Tim Burton can barely understand Jack Nicholson's take on Batman
Director Tim Burton revealed that he sometimes struggled to understand Jack Nicholson's "abstract" speech patterns on the 1989 Batman set.
Batman director Tim Burton explains why he often can barely understand what Jack Nicholson says to him on the set of the 1989 film. Burton's dark and stylish take on the caped crusader brought actor Michael Keaton to the role for the first time. Batman was well-received by audiences and critics alike, with Nicholson being especially praised for his portrayal of the Gotham City crime boss/supervillain Joker. Although Nicholson's Joker died at the end of the film, Keaton reprized his role in 1992's Batman Returns, this time facing Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Cat Female (Michelle Pfeiffer).
In a recent interview with Empire (via SlashFilm), Burton recalled that Nicholson's unique communication style often left the director scratching his head on the Batman set. According to Burton, Nicholson's way of speaking was so "abstract" and "non-linear" that he often couldn't fully understand it, even though he usually ended up getting the gist of things. Check out Burton's full review below:
"Jack has a very abstract way of speaking. So he would say things to me and I'd go, 'Yeah, I get it,' and then I'd go to someone, 'What the f*** was he just talking about?' So there was this weird communication: non-linear, non-connective ... But it was very clear to me. I felt like we had a good sort of caveman-style communication."
Does Jack Nicholson's Joker Still Hold Up Today?
Since Nicholson played Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime in 1989, several other actors have tried the role, including Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and most recently Barry Keoghan. While Leto's Joker was a bit of a low point for the role, Ledger's Joker is not only widely considered the best version of Batman's sworn enemy, but one of the greatest movie villains of all time. Despite the popularity of Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, many fans still consider Nicholson's rendition of the character their favourite. The particular tone of Burton's Batman certainly feels a bit dated now compared to recent gritty franchises, but the film, like Nicholson's Joker, has an unmistakable charm that persists .
Contrary to Ledger and Keoghan's take on the Joker, 1989's Batman actually had a brief origin story for the villain. While the Joker's chemical vat origin story is well known now, it was a novel experience at the time. The Joker's chemical accident disfigured him and eventually left him insane. Nicholson is no stranger to playing characters out of their minds (just look at The Shining), and he's been able to use his natural charisma to create a charming but totally unhinged clown. Nicholson's unique performance, except for Burton's decision to lean in The character's dark humor and gimmicky magic tricks culminate in a memorable version of the Joker.
It's unclear what the future holds for the iconic DC Comics character, but Nicholson's version of the Joker is sure to remain among the best villains for years to come. While many fans prefer Ledger's take on the Batman villain, and for good reason, there's no question that Burton has created a truly unique Gotham City in which only Nicholson's Joker can thrive. Despite some communication issues between Nicholson and Burton, Batman clearly still resonates with many fans to this day.
More: Batman Returns: Why Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman Spinoff Never Happened