Batman’s Batman: A Memoir of a Man Who Helped Bring Batman to the Big Screen

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Michael E. Uslan’s Batman’s Batman

Batmania is underway with the new release of The Batman in theaters starring Robert Pattinson as the titular character and Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. However, the character’s popularity wasn’t always this big. One of the most important figures to help bring Batman to the big screen was Michael E. Uslan. He believed that people wanted to see the Caped Crusader in theaters way before the DC hero became a box office hit, and he took it upon himself to make that happen by becoming the originator and executive producer of the Batman movie franchise.

Uslan has a book out now called Batman’s Batman: A Memoir from Hollywood, Land of Bilk and Money from Indiana University Press/Lightning Books. It chronicles his journey from bringing 1989’s Batman to 2022’s The Batman to the big screen. Below you can find a Nerd Reactor exclusive excerpt from the book.

The book goes in-depth on Uslan’s history with Batman including why it took 10 years to get the first movie (Tim Burton’s Batman) greenlit, why Hollywood didn’t think a Batman film wouldn’t be successful, and how the franchise has evolved over the years. It also has tips in working in the industry and other essentials for becoming a producer.

Batman’s Batman is now available on Amazon.

Here’s the exclusive excerpt from Batman’s Batman:

The PITCH

When I walk into the spacious office of high-level major Hollywood studio execs and pitch my latest project to them and their attendant entourage of vice presidents and assistants, I never see them as high-level anything. I see them all as the four- and five-year-old campers I led as a camp counselor when I was a teenager in the Garden State of New Jersey. Why? Because there are only two elements mandatory to a successful movie pitch: passion and storytelling. And so, I imagine them all as my little campers as I tell them a story around a campfire. Whether I want to give them chills by crafting a ghost story or want to excite them by communicating a superhero tale, the object is to draw them in, captivate them, own their attention, and tell them an amazing story with colorful characters. If you fail to have the enthusiasm or fail to project and share that passion with the people in the room, the pitch loses its energy and dies en route.

It was 2013. My son, David, was on the advisory boards to both the Stan Lee Founda-tion and the Los Angeles Unified School District. He helped arrange a special day for kids in schools in Compton and Watts. First, I went to the schools and talked to the students about my journey with Batman as a blue-collar kid who didn’t come from money but was still able to make my dreams come true by bringing the world the first dark and serious movies of the Batman. From there, we all piled on to buses and drove to Dodger Stadium as the guests of the team. Everyone was invited onto the playing field to watch batting prac-tice. Stan Lee was set to throw out the first ball of the game while plugging that weekend’s opening of one of Marvel’s Thor movies. David and I were having a blast watching all the excited kids as game time neared and the field needed to be cleared. That was when it hap-pened. Out of the blue! Unexpected!
A tied and jacketed Dodger exec approached me with a panicky look on his face.

“Mr. Uslan,” he said in a sort of begging voice, “we have a problem maybe you can help us with.”
Always the problem solver, I offered any assistance I could provide.

“We just got a call from Stan Lee, and he is stuck in a massive traffic jam and simply won’t make it here on time to throw out the first pitch today.”

I still didn’t see it coming. David did, and his eyes got very wide.

“Uhh . . . we know who you are. Batman. Would you throw out the first ball for tonight’s game?”

I was stunned but kept calm. My reply was reasonable and firm. “I haven’t touched a baseball since my thirty-something son here was in Little League. Give me like a half hour on the side to throw and see if I can do it.”

The Dodger exec’s reply was far less reasonable and far firmer than mine. “Mr. Uslan, this is happening in two minutes. There’s no time to practice throwing.”

Semi-relieved, I smiled and said, “Well, then, I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. I’ve been a huge baseball fan since birth. If I got out there and bounced the ball to the catcher, that would be the biggest humiliation of my life and so I can’t.”

Few are quicker on their feet than David in a pinch. My son quickly interceded, got in my face, and ordered, “Dad! Look at me! I want you to look at that pitcher’s mound over there! Dad . . . Sandy Koufax stood on that pitcher’s mound. And now they want you to take the ball and stand out there, too!”

Having no idea where it came from, I suddenly heard myself say, “I’ll do it!”

The exec told his assistant, “The fool’s gonna do it!” Or maybe he said something differ-ent. All I know is the next instant I found myself standing along the first base line with all the Dodgers as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing, TV cameramen were lining up in front of me, and someone put a baseball in my right hand. I spied my wife in the front row next to Rob Reiner, who was eating the biggest sub sandwich I’d ever seen. Nancy looked ready to throw up, and I knew the culprit was me and my sudden situation and not Rob Reiner’s dripping sandwich.

Suddenly, that tied and jacketed exec nudged me and walked me toward the pitcher’s mound . . . the Holy Land of baseball . . . as I saw myself on Diamondvision across the score-board and heard an echoey Mount Sinai–type voice proclaiming, “Ladies and gentle-men! To throw out the first pitch of tonight’s game, let’s all welcome the originator and executive producer of the Batman/Dark Knight movie franchise, MICHAEL-EL-EL-EL USLAN-LAN-LAN-LAN!”

There was a scattered string of applause and, surprisingly, no boos from what I imagined might have been a stacked Marvel crowd. I then realized that the figure I saw about a mile and a quarter away was the Dodgers catcher. Time out! Seriously, you have no idea how far away that pitcher’s mound is from home plate! It’s ridiculous! It looks so close on TV! The catcher crouched down. I realized that if I bounced it, I would never live it down. Never! So I just thought I had to throw the damn ball as hard as I possibly could and re-lease it more on the up portion of the pitch and not on the downside. Honestly, I didn’t care if this sucker wound up in Row E, I was not going to bounce it. And I knew absolutely that I didn’t care if my right arm became dislocated, broken, or fell off; I was going to put every bit of adrenalized strength into this that I could humanly muster. And I let it fly. The catcher had to jump up and catch it at his left shoulder! “I love the smell of Dodger Dogs in the evening. It smells like . . . Victory!” As the beaming catcher rushed to hand me the ball and marvel at my feat, the first person out of the dugout to congratulate me was my Yan-kee idol, Don Mattingly. As I slowly walked off the field, realizing that people in the stands were still clapping that I hadn’t bounced it in, my son proudly rushed up and gave me a hug. I handed David the ball as we walked off the field of Dodger Stadium, simultaneously noticing the slumped, passed-out figure of my wife, as Rob Reiner struggled to untangle her from his no-longer-impressive sub sandwich.

If someone puts the ball in your hand, oftentimes you only have one shot to make the perfect pitch. Whether baseball or movie producing, the story and the results are the same. Do not, under any circumstances, just “bounce it in”!

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