Markus Hamill slip into the role of the Joker Batman: The Animated Series was inspired pouring. He was so great in the role and he gave us a very different and unique version of the villain that fans loved. In a recent report from Vulture, we learn how Hamill landed the role.
When they auditioned actors for the role, Bruce Timm explained that everyone who came to read was basically making the Cesar Romero version of the character from the original 1960s Batman series. He explained that no one treated the character seriously. Even Tim Curry came to the audition and even got the part originally!
Timm said: “All the actors that we tested all played these really silly and bizarre voices. None of this posed any serious threat at all. Tim Curry actually came in and gave us something that was very close to what we wanted. It was fun and weird, but definitely had a certain 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 tracks we put together and he said, ‘I think we need to replace Tim.'”
voice director Andrea Romano said that Timm just “couldn’t wrap his head around Tim’s performance. And the truth is, I would never have recast Tim.” She didn’t want to replace Tim because he had already recorded several episodes and she didn’t want to go through the hassle of re-recording them. She explains, “It’s not like Tim did anything bad, it just wasn’t quite what we wanted.”
Romano eventually got a call from Hamill’s agent, who said he was a huge fan of comics and Batman and wanted to be involved with the series in some way.
Sharing his thoughts on this, Hamill said: “I was dying to get on this show because I’ve read about the people who bring it together in key positions. I’ve been following the fan press regarding comics. I think I read in the Comics Buyer’s Guide that their goal was to make the Batman episodes analogous to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940’s. That was her measure of quality. I thought, oh my god, they’re really going to get this right. It won’t be aimed at elementary school kids like some previous versions of the Batman cartoons.”
So Romano brought in Hamill for a guest appearance. He provided the voice of a corporate magnate responsible for the death of Mr. Freeze’s wife. He hasn’t been cast as the Joker yet. Hamill said of the experience: “I walked in and just waved my geek flag. I asked them all these questions: “Are you going to do Ra’s al Ghul? will you dr make Hugo Strange?’”
Romano said: “He was very grateful and at the end of the session he pulled me aside and said, ‘I had so much fun doing this and thank you for bringing me into it. But I really want to be a part of the series. I don’t want to just come in, do a cameo and disappear.” And then, coincidentally, comes the need to recast the Joker.”
Not long after Hamill got the call to come in and audition for The Joker, but it’s a role he initially didn’t want because it would have had big shoes to fill. Looking back on it, he said, “I got a call saying, ‘They want you to come in and audition for the Joker.’ And I said, ‘Oh, God, that’s a little too high profile for my liking. It was not only done with Cesar Romero, but also with Jack Nicholson. What can I bring to the table that hasn’t already been done?’ I said, ‘I’d rather play Two-Face or Clayface or someone who’s not done yet.’ The reason I went in was because I was absolutely certain they couldn’t cast me as the Joker just because, public relations-wise, the idea of the guy playing Luke Skywalker — that icon of heroism, that virtuous character – play this icon of villainy? Comic fans are notoriously demanding. They are very opinionated and are not afraid to let you know how they feel. I thought it would be a PR disaster they wouldn’t be able to withstand. It gave me a lot of confidence as I didn’t think I had any chance of getting the role so I had eliminated that performance anxiety.”
He obviously convinced everyone! Paul Dini said, “I remember listening to his audition and when he laughed I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s just it.” The laughter was cruel, it was funny, there was an undercurrent of terrible sadness in it. It was the laughter of a broken soul.”
I love this description of the Joker’s laughter. Discussing how that nightmarish laugh came about, Hamill explained, “I had done Mozart in Amadeus on the first national tour, and then they put me on Broadway, and one of the things that’s relevant to my audition.” [for the Joker] is that Mozart had that ghastly laugh that upset everyone. I played with that laugh a lot. I would do a little Dwight Frye, I would do a little Sydney Greenstreet. I love all those old Warner Bros. movies, so I just smuggled people in. Sometimes I would get notes like, ‘It was a little too ‘Jerry Lewis at the matinee.’ Rewind it.’ I’m telling you this because I asked Andrea Romano afterwards, after I got the role, “How did I get her? what was the process How did you know you wanted me?’ And she said, ‘The laughter.’ I didn’t want to be put in a certain laugh. With the joker I said: This is like an artist with a very large palette. I want a bunch of laughs. One thing that stuck in my mind was when Frank Gorshin talked about the Riddler [whom Gorshin played in the 1960s series], I read about him and he said, ‘Often it’s not that the Riddler is laughing, it’s what he’s laughing about. I said: Oh, that’s interesting. If I can find places where I can open a small window into this psychopath’s psyche, I will use it.”
Kevin Conroy went on to talk about Hamill’s Joker, saying, “Luke Skywalker is the nice 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 further from that. This madman walked into the recording studio and he was totally eccentric and he drives a million miles an hour. He’s talking a million miles an hour. His imagination never stops jumping from topic to topic. He is a very intellectually active person and once you understand Mark you cannot silence him for an hour on a subject.”
Bruce Timm then added: “It was like, Hallelujah! Who would have thought that Luke Skywalker would be our perfect Joker?”
to read how Batman: The Animated Series gathered, click here. To read how Kevin Conroy was cast as Batman, click here.