In Batman Returns, the Caped Crusader takes on a trio of deadly villains: The Penguin, Catwoman and Max Shreck. Penguin and Catwoman are foes that most audiences are familiar with, but who is Max Shreck?
In this post, I’m providing all the details about this high-profile character. Who he is, who he replaced in the movie, what his original connection to the Penguin was, and whether Max Shreck has appeared in additional Batman movies.
Who is Max Shreck in Batman Returns?
When Max Shreck is first introduced, he is sitting in his office holding a meeting for Gotham City officials. With his striking grey hair and pin-stripe suit, it is clear from his first scene that Shreck is a noticeable figure and one who exudes power.
As a businessman, Shreck is a key figure in the city – he converses with the Mayor, is loved by the people, and is referred to as “Gotham’s own Santa Claus.” But beneath Shreck’s happy facade is a ruthless streak and one that puts him on a dark path.
This path initially leads him to the Penguin – a person he begrudgingly forms a partnership with. But it is a partnership that Max knows he can work to his favour.
Shreck wants Penguin to become the next Mayor of Gotham. He knows that with an ally in City Hall he will have no problems passing bills for any future endeavours – including the construction of a new power plant he has been trying to get off the ground.
But the Penguin isn’t the right person for office – he’s far from it – and Max knows it. Yet, the Penguin is an opportunity that needs to be nurtured, then exploited for personal gain – and that’s all that matters to Max.
But it’s not just the Penguin that has dealings with Max. Selina Kyle also gets mixed up with Max, leading to her transformation into Catwoman.
Through his actions, both directly and indirectly, Max helps to create Catwoman – who becomes somewhat of a loose cannon in Gotham. And one, that when combined with Penguin causes problems for Batman and threatens the safety of citizens.
But Shreck doesn’t care. He is a businessman; an opportunist; an industrialist monster – and he will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Ultimately he pays the price for his actions, but not once does he ever feel remorse for any pain he has caused as the dark heart of Gotham.
Who plays Max Shreck in Batman Returns?
In Batman Returns, Max Shreck is played by Christopher Walken. The actor is known for his roles in films such as The Deer Hunter (1978), The Dead Zone (1983), The Prophecy (1995), and Hairspray (2007), amongst others.
Who did Max Shreck replace in Batman Returns?
Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent was due to appear in Batman Returns, but the character was replaced in favour of Max Shreck. Dent had appeared briefly in Batman (1989) and would reappear in Batman Forever(1995), but Shreck was a better fit for the story of Batman Returns.
What was Max Shreck’s original connection to Penguin?
Shreck was initially envisioned as a sibling to Oswald Cobblepot. Although, this idea was dropped before the movie entered production, this was a story beat that was being considered.
Speaking on a vintage Villains featurette on the home video release of Batman Returns, screenwriter Daniel Waters, said: “Originally, the Max Shreck character, he is the golden boy son of the Cobblepots; and it turns out that he and Penguin are brothers and there was that kind of dichotomy in the movie, of like the saintly brother who runs the city, and the ultimate black sheep who is thrown to the sewer, and how they come up together. But the script and the movie is way too rich to begin with and that was just another layer that we finally had to lose.”
Personally, I think it works well having Penguin and Max as associates, rather than blood relatives, but it certainly would have been an intriguing idea to make them brothers. Oh, what could have been.
Does Max Shreck appear in many Batman movies?
Max Shreck was created specifically for Batman Returns. He did not originate in the comics or any previous incarnation of the Batman mythology and was conceived purely for use as a one-off villain.
But Shreck proved to be a key figure and a fan-favourite one to boot. Commenting on the character’s popularity on a vintage Villains featurette on the home video release of Batman Returns, comic book artist, Alex Ross, said: “(The writers) made up a fictional character, that’s not in Batman’s universe and suddenly he becomes the most exciting character in the film.”
Yet despite his popularity, Shreck has not appeared in any Batman project since Batman Returns. Will he ever make a reappearance? Unlikely; the role belongs to Christopher Walken and I can’t imagine anyone else doing it justice.
I hope this information on Max Shreck has proved useful. Should you wish to know more about characters featured in the Batman movie series, please take a look at one of the recommended reads below.
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- Is Catwoman part of the Batman Anthology?
- Can you watch the Batman movies in any order?