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Selina Kyle
Catwoman
Tim Burton's Batman character
Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman
First appearanceBatman Returns
Based on
Adapted by
Portrayed byMichelle Pfeiffer
In-universe information
Full nameSelina Kyle
SpeciesHuman
GenderFemale

Selina Kyle, commonly known as Catwoman, is a fictional character who appears in Tim Burton's 1992 superhero film Batman Returns. Based upon the DC Comics character and antihero of the same name, she was played by American actress Michelle Pfeiffer.

Catwoman is often considered to be one of Pfeiffer's finest performances, even though she regarded it as one of her most uncomfortable, due to the sheer discomfort and inhibitions she suffered through while wearing the costume. When Batman Returns was released in June 1992, the performance caused a sensation, receiving critical acclaim and numerous accolades, and is consistently referred to as the greatest portrayal of Catwoman of all time by critics and fans.

Character arc

This version of Selina Kyle is depicted as the mousy, long-suffering secretary of corrupt tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). After Selina accidentally discovers Shreck's plot to build a power plant that would steal Gotham's electricity, Shreck attempts to murder her by pushing her out the window of his office. She dies after the fall and is mysteriously revived by a group of alley cats that flock around her and begin gnawing at her fingers. When she returns home, she suffers a psychotic breakdown and becomes Catwoman.

As part of her larger plan to destroy Shreck, she allies herself with the Penguin (Danny DeVito), which attracts Batman's (Michael Keaton) attention. Meanwhile, she begins a relationship with Bruce Wayne, at first not knowing that he is Batman. At the climax of the film, Catwoman tries to kill Shreck. Although Shreck shoots her several times, he fails to kill her. She then kills Shreck by kissing him with a taser in her mouth while holding onto an exposed power cable. An explosion ensues, but afterwards, Batman finds only Shreck's charred corpse. As the Bat-signal later shines in the night sky, Catwoman is seen watching from afar.

In 2004’s Catwoman, Kyle's photograph is shown among those of former "Catwomen" viewed by Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) when visiting eccentric researcher Ophelia Powers (Frances Conroy).

According to an alternate newspaper article read by an older Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl), Kyle later became publicly engaged to Bruce Wayne after reuniting with him.

Background

Pfeiffer's interpretation of the character is specifically influenced by the graphic novel Catwoman: Her Sister's Keeper, and derives heavily from the Pre-Crisis version of the character. In the film, she wears an all-black update of the character's traditionally green catsuit, and her facial appearance includes blonde hair and a cat-eared cowl that covers up part of her face, with the initial concept for the costume coming from Tim Burton, who envisioned a stuffed cat with its stitches coming apart at the seams.

Sam Hamm originally wrote a sequel script to the original Batman, which had Catwoman teaming up with The Penguin to go after hidden treasure, but screenwriter Daniel Waters reworked her characterization after Burton brought him in to pen a new screenplay for the film. Waters explained "Sam Hamm went back to the way comic books in general treat women, like fetishy sexual fantasy. I wanted to start off just at the lowest point in society, a very beaten down secretary."[1] Catwoman killing Schreck with the taser kiss was originally written as her disfiguring Harvey Dent and turning him into Two-Face in early drafts of the script, but he was eventually deleted from the film.

According to Pfeiffer, who was previously reportedly considered to play Vicki Vale in the previous film but turned down, she felt devastated after Annette Bening was cast as Catwoman based on the strength of her performance in The Grifters, but Bening had to drop out of the film due to becoming pregnant.[2] Sean Young, who was originally chosen for Vicki Vale in the previous film, believed the role should have gone to her, and she visited the production offices dressed in a homemade Catwoman costume, demanding to be considered.[3]

Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Brooke Shields, Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman (who ended up playing Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever), Jodie Foster, Geena Davis, Sigourney Weaver, Lena Olin, singer Madonna, Raquel Welch, Cher, Ellen Barkin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lorraine Bracco, Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Beals[citation needed] also either sought out or were considered for the role.[4] Burton was unfamiliar with Pfeiffer's work when she was suggested to him, but after one meeting was convinced that she would be perfect, and that she "could be both Selina Kyle and Catwoman" at the same time. Pfeiffer undertook kickboxing lessons for the role and trained for months with an expert to master the whip, and on the first day she accidentally cut her teacher's chin.[2] Kathy Long, Pfeiffer's kickboxing coach, also served as her body double on the film.[5][6]

More than 60 latex catsuits were created for the six-month shoot at $1,000 each.[7] The initial concept for the design came from Tim Burton, who envisioned a stuffed cat with its stitches coming apart at the seams. The costume was created around a body cast of Pfeiffer so that it would fit her exactly, and painted with white silicone rubber to imitate stitches. It was extremely tight and very laborious to put on – Pfeiffer had to be covered in talcum powder to squeeze into the costume, which was in turn brushed with liquid silicone on every take to give it shine.[8][2] Pfeiffer would wear the suit for 12 to 14 hours at a time, except lunch breaks when it was removed, which was her only opportunity to use the bathroom during the workday.

Reception

Audiences at test screenings responded positively to Michelle Pfeiffer's performance, and the studio wanted to make it clear Catwoman survived, so two weeks before release the final shot of her was added to the film.[2] Pfeiffer received universal critical acclaim for her performance, and is consistently referred to as the greatest portrayal of Catwoman of all time by critics and fans. Janet Maslin described her performance as "captivating... fierce, seductive",[9] while Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone "Pfeiffer gives this feminist avenger a tough core of intelligence and wit; she's a classic dazzler".[10] Premiere retrospectively lauded her performance: "Arguably the outstanding villain of the Tim Burton era, Michelle Pfeiffer's deadly kitten with a whip brought sex to the normally neutered franchise. Her stitched-together, black patent leather costume, based on a sketch of Burton's, remains the character's most iconic look. And Michelle Pfeiffer overcomes Batman Returns' heavy-handed feminist dialogue to deliver a growling, fierce performance."[11]

Todd McCarthy of Variety praised her performance: "Pfeiffer proves to be a very tasty Catwoman indeed."[12] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman wrote: "The runaway star here is Pfeiffer, whose performance is a sexy, comic triumph."[13] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a mixed review but praised Pfeiffer: "The only exception to the overall doom and gloom is Michelle Pfeiffer’s stylish and funny performance as the frumpy Selina Kyle and her alter ego, the whip-cracking gender-bending Catwoman. The energy and pizazz Pfeiffer brings to the dual role is both a hint of the pleasure "Batman Returns" might have provided and a rebuke to the overall air of glum severity that a sophomoric, pseudo-jokey script unsuccessfully attempts to relieve."[14]

Legacy

"After the traumas of Batman Returns she has amnesia, and she doesn't really remember why she has all these bullet holes in her body, so she goes to relax in Oasisburg. What Gotham City is to New York, Oasisburg is to Las Vegas-Los Angeles-Palm Springs. [It's a] resort area in the middle of the desert. It's run by superheroes, and the movie has great fun at making fun at the whole male superhero mythos. Then they end up being not very good at all deep down, and she's got to go back to that whole Catwoman thing."

—Daniel Waters on his script for Catwoman[1]

With Warner Bros. moving on development for Batman Forever in June 1993 (a film which briefly referenced Catwoman in dialogue form), a Catwoman spin-off was announced. Michelle Pfeiffer was to reprise her role, with the character not to appear in Forever because of her own spin-off.[15] Burton became attached as director, while producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters also returned.[16] In January 1994, Burton was unsure of his plans to direct Catwoman or an adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher".[17]

On June 6, 1995, Waters turned in his Catwoman script to Warner Bros., the same day Batman Forever was released. Burton was still being courted to direct. Waters joked, "Turning it in the day Batman Forever opened may not have been my best logistical move, in that it's the celebration of the fun-for-the-whole-family Batman. Catwoman is definitely not a fun-for-the-whole-family script."[1] In an August 1995 interview, Pfeiffer re-iterated her interest in the spin-off, but explained her priorities would be challenged as a mother and commitments to other projects.[18]

In January 1999, writer John August pitched his script, where Selena Kyle leaves Gotham and goes to her home town of Lake City.[19] The film labored in development hell for years, with Pfeiffer replaced by Ashley Judd. The film ended up becoming the critically panned Catwoman (2004), starring Halle Berry as Patience Phillips, with Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle represented with a photograph of her alongside other "Catwomen". Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle is also mentioned in a newspaper in a deleted scene in Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) as having returned, now publicly engaged to Bruce Wayne.[20][21]

In a 2021 interview with Screen Rant, Pfeiffer stated that she would be interested in reprising the role in The Flash, but that "no one's asked me yet".[22]

Comic book continuation

In 2021, DC announced it would be releasing a digital-first comic book, Batman '89 set in the world of Tim Burton's Batman universe. The series would be written by Sam Hamm and illustrated by Joe Quinones. Picking up after the events of Batman Returns, the comic's synopsis revealed that it would include the return of Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle/Catwoman.[23]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Sloane, Judy (August 1995). "Daniel Waters on Writing". Film Review. London, England: Visual Imagination Ltd. pp. 67–69.
  2. ^ a b c d Burton, Byron (19 June 2017). "'Batman Returns' at 25: Stars Reveal Script Cuts, Freezing Sets and Aggressive Penguins". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California: Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on 21 June 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  3. ^ Gerosa, Melina (30 January 2007). "Odd Woman Out". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved 30 September 2019. Young dressed in a catsuit, flew to L.A., and personally lobbied for the role at Warner Bros. headquarters.
  4. ^ Broeske, Pat H.; Thompson, Anne (9 August 1991). "Big-Game Hunting". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Time, Inc. Retrieved 14 August 2008. Other rumored contenders: Raquel Welch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lena Olin, Ellen Barkin, Cher, Bridget Fonda, Susan Sarandon, and even Batman‘s Vicky Vale, Kim Basinger.
  5. ^ "Batman Returns AFI Catalog". catalog.afi.com. American Film Institute.
  6. ^ Calistro, Paddy (17 July 1992). "Directory : Kick-boxing is the hottest workout in town, thanks to a streetwise fighter called Catwoman. Here's where to get your kicks". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California.
  7. ^ Tim Fennell (August 1992). "The Catsuit", Empire, pp. 47—49. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  8. ^ Lack, Hannah (12 July 2012). "Costume designer Mary Vogt on Michelle Pfeiffer's Catsuit". AnOther Magazine. Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (19 June 1992). "Movie Review - Batman Returns - Review/Film: Batman Returns; A Sincere Bat, a Sexy Cat and a Bad Bird". The New York Times. New York City. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  10. ^ Travers, Peter (7 February 2001). "Batman Returns". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 4 November 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  11. ^ "The Best Bat-Villains: Catwoman - Premiere.com - Premiere.com". Premiere Magazine. Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc. Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (15 June 1992). "Batman Returns". Variety. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  13. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (26 June 1992). "'Batman Returns': EW review". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Time, Inc.
  14. ^ Turan, Kenneth (19 June 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : The Roar of the Cat, Whimper of the Bat". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California.
  15. ^ Michael Fleming (17 June 1993). "Dish". Variety. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  16. ^ Fleming, Michael (22 July 1993). "Another life at WB for Catwoman and Burton?". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  17. ^ Fleming, Michael (13 January 1994). "Seagal on the pulpit may be too much for WB". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  18. ^ Egan, Tim (6 August 1995). "Michelle Pfeiffer, Sensuous to Sensible". The New York Times. New York City.
  19. ^ Pearson, Ben (17 August 2018). "Here's What a 'Catwoman' Solo Movie Starring Michelle Pfeiffer Could Have Been About". /Film.
  20. ^ Fleming, Michael (2 April 2001). "WB: Judd purr-fect as Cat". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  21. ^ "Catwoman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 August 2008.
  22. ^ "Michelle Pfeiffer Would Play Catwoman In The Flash Movie If Asked". ScreenRant. 28 January 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  23. ^ Arvedon, Jon (17 February 2021). "DC Announces Batman '89 and Superman '78 Digital First Series". CBR.com. Retrieved 17 February 2021.