Ask Me Anything: Michael Uslan
The book on the Batman executive producer
Hollywood bigwig Michael Uslan ushered his comic-book idol onto the big screen in Batman and has been with the Dark Knight in every film since, including next month’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A hero’s work is never done: The Indiana University grad is teaching a film course this semester at his alma mater.
How did you wind up teaching a class—“Experiential Movie Making”— in Bloomington?
When Michael McRobbie was provost, he and I wound up at the New York [IU] Alumni Association Dinner giving back-to-back speeches. We hit it off and talked about how IU needs an international thrust, and that the world is a global village, and that students don’t realize that cinema is much more than what Hollywood grinds out to them. It’s more than The Nutty Professor 6. There’s a whole other world to this that they need to be made aware of and educated on. That began our discussions, pushing to create what would become the Media School.
What initially drew you to IU from your hometown in new Jersey?
I went for several reasons. When we were first looking at colleges for my brother, clearly IU was the most beautiful. I was interested in majoring in history; they had the most phenomenal course selection—and I didn’t have to take math.
And then IU law school?
I couldn’t get my foot in the door in terms of a creative job in the movie industry. I sent out 200 resumes and had two job offers, both of which paid $95 per week. You can’t live in New York or L.A. on $95 a week. So, law school was Plan B, and I went in the hopes of getting a job on the legal/business/financial side of the movie industry. Then, when no one was watching, I’d slip through the back door on the creative side. Plan B worked.
You’re a huge memorabilia collector. What’s your favorite treasure?
My Pluto clock. His eyes go ’round and ’round and his tongue wags and his tail wags and his face is made from cheap foam. That was in my brother’s and my bedroom when we were growing up, and it’s precious to me. In fact, my brother came to Jersey a few weeks ago for his high-school reunion in Asbury Park, and I brought the Pluto clock with me to the hotel where we were sharing a room, just so we could have it for the first time since we were kids.
What inspired your autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman?
Everyone thinks it’s a Batman book, but it’s a motivational book disguised as a Batman book. I try to use the book to get out and speak to students to communicate a message. Because I see two generations of kids that have a real misguided sense of entitlement. They believe the world owes them something. They believe the world is going to come to them. I don’t know the root cause but I see the results. My message to them in the book is to discover your passion, get off the damn couch, and make something happen.
Did you write the book by yourself?
Every word. I’d warned my editor I was going to write it like a stream of consciousness, and what ended up being published was only one-third of what I wrote. I left it to my editor to figure out the Batman through-line and separate what we would save for [future books].
Have you thought about turning it into a film or TV series?
Well, I’ve had offers—some say it could be the next Wonder Years. I want to do it myself as soon as I have time. Right now my Saturdays and Sundays are no different than my Mondays and Tuesdays. But it’s high on my priority list.
People in Hollywood talk about your integrity. How did you come by that?
My mother was the most honest person I’ve ever met in my life. She was a bookkeeper, and when we’d come home from the supermarket, she’d take out the tape and go through it item by item. And she’d say, ‘Oh no, they’ve undercharged us by 12 cents.’ We’d get back in the car and go all the way back to the store and give the clerk 12 cents. That’s how we were raised. Life is about a series of choices you make. Every choice, everything you say or do, everything you fail to say or fail to do has consequences.