Batman: Tragedy Reportedly Prevented Steve Martin from Playing Riddler

Steve Martin’s filmography is filled with comedy movies. In fact, the actor made a career as both manic funnymen and endearing father figures alike. But even for all the hilarious performances Martin has given his fans, he’s rarely popped up in other movie franchises. Given the current dominance of superhero films, it’s fun to imagine how an actor like Martin could have fit into the genre. As it turns out, it almost happened in the 1990s.

Steve Martin wears a dark jacket and laughs
Steve Martin | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Robin Williams was the first choice for Riddler in ‘Batman Forever’

After 1989’s Batman became a massive hit, Warner Bros. was anxious to develop it into an ongoing franchise. At the time, 1992’s Batman Returns — while a box office hit — failed to meet expectations. And so the studio pushed for a big comedy star to take on the villain role in the third film. After all, 1995’s Batman Forever would be the first without Tim Burton in the director’s chair, and Warner Bros. wanted to ensure the series’ longevity.

As many fans know by now, the studio’s top choice for the movie was Robin Williams. The actor had just landed one of the biggest hits of his career with Mrs. Doubtfire. So it’s easy to see why Warner Bros. would be eager to tap into his box office appeal by casting him as the Riddler. Ultimately, however, Jim Carrey — who headlined three huge comedy hits the previous year — took the role. And Batman Forever became the year’s biggest box office hit.

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Why Steve Martin reportedly turned down the DC villain role

Although Williams was up for the Riddler, Martin was also among Warner Bros.’ top choices for the villainous role. Similar to Williams, Martin’s comic persona featured a manic energy that would fit the character. And he was also among the most bankable comedy stars of the 1990s. But according to reports, Martin turned down the role down.

The reason behind his decision, it seems, came down to his personal life. Martin’s friend — and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles co-star John Candy — died in 1994. And Martin’s marriage to actor Victoria Tennant ended that same year too. So Martin seemingly wasn’t ready to take on such a high-pressure role in a hotly anticipated blockbuster.

Could Steve Martin retroactively appear as the Riddler now?

Of course, Batman is a character very much in play at the moment. Robert Pattinson’s The Batman is one of 2022’s biggest hits. And Michael Keaton is set to revive his version of the character in 2023’s The Flash. With the original Batman series making a big-screen return, could Martin technically play Keaton’s version of the Riddler?

After all, The Flash will reportedly ignore the events of both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, focusing more on Burton’s run. That means the movie could revisit plans for that world that were set aside, such as Billy Dee Williams’ Two-Face and Marlon Wayans’ Robin. So it’s entirely conceivable Keaton’s Batman encountered his own version of the Riddler. Fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for a Martin cameo as an older Edward Nygma, but it would be fun.

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