True Urban Legend: Billy Dee Williams Was Paid Not To Play Two-Face!
CBR News dug into the urban legend about Billy Dee Williams' part in Batman Forever and found gold.
As Batman fans know, the complex villain Two-Face was played by two actors before Aaron Eckhart took it on for The Dark Knight, and the first was Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee "Colt 45" Williams. However, Williams played only the man who became Two-Face, Gotham City DA Harvey Dent.
But, as it turns out, that wasn't the original plan.
Comic Book Resources runs a regular column called "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed," in which persistent rumors from the comics-related world are debunked or authenticated. On Thursday, August 14th, BRIAN CRONIN addressed this UL, dredged up by pal Sean Whitmore:
"Billy Dee Williams was paid to NOT be Two-Face in Batman Forever."
Thanks to the business acumen of George Lucas and his unprecedented notion of prepackaged sequels, film companies have developed the habit of contracting actors for multiple installments of big movie series. For example, Christian Bale signed on for three Batman films when he starred in Batman Begins.
Williams got a similar deal for 1989's Batman when he was cast as Harvey Dent. According to Cronin, the fan-favorite genre actor had a clause in his contract that would allow him to reprise the role if/when the Batfilm producers elected to write Two-Face into the series. No one seemed to have a problem with the prospect; even creator Bob Kane supported the casting.
But something inexplicable happened on the road to setting up the birth of Two-Face. CBR reader SKFK brought up to Cronin something which this writer had heard years ago: Williams was originally to appear in Batman Returns, but his role was cut from some draft of the script. His part in the plot was reassigned to other characters. In fact, the climactic scene in which Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) electocutes Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) was intended for Harvey Dent. Whether or not Williams was paid for that film has not been revealed.
Then, when director Tim Burton excused himself from film #3, Batman Forever, which was to feature Two-Face, infamous new helmer Joel Schumacher wanted to replace Williams with the star of his film The Client, Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones.
So the producers paid Williams his contractually-ensured fee, and he took a walk. Reviews of Jones's performance as Harvey Two-Face ranged from lukewarm to scathing.
Just a personal observation: this writer saw Williams in person back in 1995, the year Batman Forever was released, and he appeared a little old and a bit paunchy for the formidable Two-Face.
Sorry, Billy Dee. But you're still cool.