Jack Nicholson played Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie opposite Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne. At the time, Nicholson was already an established star, while Keaton was still trying to find his way. As a result, working with Nicholson caused Keaton to suffer from an attack of the nerves, as the actor revealed during an interview with Seth Meyers.
“The only thing that happened when I did the first Batman was, I was very nervous and self-conscious about being with Jack, because he’s so strong on film, you know, and it ended up just being great. We became pals and everything.”
Before Burton’s take on the character, the live-action persona of Batman was most famous for the campy Batman tv show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The announcement of Jack Nicholson in the role of Joker for the movie went a long way towards establishing that Burton’s Batman was going to be a serious take on the character. When Meyers asked Keaton if Nicholson was conscious of his power on set, the actor replied in the affirmative.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of it like that. That’s a great question. I would say yeah, he probably was pretty aware of his power. He had so much power on screen, you know, has. It was just cool. He made everybody feel really, really relaxed. Some day, in private, I’ll tell you how he would greet the crew in the morning, but I certainly can’t do it on national television [laughs].”
The Joker is the one character in all of comics that is seen as a “prestige” role that even the most serious actors who would normally never appear in a superhero movie are eager to get their hands on. For his part, Nicholson’s take on the Clown Prince lives on alongside Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix as the finest live-action portrayals of the character ever.
Despite his nerves, Michael Keaton was able to gather his confidence and create a space for his Batman in cinema that remains unsurpassed to this day. So iconic is Keaton’s Batman that he is currently in talks to reprise his role as an older Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Flash solo movie. While the actor played coy while discussing the upcoming project, he confirmed that negotiations are currently on with Warner Bros. regarding his entry into the DCEU.
Meanwhile, Joker is also making his return to the DCEU, in a different capacity. Jared Leto is currently involved in reshoots for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, where the actor will reprise his role as Batman’s arch-enemy from 2016’s Suicide Squad.
Additionally, Todd Phillips’ Joker movie has long been rumored to be getting a sequel if the studio can convince Joaquin Phoenix to return in the lead role, and Matt Reeves’ upcoming Batman trilogy with Robert Pattinson is also set to introduce the Joker at some point. All it would take is a cameo by Jack Nicholson as Joker opposite Keaton’s Batman in Flash, and the DCEU Batfamily would be complete.