How did Ray Liotta lose the Batman role to Michael Keaton?
Liotta spoke to Deadline prior to his untimely passing on May 26, 2022 about his long and illustrious career in showbusiness. He shared anecdotes about his unforgettable roles in such cinematic classics as Something Wild, Field of Dreams, and Goodfellas. The biggest surprise in the interview, however, was Liotta expressing regret at turning down the chance to meet with Burton in the ’80s to suit up as the Dark Knight.
“Something Wild came out, so I was getting attention from that. My agent called me up and said, ‘Tim Burton would like to meet you. He’s doing a movie, Batman,'” Liotta explained. “There were never any superhero movies then. That was pretty much the first one. I said, ‘Are you f*cking nuts? Batman?!’ I’m going, ‘No, that’s stupid.’ Who was stupid? I was stupid because I didn’t know.”
Liotta was one of many stars at the time on the shortlist for Bruce Wayne/Batman including Mel Gibson, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Selleck, and Liotta’s Field of Dreams co-star Kevin Costner. In the end, Burton’s eye was on Michael Keaton after directing the actor in 1988’s Beetlejuice. Though there was initial outcry from fans who associated the star for comedies such as Mr. Mom, Keaton ultimately won the public over with his brooding portrayal of the Dark Knight as Batman went on to become the number one blockbuster of 1989.
Despite his regret at losing out on Batman, Liotta managed to carve out a career full of unforgettable characters on the big screen and small screen. The breakthrough success of Goodfellas led Liotta to high profile roles in Unlawful Entry, No Escape, Cop Land, Narc, and Smoking Aces. Additionally, the actor earned a Primetime Emmy Award for his 2005 guest appearance on NBC’s ER and later a posthumous Emmy for the Apple TV+ series Black Bird.