Tommy Lee Jones Predicted Modern Hollywood’s Main Problem While Making Batman Forever

After Tim Burton’s grotesquely gothic sequel “Batman Returns” fell well short of the director’s 1989 “Batman” at the box office, Warner Bros. decided it was time to shake things up. Enter Joel Schumacher’s 1995 follow-up “Batman Forever,” which re-imagined Gotham City as a Baroque neon-lit metropolis far removed from the Expressionist backdrop that was Burton’s Gotham and leaned harder into the franchise’s campier trappings (as well as its underlying queerness). The film had a $100 million budget, which was $20 million more than “Returns” and would amount to $200 million adjusted for inflation in 2023.

It was a huge film, in other words, and Jones (who starred as the crusading lawyer turned erratic criminal Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face) knew it. It was also a reunion for the actor, who had only just worked with Schumacher and WB on “The Client” one year prior and sang their praises in the official “Batman Forever” movie book:

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve known Joel Schumacher for 20 years and I’ve done two movies with him. Ve Neill and Eddie Henriques are doing the makeup, and they’ve been old pals for a long time. And I love working for Warner Bros. I hope it doesn’t sound specious to refer to a giant corporation like Warner Bros. as a family, but they are one.”

As Jones noted, WB has always been a corporate monster, yet it also used to have a reputation for being filmmaker-friendly. It’s why directors as worlds apart as Clint Eastwood, Neil Jordan, and Oliver Stone consistently collaborated with the studio in the ’90s, as did Schumacher. That decade also saw WB releasing auteurist films like “Malcolm X,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” in-between more broadly commercial fare — a far cry from David Zaslav’s current regime. 

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