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Digging up the Catwoman gonzo movies that never were

The Batman movies’ secret weapons have always been their wives: Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy emerging from a pink gorilla costume in batman and robin; Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar as draggy Two-Face sidekicks Sugar and Spice in batman forever; Zoë Kravitz wearing literally every wig like catwoman when the franchise restarts next week The Batman. It’s something of a franchise tradition at this point. Take a stone-faced dude in a cape, add a lady who circles around him.

Never improved, however, is Michelle Pfeifferis Catwoman. In other words, Pfeiffer does not steal the show so much in the years 1992 Return of Batman knock him out, rob him and leave him frozen and penniless on a street corner in Gotham City. As Selina Kyle – a shy secretary pushed out a window by her tyrannical boss and licked by a litter of cats – Pfeiffer is camp, seductive, tragic. It’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most assured and versatile performances in superhero movie history. Scratch that: the history of cinema in general. That only makes his lack of a sequel even more infuriating.

Although she’s appeared in three different incarnations of the live-action Batman movie since 1992 — as well as numerous animated projects that aired on TV and on home video — Catwoman never got the spinoff film. Return of Batman‘ climax so memorably beckoned towards. The film’s final shot sees Catwoman’s shiny cowl – enhanced by the silicone paint applied to it by the film’s makeup crew – staring at the bat signal, confirming that she’s still clinging to the latest. of his nine lives. Regardless of this irresistible tease and Pfeiffer’s eagerness to reprise her role, Catwoman: the movie does not occur. At least not as everyone wanted.

Halle Berry took on the role of the notoriously dismal 2004 catwoman. But her horrors stemmed from her long on-screen journey: It came after years of a Catwoman movie stuck in development hell, with numerous writers and directors tackling the character and various actors tied to her role. . Since then, Hollywood seems to have decided that she works best as a side character to Batman, which seems misguided.

The first-ever Catwoman spin-off is unlike anything that’s ever made it to theaters. Screenwriter Daniel Waters – who is best known for scripting the dark comedy Heathers – had already written Return of Batman, a ridiculously dirty movie that still felt like a gonzo kink textbook that somehow slipped past the censors. For her spin-off Catwoman – which, for a time, would also have been a reunion between Pfeiffer and her Return director Tim Burton-Waters dubbed the weird, scripting quirky feminist satire that seems to actively despise superhero movies.

Leaked online in the early 2000s, Waters’ Catwoman is set shortly after Selina’s near-murder at the end of Return of Batman. The events of the film left her amnesiac and we find her recovering in a desert town named Oasisburg. She works in a casino, is regularly harassed by lascivious men, and expresses her dismay at a group of superheroes – called The Cult of Good – who claim to protect the city. An elderly Mexican “witch” helps Selina regain her memories, and she uses her skills to take down the Cult, who are not the protectors they claim to be.

Waters’ world-building is alive: there are “phallic breathtaking” superhero monuments; garish billboards ordering residents to “RELAX” and “BE HAPPY”; seas of tourists wearing red sketchy visors; an academic and theorist whose latest book is called The Catwoman Complex. “Catwoman is just the ultimate example of every ‘powerful’ woman,” argues ‘post-feminist’ thinker Dr Penelope Snuggle. “[She’s] a raging psycho who can’t admit she needs a hug.



Tim Burton directs Michelle Pfeiffer on the set of


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Tim Burton directs Michelle Pfeiffer on the set of ‘Batman Returns’ (Snap/Shutterstock)

It’s a strange and disorienting read, something that feels wildly cinematic but also so unusual that it needed a Todd Haynes or a Paul Verhoeven as a director to really work. Unsurprisingly, the owners of Catwoman at Warner Bros were flabbergasted. Waters also had the misfortune to hand in his draft the morning batman forever opened in 1995. Today, this film feels glitzy and bold compared to the depressive chanting of Batman’s Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder eras. At the time, however, it was seen as a child-friendly sigh of relief, and worlds away from Burton’s sinister sexuality. Return of Batman.

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The script is gone; so did Burton and – in the late 90s – Pfeiffer. Nevertheless, Warner Bros persisted. charlie’s angels Screenwriter John August was brought in in 1998 to write a screenplay, featuring a story in which Selina again has amnesia and cannot remember her past life as Catwoman. “She starts committing these crimes at night and has no memory of them in the morning,” he said. Graffiti with punctuation in 2019.

Running the script was tricky. August was considering Pfeiffer or at least someone in her 40s playing Selina in the film, but Warners — because it was 1998 — wanted Sarah Michelle Gellar. “They wanted to make a younger, sexier, sultry Catwoman,” he explained. Likewise, an executive apparently had an unusual request. “The executive really envisioned a scene where [Selina] wash someone’s hair. I think it was an indication of something sensual but rather unusual fetish… I just knew the movie I was showing didn’t lend itself to a Sarah Michelle Gellar guy washing someone else’s hair.

At least five other writers worked on more scripts. One by Kate Kondell, from 2001, reimagined Selina Kyle as a groomer named Patience Price, whose inventor mother was killed for her plans for a revolutionary dishwasher battery. Patience seeks revenge by disguising herself as Catwoman to take down the local gentrifiers who continue to fill her hometown of Bristol – probably not ours – with cafes and chain bookstores. It’s basically Batman meets You’ve got mailwith the script referring to Catwoman as “Robin Hood with PMS”.

Lots of failures from Berry catwoman can be found in later versions of Kondell’s screenplay, which borrowed specific elements while introducing others. Berry herself was one of those additions, with Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman both attached to the role before her. Judd eventually dropped the project while it was being made, while Kidman reportedly sought approval for the finished script before officially signing on. Berry was less anxious about it, but started having second thoughts almost as soon as she showed up on set.



Zoë Kravitz and Robert Pattinson in


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Zoë Kravitz and Robert Pattinson in “The Batman” (Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros)

Berry’s Catwoman was Patience Phillips, who is murdered by her beauty mogul boss after discovering the toxic secret ingredient in their latest product. Brought back to life, she becomes Catwoman and pursues her killers. “I remember having [an] argument,” Berry said in 2020. “Why can’t Catwoman save the world like Batman and Superman do? Why does she just save women from a face cream that breaks their face? »

catwoman was a critical and financial disaster. “Producers must have hoped that the sight of Berry’s flesh in a high-heeled dominatrix costume would make up for whatever was wrong with that litter box of a movie,” Nicholas Barber wrote in The Independent. “This is not the case.” Berry, to his credit, admirably accepted a Razzie Award in person for his performance in 2005. Coinciding with a series of dismal pre-MCU comic book efforts – including Pontoon, daredeviland its spin-off directed by Jennifer Garner Electracatwoman killed off a potential movie franchise. The character remained a prized commodity, however, appearing in The dark knight rises played by Anne Hathaway, and now Kravitz in The Batman. Spinoff rumors have surrounded Hathaway, just as they’ve surfaced about Kravitz now too.

To date, however, a single-player Catwoman vehicle has never been set in stone. That’s a shame. Catwoman, much more so than Batman, is a blank slate, which can be easily shaped and molded into different incarnations. She’s been a badass, a jewel thief, an activist and a socialite – sometimes a mix of all four. It’s also telling that the best on-screen Catwoman is one of the furthest from her comic book origins – DC Comics Selina Kyle was neither an oppressed secretary nor brought back to life by presumably magical cats. It didn’t matter, though. Return of Batman and Pfeiffer captured the essence of Catwoman. If Hollywood was smarter, they’d bottle it more often.

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