An element that would have to be 100% full proof if Batman were to be taken seriously at all in Burton’s dark world, would be the suit. Batman had come a long way since 1966 and it was time to bring him into the 1980s and welcome him into the dark.
The basic design of the suit, designed by Bob Ringwood (Excalibur, Dune), was based essentially on the then current Neal Adams comic book version. The body of Batman’s costume was made of lycra, a material familiar to those who wear dance costumes. A foam rubber cast was then glued on top. “It was at first difficult for Michael Keaton to move convincingly,” Bob Ringwood recalled in the 1989 Making of Batman book, “For example, the muscles on the suit moved in a different direction from Michael’s own muscles. We actually made four prototypes before we got it right. The result is a very light outfit, though you might find Michael disagreeing!”
Although the cape itself is quite heavy, the whole is nothing compared with the 400lb (180kg) outfits which actors are forced to wear on television dramas.
Batman’s helmet-style headpiece also caused Bob moments of anxiety: “We had to fit the seams in such a way that they didn’t show on camera. Since the outfit has to look as though it’s part of his body, the magical impact would be lost forever if you could see the seams”.
Michael Keaton later talked about the difficulties of moving in the full-body rubber suit and how it fed his performance as Batman, “So when we got in [the suit], I went, “Oh, I’m in trouble.” Because you couldn’t get out of it; the second one, you could kind of get out of, but this thing was wrapped [around me] and it didn’t totally work… This whole thing [where I moved my whole body like a statue] came out of — I mean, I’ll take some credit for it, but really, it was practical! It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big fucking hole over here. So I go, well, I’ve got to get around that, because we’ve got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, “You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!”