mark hamill assuming the role of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series it was casting inspired. He was great in that role and gave us a very different and unique take on the villain that fans loved. In a recent Vulture report, we get the story of how Hamill landed that role.
When they were auditioning the actors for the role, bruce timm he explained that everyone who came to read was basically doing Cesar Romero’s version of the character from the original 1960s Batman series. He explained that no one was treating the character seriously. Even Tim Curry he came to audition and even originally got the role.
Timm said, “All the actors we tested were doing these really silly, weird voices. None of it held any serious threat at all. Tim Curry came along and gave us something very close to what we wanted. It was fun and weird, but it definitely had a bit of menace to it as well. So we hired Tim. He did about three episodes for us. And then Alan Burnett came to me after we did the third one, and we listened to the assembled tracks, and he said, ‘I think we have to replace Tim.’
voice director roman andrea he said Timm just couldn’t “take in Tim’s performance. And the truth is, he would never have played Tim again.” She didn’t want to replace Tim because he had already recorded several episodes and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of re-recording them. She explains, “It’s not that Tim was doing anything wrong, it just wasn’t exactly what we wanted.”
Romano ended up getting a call from Hamill’s agent telling him that he was a huge fan of the comics and Batman and wanted to be involved with the series in some way.
Hamill shared his thoughts on the matter, saying, “I actively wanted to be on this show because I was reading about the people they were bringing together in key positions.” I followed the fan press in terms of comics. I was reading, I think, in the Comic Book Buyer’s Guide that their goals were to make the Batman episodes analogous to the 1940s Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. That was their benchmark of quality. I thought, oh my gosh, they’re really going to get this right. It won’t be aimed at elementary school kids, like some previous iterations of the Batman cartoons.”
So Romano brought Hamill as a guest. He provided the voice of a corporate tycoon who was responsible for the death of Mr. Freeze’s wife. He hasn’t been cast as Joker yet. Hamill said of the experience: “I went in there and let my geek flag fly. I was asking them all these questions: ‘Are you going to do Ra’s al Ghul? Are you going to do Dr. Hugo Strange?’”
Romano said: “He was so grateful, he pulled me aside at the end of the session and said, ‘I had a lot of fun doing this and thank you so much for having me. But I really want to be a part of it.’ from the series I don’t want to just go in and do a guest star and disappear. And then, coincidentally, here comes the need to recast the Joker.”
Not long after Hamill got the call to audition for The Joker, but it’s a role he didn’t initially want due to the big shoes he’d have to fill. He remembered that and said, “I got a call saying, ‘They want you to come over and audition for the Joker.’ And I said, ‘Oh, gosh, that’s too high-profile for my liking.’ Not only has it been done with César Romero, but Jack Nicholson has done it. What can I bring to the table that hasn’t been done before?’ I said, ‘I’d rather play Two-Face or Clayface or someone who hasn’t finished. The reason I went in was because I was absolutely certain that they couldn’t cast me as the Joker simply because, PR-wise, the idea of the guy who played Luke Skywalker, this icon of heroism, this virtuous character, playing this icon of villainy? Comic book fans are notoriously picky. They are very stubborn and are not shy about letting you know how they feel. I thought it would be a PR disaster they couldn’t handle. He gave me a lot of confidence, as I didn’t think there was any chance I would get the part, so I took that performance anxiety away.”
He obviously won everyone over! pablo dini he said, “I remember listening to his audition, and when he laughed, I was like, ‘That’s it. It’s just that.’ The laughter was cruel, funny, there was an undercurrent of terrible sadness in it. It was the laughter of a destroyed soul.”
I love that description of the Joker’s laugh. Speaking about how that nightmarish laugh came about, Hamill explained: “I had done Mozart in Amadeus on the first national tour, and then they transferred to Broadway, and one of the things that’s relevant to my audition [for the Joker] it’s just that Mozart had that awful kind of laugh that spoiled everybody. I played a lot with that laugh. I would do a little bit of Dwight Frye, I would do a little bit of Sydney Greenstreet. I love all those old Warner Bros. movies, so I was just swiping people. Sometimes I’d get notes like, ‘It was a bit much ‘Jerry Lewis at the matinee.’ Roll it back. I’m telling you this because, looking back, after I got the part, I asked Andrea Romano, ‘How did I get it? What was the process? How did you know you wanted me? And she said: ‘Laughter’. She didn’t want to be pigeonholed into a specific laugh. With the Joker, I said, this is like an artist with a very large palette. I want a variety of laughs. One thing that stuck with me was when Frank Gorshin was talking about Riddler [whom Gorshin played in the 1960s series], He was reading about it and he said, ‘A lot of times, it’s not that the Riddler laughs, it’s what he laughs at.’ I said, Oh, that’s interesting. If I can find places to open a little window into this psychopath’s psyche, I’m going to use that.”
kevin conroy He went on to talk about Hamill’s Joker, saying, “Luke Skywalker is the likable young lead, and most of the time in movies, that’s probably the least interesting character in a movie. Well, Mark Hamill couldn’t be more far from it. This madman came to the recording studio and he was totally eccentric and he goes a million miles an hour. He talks a million miles an hour. His imagination never stops jumping from one subject to another. He’s an intellectual person very alive, and if you understand Mark on a subject, you can’t shut him up for an hour.”
Bruce Timm later added: “It was like, Hallelujah! Who knew that Luke Skywalker would be our perfect Joker?
To read about how Batman: The Animated Series joined, click here. To read about how Kevin Conroy was cast as Batman, click here.