‘Batman Returns’ turns 25: Look Back at Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman

A quarter-century ago, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton reunited to bring forth "Batman Returns," a sequel to their 1989 masterpiece that remains one of the most unsettling Batman tales ever put to screen. That is thanks in large part to Michelle Pfeiffer's stunning performance as Selina Kyle, who is twisted by tragedy into the dangerous, seductive Catwoman. To celebrate the film's anniversary, here's some facts you might not have known about this iconic role. Pfeiffer almost didn't appear in "Batman Returns." She had been attached to star in George Miller's "Lorenzo's Oil" that year and was replaced by Susan Sarandon, who ironically had been interested in playing Catwoman. Sarandon went on to earn her third Oscar nomination for her work in that film. Pfeiffer was also a backup to Annette Bening, who had to drop out of "Batman Returns" after she became pregnant. Costume designer Mary Vogt explained in 2012 to AnOther how the iconic catsuit–which Pfeiffer notably sews together while wreaking havoc on her apartment–got those stitches. Vogt said that the stitches were director Tim Burton's idea. "He had this vision of the calico cat – with its stitches starting to come apart," she said. "So we sculpted stitches in cast and glued them on. It looked terrible!" To make it look better, Vogt and her team brushed her in a thick silicon liquid. To make the suit, Vogt explained that to get the ultra-skin-tight look they wanted for the movie, they had to make a body cast of Pfeiffer. "We made a body cast of her, and the costume was made on the body cast. We were afraid that it would rip, because she had these cat claws, and because it's latex, once it ripped it's over, you can't repair it. So we had to make about 40 cat-suits, but actually it never ripped, it was very strong," she said. With a costume that tight, and made of latex, no less, the costume team had to douse Pfeiffer in baby powder in order to get the costume on. "Because you can see everything – and the latex makes it look very fluid, and Michelle just has a beautiful, fluid way of working – she's very athletic, so she gave it a modern look. It was difficult to wear – we had to cover Michelle with baby powder before she got into the suit," said Vogt. Selina's pet cat, Miss Kitty, has had many names over the years. In the 1966 Batman film, she was known as Hecate. In "Batman: The Animated Series," she was called Isis, and in Halle Berry's "Catwoman," she was called Midnight. Pfeiffer did all of Catwoman's whip stunts herself, including the mannequin scene, which was filmed in one take. Trainer Anthony De Longis said he was impressed with how quickly Pfeiffer got used to the whip. But Pfeiffer admits that there were some very painful early struggles during her month of whip training. In an A&E interview, she revealed that during one of her early practice sessions with the whip, she accidentally whipped De Longis in the face. De Longis simply shrugged off the accident. 12 years after making the movie, Pfeiffer said she rediscovered the whip in her house while getting ready to move. Feeling nostalgic, she went out to the backyard to practice with the whip again, but admitted she was "a bit rusty." The final shot of the film, in which Catwoman is shown to have survived her fight with The Penguin and Max Schreck and gazes at the Bat-Signal, was done without Pfeiffer. The shot cost $250,000 and was done weeks before the film's release to tease a sequel or spin-off featuring Catwoman. In the Rolling Stone interview, Pfeiffer said she also had to undergo several months of yoga, gymnastics, and kickboxing training to prepare for all the stunts in the film. Indeed, Burton began coming up with ideas for a third Batman film in which Catwoman would return to help Batman fight the Riddler and Two-Face, but Warner Bros., who wanted a different tone, put Joel Schumacher in charge of the threequel that would become "Batman Forever." Burton was attached as a producer on that film, but had no creative input. Burton also started developing a Catwoman spin-off film featuring Pfeiffer, which is why Catwoman did not appear in Schumacher's "Batman Forever." But again, Burton's plans fell by the wayside as the film got stuck in development. The spin-off eventually left Burton's hands and became the 2004 "Catwoman" film with Halle Berry, which was universally panned. Posters featuring Catwoman became so popular that Warner Bros. had to send out additional posters to cities where they had been stolen from bus stops. Looking back on his films, director Tim Burton said that Pfeiffer's performance in "Batman Returns" might be his favorite role. "I don't really go back and look at the movies but her performance in that was one of my favorite performances of anything by anyone in any movie that I've worked on," he said. "It was just the best. Really, I'll never forget her in that." 
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