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Tim Burton Couldn’t Understand Jack Nicholson’s Words While Directing Batman

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Director Tim Burton admits he often struggled to understand star Jack Nicholson’s way of communicating while they were filming 1989’s Batman.

Despite often being befuddled by Jack Nicholson’s unique way of verbalizing his thoughts, director Tim Burton felt supported by the actor when shooting their seminal 1989 entry in the Batman franchise.

“Jack has a very abstract way of speaking,” Burton said, according to Empire. “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?’” Still, Burton claimed he was able to ‘get’ Nicholson on a more primal level. “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.”

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Batman was Burton’s biggest production at the time, and he felt “supported” by the legendary actor “in a very deep” manner. “I was young and dealing with a big studio, and he just quietly gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do,” the filmmaker explained. “And him being a voice of support had a lot of resonance with the studio. It got me through the whole thing. It gave me strength.”

Jack Nicholson’s Legacy

Nicholson rose to international fame with a supporting role in 1969’s road movie classic Easy Rider after having appeared in numerous Roger Corman-produced B-movies. He quickly developed a reputation for playing off-kilter characters like a psychiatric hospital patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which earned him the first of his three Academy Awards (out of twelve nominations), and axe-wielding writer Jack Torrance in The Shining. His casting as The Joker in Batman was both hailed and derided as the obvious choice. Burton’s choice of casting his Beetlejuice collaborator Michael Keaton in the title role was met with greater controversy.

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Despite a director inexperienced with big-budget blockbusters and a star unaccustomed to action-hero roles, Batman became a resounding success. Burton’s follow-up, Batman Returns, performed below expectations, leading Warner Bros. to replace him with Joel Schumacher for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Keaton, disagreeing with Schumacher’s campier approach, also left the series after the second film. However, he has donned the cape again for the unreleased Batgirl film and the upcoming The Flash. Another Batman project starring Keaton reportedly fell victim to James Gunn and Peter Safran’s restructuring of DC Studios.

Burton’s Batman films are currently streaming on HBO Max.

Source: Empire via Slashfilm

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