Ask people to recall one thing from Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin and while Bat-Nipples are sure to get a mention, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze would probably be the most common response.
Playing the part of Victor Freeze, a crazed scientist forced to wear a freeze suit following an experiment gone awry, the DC Comics version is a bald, elderly man known for carrying a weapon capable of freezing his enemies stiff.
Picking up on Mr Freeze’s passion for freezing things, Schwarzenegger would go on to deliver his most pun-tastic performance to date, cramming in so many ice/freeze/cold-related puns, it’s almost exhausting watching them all back.
20 years on from the film’s release, many of the principal players behind the Batman flop have opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about what went on – and there are plenty of fascinating stories concerning Arnie and his supervillain role. Here are seven of the best.
Schwarzenegger was first choice
It’s long been rumoured that Patrick Stewart, rather than Schwarzenegger, was the studio’s first choice to play the part of Mr Freeze but Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher denies this. “It’s a wonderful idea. But no one ever suggested him,” Schumacher told THR. “I had met with Arnold several times, because he was always interested in working together.” Despite these claims, storyboard artist Tim Burgard does recall Mr Freeze sounding almost Shakespearean in the original version of the script, which suggests someone other than Arnie may have been in mind for the role.
Schwarzenegger negotiated a great deal
Any suggestion Schwarzenegger was not first choice for the part does kind of fall down when you consider the incredible deal he managed to negotiate to appear in Batman & Robin. As well as getting top billing on the film ahead of George Clooney (Jack Nicholson had got the same ahead of Michael Keaton on the first Batman) Schwarzenegger was also paid $25 million to appear in the film. More importantly, he was only on set for 25 days which amounts to, that’s right, a million dollars a day.
The puns were not in the original script
While Burgard recalls the original version of the script giving Mr Freeze a more theatrical, almost Shakespearean air, subsequent rewrites introduced puns-aplenty. All told, 13 ice-related puns ended up in the finished movie, with a further 10 one-liners included as the studio looked to take advantage of Schwarzenegger’s reputation for delivering these pithy putdowns. Who could have known that would backfire on them?
Jon Bon Jovi caused trouble
Arguably the most amusing anecdote to emerge from THR’s story concerns Schwarzenegger’s unlikely friendship with a power ballad legend, Jon Bon Jovi. The Livin’ On A Prayer star was something of a troublemaker though, bring Schwarzenegger Cuban cigars to enjoy between filming. Arnie wanted to smoke them during takes though and soon came up with a novel idea. “Arnold had them color it white so he could smoke it in the scenes,” Stogie Kenyatta, who played a generic thug, revealed to THR.
Schwarzenegger’s look took four hours and 11 people
Much like Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito on Batman Returns, the process that turned Schwarzenegger into Mr Freeze was time-consuming and required a team of some 11 people. “He’d always have tons of people around him,” Jeff Dawn, Schwarzenegger’s make-up artist says. “One person would be massaging his hand. He’d have an assistant there talking, he would be eating. I would have one or two people assisting me. It’s a lot of bodies in a very small area around a big guy.” The process was made longer by the fact Schwarzenegger had a last minute change of heart and opted to wear a bald cap rather than have his head shaved.
The Mr Freeze look had teething problems
Dawn was also in charge of creating Schwarzenegger’s chrome-like skin tone – something he initially tried to do using Christmas tree flocking which was, in hindsight, a little dangerous. “This is back in the days when you kind of look at the can and there’s no major skull and crossbones on it. So you think, ‘This is OK to spray on someone’s face.’ Nowadays it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to safety and safety data sheets and all that. But back then, you’d smell it and go, ‘It’s extremely flammable, and there’s some smoke skull and crossbones down here, but I think we’ll be OK.’ “Eventually, safe-for-skin acrylic paints were used but that was only the start of the problems.
Schwarzenegger’s suit was a nightmare
The finishing touch was Mr Freeze’s suit, which was so convincing, it scared the hell out of Schwarzenegger’s son, who couldn’t recognise his dad in it when visiting set. There were some problems involving the mouth or, more specifically, the LED light emanating from it. Not only did it make line delivery trick for Schwarzenegger but the batteries powering the lights also proved very problematic. “When you put it in Arnold’s mouth, Arnold’s saliva would creep into the seams of this thing and attack the batteries. The batteries would immediately start disintegrating and start putting out battery acid into Arnold’s mouth,” Dawn explains. Worse still, the batteries died after around just 20 minutes of light, resulting in repeated delays in filming.
Still, it was all worth it in the end, right?
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.