How’d They Do That? – Batman (1989)

Welcome back to How’d They Do That? Each week, we check out behind the scenes stills and video from the making of some of cinema’s greatest! Well the week of DC Heroes is upon us, as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theatres – so lets take a look back at the making of the first modern big screen entry of the Bat, Tim Burton’s 1989 classic Batman.

The production of Batman is an interesting tale. From my research, it really seems to be one of the first films where fan reaction was loudly heard, and production was followed intensely. Remember, this was a time before the internet, but word was spread at comic conventions and the like. The hiring of Tim Burton and the casting of Michael Keaton weren’t looked upon favorably by fans. At that time, Burton was only really known for his work on Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Keaton for his comedy roles. With the comedic stylings of the 60’s Batman still fresh in fan’s minds – Batman wasn’t off to a great start.

This heightened interest in production was the cause of many decisions and issues for the crew. Filming was originally set to take place in Hollywood, but was moved to Pinewood Studios outside London to avoid the growing media interest. It’s said that a publicist of the film was offered $10,000 for the first pictures of Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Later, police were called in regarding the theft of 20 minutes of the film. Remember, this was all pre-internet! With all that in mind, lets take a look back at the production of Batman.

First, check out this photo of Nicholson as the Joker. Each day, Nicholson would spend 2 hours in the chair having the makeup applied. The crew struggled early on coming up with an appropriate ‘white’ which would work in a darkly lit film, next to a very dark looking hero!jokermakeup

Batman’s turn – Michael Keaton, in full Batman garb, has some adjustments made to his half face.


The Batmobile featured in the film was based of the base of Chevy Impala. Below, director Tim Burton stands atop the car and its flaming rear jet on set at Pinewood.


Below, Michael Keaton checks the camera to ensure they are going to capture his best side.


Below, effects crew members work on the model of the Batwing, to be used during the Joker parade in the final act of the film

batwing effects

Below, crew work on the miniature Gotham used during the Joker Parade sequence. Keen eyed readers will see a miniature Batwing on the right hand side of the picture. The level of detail and craftsmanship on these sets is wonderful and something not seen often in film making these days.

mainturegotham18 Sound-stages were used at Pinewood for production, most of the studios 95 acre backlot. One of my favourite film production stories comes from the Batman production at Pinewood. Upon arriving at Pinewood, Batman crew opened up one of the sound-stages and found the complete Atmospheric Processor set from Aliens still intact – eggs and all! If you’ve ever watched Aliens and thought “this looks like Ace Chemicals!” – well now you know!

The below picture comes from a wonderful photo essay of two film fans who wondered on the Gotham set during a charity event at Pinewood. The scale of the Gotham set is enormous and seeing it in bright daylight really brings out the level of detail. I highly recommend you read about their visit to Gotham to see more photos from their field trip.

gothamI hope you enjoyed this look back at the effects that made Batman as memorable for audiences today, as it was back when it was release in 1989. Lets see if Zack Snyder can make an even darker, grimmer Gotham when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theatres this Thursday.

Have a favourite Batman moment? Feel free to drop us a line on the comments below! Until next time, keep watching and asking How’d They Do That!