At the ripe age of 30, Tim Burton's "Batman Returns" has aged pretty wonderfully. The film did not exactly adhere to the source material, but it was able to capture the essence of a great live-action Batman film. It featured Michael Keaton's best performance as the titular character, while Michelle Pfeiffer cemented herself as the quintessential Catwoman. The film also boasted a fan-favorite and inspired performance by Danny DeVito as the Penguin. And, as it turns out, the film nearly included a previous incarnation of the villain from the iconic "Batman" television series.

Burgess Meredith, who played the Penguin in the "Batman" television series from 1966, almost made his way into "Batman Returns." The first person to play the Penguin in live-action, Meredith brought the villain to life in a campy, yet faithful fashion. He looked the part as well, sporting a comic-accurate suit and purple top hat, appropriately colorful for the era. Compared to Meredith's performance, DeVito played a distant version of Penguin's counterpart. In a way, Meredith paved the path for DeVito's interpretation — so much so that "Batman Returns" considered paying homage to the '60s TV series by bringing back the actor for a small yet vital role.

An Orphan Not Named Bruce

In "Batman Returns," the film opens with a pretty bleak and disturbing origin story for the antagonist. Oswald Cobblepot, the son of two wealthy Gotham socialites, was born heavily deformed on a cold winter night. When they decide to abandon the child, the parents drop Oswald off in the sewers as a wee baby. It's here where he is raised by a group of penguins, spending over thirty years plotting his revenge on the world that abandoned him. Naturally, Meredith was eyed for the role of Tucker Cobblepot, Penguin's father.

Unfortunately, Meredith could not join the film at the time due to an illness, so the role went to Paul Reubens instead. Meredith's inclusion would have seen him literally introduce a new version of the character to the world, one much more disturbing than the last. And while DeVito's iteration bares little resemblance to Meredith's take on the character, it would have been fitting to see a metaphorical passing of the baton. Don't get me wrong, Reubens was a pretty good choice and even played Oswald's father again in "Gotham" decades later, too. But c'mon, just imagine how cool Meredith would've looked in a Burton film.

Although the cameo appearance didn't end up happening, both superhero projects remain pinnacles of live-action Batman adaptations. The '60s "Batman" series is available to stream on Roku, while "Batman Returns" can currently be watched on HBO Max.

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