Tim Burton couldn’t understand what Jack Nicholson was saying on ‘Batman’ set

Tim Burton's 'The Batman' with Jack Nicholson as the Joker

Tim Burton has revealed he couldn’t understand Jack Nicholson when they were making Batman.

Speaking about his experience as a relatively inexperienced director tasked with making the ’80s biggest superhero film, Burton said one of his main challenges came in the form of the cast. In particular, Burton told Empire [as per Slash Film] that Nicholson’s “abstract way” of communicating made things very difficult on set.

Speaking about the making of the now iconic 1989 DC comics film, Burton said the Joker actor’s language was sometimes so incomprehensible, he was left asking other crew members, “what the fuck was he just talking about?”

Tim Burton
Tim Burton – CREDIT: Getty

“Jack has a very abstract way of speaking,” he told the magazine. “So he would say things to me and I’d go, ‘Yeah, I get it,’ and then I’d go to someone, ‘What the fuck 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.”

That said, Burton went on to say in the interview that – despite communication issues – Nicholson took the young director under his wing. The Sleepy Hollow director said: “[Nicholson] protected me and nurtured me, kept me going, by just not getting too overwhelmed with the whole thing.

“I felt really supported by him in a very deep way. I was young and dealing with a big studio, and he just quietly gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do. 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.”

Michael Keaton as Batman
Michael Keaton in 1989’s ‘Batman’. Credit: Sunset Boulevard / Getty

Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, and went on to become a global hit for both the director and Warner Bros. Studios. Michael Keaton starred as Bruce Wayne in the original film opposite Nicholson.

Though Keaton made a return to the role of the Dark Knight in Burton’s 1992 follow-up Batman Returns, Nicholson didn’t return.

Speaking to NME recently, composer Danny Elfman said: “When Batman came out, I was composing to a cut that was so dark on the video I could barely even tell what was happening half the time. I thought, ‘This is going to be a little cult film at best.’ So the fact that it was a big hit, that shocked and surprised me. I’m surprised every time I have anything happen that’s successful.”

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