Batman Returns is seen by many as the best of the first generation of Batman movies, and a big part of that is due to the performance of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. She does an amazing job of stealing every scene that she’s in, so much so that it’s impossible to imagine anybody else as Catwoman. And yet, the actress was only the second choice for the role.
Not only was the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman first offered to Annette Bening, but Bening accepted the job. Back in the early ‘90s during the making of Batman Returns, Bening had been cast as Catwoman but was forced to drop out of the role. At the time, the reason for the switch was unclear, but as she tells the Happy Sad Confused podcast, she had to leave because she’d gotten pregnant. Bening said…
You know what happened was I got pregnant – Yeah I did [laughter] – and I mean it was so surprising because I was trying to get pregnant, and I had never been pregnant, so I didn't know how long it was going to take. It didn't take very long [laughs]. So then I was supposed to do Batman, and I didn't want to announce my pregnancy – because of course you never want to do that early for obvious reasons. So, I was actually measured for my catsuit.
It had to be a little awkward for Bening. She’s in the early days of pregnancy and doesn’t want to tell anybody yet, but she’s also in the process of getting ready to film Batman Returns. This results in her going to costume fittings for a costume she doesn’t expect to ever wear. The process of the fitting was quite significant at the time, but she went through it. It was only after that she says she informed the director Tim Burton that she would have to leave the film. Bening continued…
They did a whole body cast in those days – I'm sure they wouldn't have to do it that way now. But then in those days, they would do an entire body cast – and then I had to call Tim Burton and say 'I'm having a baby.
In the end, everything worked out for the best. Annette Bening has a 32-year-old son, and Michelle Pfeiffer killed it in Batman Returns creating one of the best Catwoman performances on screen. Bening would get to play a role in a comic book movie years later when she appeared as the Supreme Intelligence in Captain Marvel.
We'll almost certainly see Catwoman again on screen. While there are no Batman movies in the 2024 release schedule, there's a good chance Zoe Kravitz could return to her version of the character based on what we know about The Batman 2. And there are always upcoming Batman movies and series where new actors will have a chance to put their stamp on Catwoman.