit" garnered a Golden Globes nomination

It could be the case that Pfeiffer has yet to film one of her most significant roles — according to IMDb, she's unofficially attached to Francis Ford Coppola's forever in-development futuristic opus, "Megalopolis." Of course, as is the case with Michael Keaton, Pfeiffer is no stranger to the MCU. She made her first appearance as Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, in 2019's "Ant-Man and the Wasp," and has been confirmed to reprise the role in 2023's "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

Several other performers have taken on the role of Selina Kyle in various live-action and animated DC projects over the years, but none have managed to convey anything like the righteous mania or threatening sexuality of Pfeiffer's version. In the metaphorical book of live-action Batman villains, the Catwoman of "Batman Returns" has her own chapter. 

Danny DeVito

These days, Danny DeVito is most widely recognized for playing a nihilistic crime lord with megalomaniacal ambitions. We speak, of course, of disgraced businessman Frank Reynolds in the longest running live-action sitcom in television history, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

Like the version of the Penguin that DeVito plays in "Batman Returns," Frank has virtually zero capacity for ethics and morals. He's a pathological liar, a letch, a manipulator, an embezzler, and a completely reckless and irresponsible gun owner. However, Frank also has something resembling a heart that occasionally guides him towards altruism.

Nothing we see in "Batman Returns," however, leads us to believe the Penguin is capable of any empathy at all. Then again, DeVito's Penguin never gets to run a bar with his lovable slimeball buddies. If Oswald Cobblepot had the same second chance that Frank has in "Always Sunny," he'd still be evil ... but we bet he would be somewhat less evil. 

As inarguably one of Hollywood's most influential living figures, DeVito's career includes a pile of highlights outside of "Batman Returns" and "Always Sunny." The 77-year-old was a series regular on the classic late '70s sitcom "Taxi," and starred in 1984's "Romancing the Stone," 1989's "The War of the Roses," 1997's "L.A. Confidential," and 2019's "Jumanji: The Next Level." DeVito is also an accomplished behind-the-scenes operator, having directed 1992's "Hoffa" and 2002's criminally underrated "Death to Smoochy," while executive-producing 1994's "Pulp Fiction."

Christopher Walken

Following his performance as diabolical capitalist Max Shreck in "Batman Returns," Christopher Walken contributed his acting prowess to 1993's "True Romance" and 1994's "Pulp Fiction." Currently 78 years old, perhaps it's unrealistic to expect Walken to crank out classics at the same clip he kept up in the early to mid '90s. Regardless, his schedule doesn't seem to have slowed down all that much. Here in 2022, Walken costars in a Stephen Merchant BBC One series titled "The Outlaws," and appears in the Ben Stiller-directed Apple TV+ series "Severance," also featuring Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, and John Turturro. 

Walken showed up in a few clunkers that predated his shift to TV: the 2020 family comedy "The War with Grandpa" alongside his onetime "Deer Hunter" costar Robert De Niro, and 2019's "The Jesus Rolls," Turturro's ill-advised return to his "Big Lebowski" character. On the positive side, Walken received considerable praise for his performance as a humble, fairness-minded farmer in 2020's "Percy Vs. Goliath" — a considerable turn against type, considering how closely he's been associated with villainous roles throughout his career.

Paul Reubens

After helping establish Tim Burton as a powerhouse director with "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" in 1985 and owning Saturday morning kids TV from 1986 to 1990 at the helm of "Pee-wee's Playhouse," Paul Reubens was a certified household name in 1992 — although probably for some reasons he would rather not remember

Reubens brought Pee-wee back for one more go-round in 2016's "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," but other than that, the 69-year-old has revisited his signature character relatively sparingly since the '80s. Nowadays, Reubens tends to show up here and there in films and TV shows, having lately contributed cameos to ABC's "The Conners" and FX's "What We Do in the Shadows," both in 2019.

Astoundingly enough, Reubens's performance as the Penguin's criminally negligent father in "Batman Returns" is, purely in terms of minutes onscreen, much smaller than his other Batman-related roles. He provided the voice of Bat-Mite in multiple episodes of the 2009 animated series, "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," and played a much more sympathetic version of the Penguin's poppa for an arc in Fox's Batman prequel series, "Gotham."

Diane Salinger

Casting Diane Salinger and Paul Reubens as the Penguin's mother and father is a clear ode to Tim Burton's first theatrically released feature, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." In "...Big Adventure," Salinger plays Simone, an adventurous woman who's trapped in a loveless marriage and a dead-end waitressing job.  

While she's not a movie star on the same scale as a Keaton or a Pfieffer, or even an instantly recognizable figure like Reubens, Salinger's enjoyed a completely consistent presence in film and television since the mid-1980s. It's possible she's had a more interesting post-"Batman Returns" career than most of the names mentioned on this list, with stints on HBO's mid-2000s Dust Bowl apocalypse drama "Carnivàle" and 2000's "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue," where she provided the voice of Queen Bansheera. 

Salinger also played Seymour's therapist in the indispensable 2001 cult comedy "Ghost World" — which means that even if she never gets her own Marvel franchise, she's still the only actor on this list who's done a scene with Steve Buscemi in Thora Birch's best movie.    

Michael Murphy

Arguably underutilized in "Batman Returns," Michael Murphy's character doesn't even have an actual name listed on the film's IMDB. Murphy plays a man simply known as "Mayor." Supposedly, the novel adaptation of "Batman Returns" names the Mayor of Gotham City as "Roscoe Jenkins," but we don't have time to track down a copy of the 1992 promotional tie-in paperback to confirm this.

As for Murphy himself, the 83-year-old actor hasn't slowed down as much as we might expect at his age. Murphy contributes to Netflix's 2019 "Rolling Thunder Revue" Bob Dylan documentary, directed by Martin Scorsese, and kicks in voiceovers for episodes of PBS's "American Experience" as recently as 2020. 

Having started his film and TV career in the early '60s, there's a lot more to Murphy than a medium-sized part in a Batman movie. He's known for his several collaborations with director Robert Altman, and "Batman Returns" isn't even his only significant superhero movie. He plays Warren Worthington III's awful dad in 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand."  

Jan Hooks

Onetime "Saturday Night Live" staple Jan Hooks briefly pops into "Batman Returns" as Jen, one of Max Shreck's personal image consultants. Aside from her tenure on "S.N.L." from 1986 to 1991, Hooks's credits include stints of varying lengths of time on "Designing Women," "The Martin Short Show" "3rd Rock from the Sun," "Primetime Glick," "The Simpsons," and "30 Rock." 

Hooks passed away in 2014 at the age of 57, and some present-day showbiz movers and shakers think she was owed a little more applause during her time on Earth.

"Jan should have had a bigger career," said Tina Fey during a 2014 awards ceremony, according to Vanity Fair. "Jan deserved a big movie career. Certainly as big as Rob Schneider's f***ing career. She was a bigger star on 'S.N.L.'"

We're not saying Tina Fey is right all the time; that would be editorializing. However, we can objectively state that sometimes Tina Fey is right, and this is one of those occasions.

Steve Witting

If you ask us, having his nose nearly bitten off by the Penguin during an ill-advised image consultation session is the zenith of Steve Witting's career. However, it wouldn't be difficult to form an alternate opinion, as Witting's been a regular player in the background of major film and TV endeavors since the mid-'80s. 

Even if we arbitrarily ignore everything he did between "Batman Returns" and 2010, Witting looks like he's doing pretty okay, appearing in three Martin Scorsese films — 2010's "Shutter Island," 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and 2019's "The Irishman" — with a role in this essential director's upcoming Western, "Killers of the Flower Moon," penned by Eric Roth and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Witting was also in a handful of this era's most significant TV shows — including "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Arrested Development," and "Boardwalk Empire." Witting's most recent TV project was 2020's HBO miniseries, "The Outsider."  

Did you know Witting also appeared in the Danny DeVito-directed "Hoffa" – in which Jack Nicholson plays the infamously vanished labor organizer — which arrived in theaters the same year as "Batman Returns"? This means that at a specific point in Witting's career, he worked under a director who, right around the same time, made his nose gush with blood. 

Michael Gough

Most of the actors on this list don't appear in all four entries of the series that begins with 1989's "Batman" and ends with 1997's "Batman and Robin," but Michael Gough is Bruce Wayne's loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth throughout the saga. 

The latter two films — 1995's "Batman Forever" and 1997's "Batman and Robin" — are not the most lauded entries into the Caped Crusader's film oeuvre. However, even if some of the movies Gough was in aren't that good, we doubt Hollywood would have bothered recruiting an actor on Michael Caine's level to play a new Alfred in 2005's "Batman Begins" if Gough's portrayal wasn't a very tough act to follow. 

Gough passed away in 2011 at the age of 94. His career in film and television began in the 1940s, and he kept acting regularly throughout the '90s, with a handful of parts after the year 2000. Predictably, despite his appearances in films like "Out of Africa," "The Boys from Brazil," "Horror of Dracula," and many more, his obituaries tended to focus on his run as Alfred.

Pat Hingle

Commissioner James Gordon doesn't have a ton to do during the late '80s/'90s phase of Batman movies. This version of Gordon, played by veteran character actor Pat Hingle, has much more in common with the noble bumbler portrayed by Neil Hamilton in 1966's campy "Batman" TV show than the determined everyman of the graphic novel "Batman: Year One," channeled by Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan's turn of the millennium Batman trilogy.

Oddly enough, the timing of Hingle's life and career make us wonder why he wasn't cast on the '60s Batman series. During that era, Hingle routinely made guest star appearances on television series such as "Mission: Impossible" and "The Andy Griffith Show." Was he too busy for "Batman"? 

IMDb lists the ridiculously prolific Hingle's first credit as a 1951 episode of "Suspense," and his final credit as a 2008 film called "Undoing Time," with very little down time in between. He died in 2009 at the age of 84. Despite having played literally dozens (hundreds?) of other parts — as was entirely the case with Michael Gough's death in 2011 — the headlines of Hingle obituaries largely emphasized his Batman-related work

Vincent Schiavelli

Ironically, the nameless "Organ Grinder" in "Batman Returns" is played by one of the more recognizable actors in the film. Noted for his unusual facial features, Vincent Schiavelli showed up on Hollywood's radar with his performance as a mental institution patient in 1975's indisputable classic "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." As fate would have it, "Cuckoo's Nest" also marked a career milestone for Jack Nicholson — the eventual Joker of 1989's "Batman" — and Danny DeVito, who played Schiavelli's future onscreen boss the Penguin.

After "Cuckoo's Nest," Hollywood tapped Schiavelli pretty much whenever a distinctively odd but non-threatening presence was required. This led to a metric ton of acting work throughout the '80s and '90s, including parts in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," 1984's "Amadeus," 1990's "Ghost," 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" and 1999's "Man on the Moon." 

Additionally, Schiavelli made guest appearances on so many significant TV series that we don't even know where to start listing them. If we have to pick one, let's point to Lanny the cojoined twin from the 1995 "X-Files" episode "Humbug" as Schiavelli's greatest TV part. 

Schiavelli passed away in 2005 at the age of 57.