Here’s Batman Returns original plan for Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and why the character was cut. Following the landmark success of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, it was a given Warner Bros would pursue a sequel, though Burton was reluctant after the stressful production of the original. It was only after the studio offered him much more creative freedom did he sign on, which is why Batman Returns is easily the most unique, and weirdest, superhero blockbuster of all time.
Tim Burton wanted to separate Batman Returns from the first film, which is why only a handful of characters return and there’s only a couple of fleeting references to the original. The sequel was a huge hit but parents complained about its unrelenting darkness and kinkiness – which isn’t something typically associated with a family-friendly blockbuster. This led to Burton departing the third Batman movie, with Joel Schumacher taking over the franchise.
It’s a well-known part of Batman Returns development that some major characters were cut from the script before filming. This includes Robin, who was portrayed as a teen mechanic who helps fix the Batmobile, and later teams with Batman to take on The Penguin; Marlon Wayans was cast but the role was trimmed to streamline the plot. Another character who didn’t make the cut was Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent. Fans of the comics knew Dent eventually evolves into Two-Face, with Williams taking on the part in the first Batman under the assumption Dent would become the villain.
Tim Burton decided not to include Harvey Dent just to separate the sequel even further from Batman, and while it’s assumed Christopher Walken’s corrupt businessman Max Shreck fulfilled the role Harvey would have played, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Shreck was an original character created by screenwriter Daniel Waters to “triangulate” the many other plots in the film, and in an interview with Money Into Light, he explained “I had one scene of Billy Dee Williams getting injured and then getting a coin, but we didn’t do anything with it.”
It appears Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s role in Batman Returns would never have been more than a cameo. Other interviews with Waters describe Harvey flipping a coin and when it comes up on the good side he doesn’t do anything, teasing his return in the next movie. The idea of including the character was nixed early in development, and Dent doesn’t appear in early drafts of Waters’ script, so it’s unknown how he would have figured into the story or how he gets scarred. Its possible elements of Shreck’s storyline would have featured in the creation of Two-Face, but the character was never going to be a primary villain in Batman Returns. Tommy Lee Jones would later take over the role for 1995’s Batman Forever, but Billy Dee Williams finally got to play Two-Face in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie.