Hundreds of years in the future, historians will look back at 2016 and declare it the Year of Batman. By low estimates, we have five different actors playing Batman in high profile DC roles. They range from a teenage Batman hellbent on vengeance to a Batman who has sex with a barely legal Barbara Gordon on the rooftop to a Batman who mows down thugs with his car. They are angsty, sexy, and oh so serious. And while it has become the standard, it wasn’t always this way.
Enter Adam West.
He was suave, sincere, and sometimes silly and he the opposite of almost every other Batman currently running. Adam West fills a necessary void. He is the Batman for people that don’t want to watch an action movie; for people who want to have fun. Kids want to be entertained and adults want to take a ride in the Batmobile down memory lane. Returning to the role fifty years after the launch of the original series, West, Burt Wart, and Julie Newmar are reprising their roles from Batman ’66 for an animated feature featuring the Caped Crusaders taking on their most famous foes. We sat down with Adam West at New York Comic Con to talk about the film, working with cast, and the state of the Batman.
So why do you think after fifty years your version of Batman still resonates with people?
I’m so damn good. I think because we played it for the whole family spec. So the kids would enjoy the excitement, whatever and the adults would laugh, because it was a comedy. You know when we delivered those homilies and little ethical lessons like good dental hygiene even. You know the adults thought, it’s pretty good that our kids are listening to that and the kids took it serious. You did didn’t?
What was it like getting back into the head space again? Was it a challenge to get back into the character?
No, not really. You know when you do something for maybe, three years and you play that every day and think about it and try to do little things; whatever you can do with the character and to make it funny and yet really sincere for the children, you just pull on that cowl and you’re right back here. Now I didn’t pull on the cowl because somebody stole it. All I had to do was go in and you know, little sense memory there and enthusiasm and it comes back.
How did the whippersnappers do compared to Lorenzo Semple and the guys that were writing for you back in the sixties?
Oh they were so good weren’t they? Lorenzo won the New York Film Critics award, he was a remarkable writer. I was privileged to have him writing for us. He and I became great friends. Yeah, you know today’s writing it doesn’t differ so much. The writers with whom I work at least with the Batman stuff, they’ve been very good. For them for what they did I think, you know I’m a senior super hero but they grew up with me. They had a pretty good sense of what they wanted within the dimensions of their memories, and it worked. I’ve gotta hand it to them. Maybe what I did was indelible.
What are the differences between playing Batman with your voice versus playing him on screen.
The difference might be that with the voice only and with the audience that they were really seeking mostly, that is the kids it was more straight ahead and less nuance. Less tongue in cheek, you know that kind of thing that you could do on film with your movement or whatever you’re thinking. Even through the eye-holes and the cowl. When you’re doing voice-over like this it was just dead ahead, and right on, and serious kind of. Then I had a few moments where I could throw in a little something here and there for the adults.
For your inspiration of the original interpretation of the character, I’m sure you were a fan of old radio. It wasn’t old radio in your time. Were there old radio heroes that you modeled your Batman after?
Adam West: No, but that’s a good question because you know I’m still on Sirius, on the satellite radio. I listen to some of those old shows again because they were so good. Allowing you to use your imagination and I learned always from that a little more, yeah. You know when think of Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton that Mercury Theater, whatever is was, wow that was so good. I started in radio.
Yeah and then I was a disk jockey and a lot of stuff, a news guy and I think many actors that I’ve talked to or learned about they really did radio. Except the younger ones, mostly they didn’t. They don’t have the same opportunities of you know, getting a job and working your way through and up. Too many people go to Hollywood and are disenchanted, they find it so tough and it is. It’s so terribly competitive now. Look at all the windows we have, all the outlets for content. I don’t know how people keep track of that. I’ll watch TV and turn around until my wife says stop it! I’ll turn around and I’m amazed at all the different content and the way it’s delivered. Nothing seems really special anymore. The Walking Dead, maybe that’s special, scares the hell outta me. I don’t know but there just seem to be so many shows from which to choose, you hardly know what to watch.
Are you into any specific shows right now, yourself? Do you watch anything or look forward to anything that’s going on right now?
Well you know, funny, last night I turned on the television in the hotel and I saw something that intrigued me. I’m sorry it was on the airplane. They had pilots and this was called Billions of the Billionaire or something, and I saw that and I thought god almighty this is cool but you know it didn’t sell. It didn’t go.
Oh is that the Showtime show with Paul Giamatti? About the financial investigator? I think it’s doing well. I think it will be back.
Oh good, because that was really good.
There you go.
That’s good because not many shows get picked up. Now when I did the Big Bang Theory, kind of stunt casting thing. Well it’s not Affleck you know that kind of thing. It was kind of funny but to get a show picked up every season for how many years, twelve years?
Nine or ten now at least.
Ten? You know our Family Guy is, I’ve done it for twelve years as the mayor.
The loony mayor, which is kind of fun. Some shows do hit a stride and and they get picked up, so many don’t. Such a waste of money and talent.
Well we are at an interesting moment in Batman history, there’s at least six different actors currently playing Batman. You’re one of them but you’re also the original, at least for most fans. Do you have any advice that you would give any other Batmen running around? What’s essential to the character?
There are a lot of ’em running around. (pause) Let the costume work for you on the screen. You can be violent, you can be downtrodden, vengeful, whatever you’re doing with the character but don’t take yourself too seriously.
What about the chemistry between yourself, Burt and Julie coming back to that? Was it easy? Actually were you able to table-read together or did you do it all separately?
Oh okay, but in your mind.
Yeah it was easy. When you know their action you know what they’re gonna do with it and you played the character for a long time. It came back instantly. All I had to do was listen for a moment, in my head, or whatever they were showing with the animation. This was kind of neat too because you can work from the animation, lip-sync. Many times you know, they’ll photograph you in a role, like the mayor in Family Guy. Then they’ll have that film to look at and they base the animation on, which is a different thing. This time out with Batman you just looked at the animation and lip-synced it. Tried to do the rhythms, it wadn’t tough.