Over the years, there have been a variety of talented actors to portray the Joker in both live action and animation. And while there are those who’ve appreciated the performances brought to the table by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Cameron Monaghan, many diehard fans actually favor Mark Hamill, who, believe it or not, has been attached to the character for about a quarter century now.
Having debuted in the early 1990’s on the hallowed Batman: The Animated Series, Hamill went on to voice the Clown Prince of Crime in various other projects, including Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the awesome line of Arkham video games, and the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s classic graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke.
Originally, Tim Curry had been cast as the Ace of Knaves for the Bruce Timm helmed show, though an unfortunate case of bronchitis led to Hamill replacing him. But despite having been a lifelong comic book geek and no doubt having prior familiarity with the character, the Star Wars actor had to go through a certain process just as anyone else in his craft does.
In this case, it was developing that iconic laugh, which he outlined in a recent conversation with Vulture:
“I had done Mozart in Amadeus in the first national tour, and then they transferred me over to Broadway, and one of the things that is relevant to my audition [for the Joker] is that Mozart had this sort of ghastly laugh that threw everybody. I played with that laugh a lot. I’d do a little Dwight Frye, I’d do a little Sydney Greenstreet. I love all those old Warner Bros. movies, so I was just slipping people in. Sometimes I’d get notes like, ‘It was a little too Jerry Lewis at the matinee. Reel it back.’ I’m telling you this because, in retrospect, after getting the part, I asked Andrea Romano,’How did I get it? What was the process? How did you know that you wanted me’ And she said, ‘The laugh.’ I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into a specific laugh.
“With the Joker, I said, ‘This is like an artist with a very big palette. I want a range of laughs.’ One thing that stuck with me was, when Frank Gorshin was talking about the Riddler [whom Gorshin played in the 1960s series], I was reading about him 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 the psyche of this psycho, I’m going to use that.'”
Even though Hamill’s Joker voice has evolved in the time since Batman: The Animated Series ended its run, his legacy has been firmly cemented as his performances become all the more chilling. And while he’s gone back and forth as to whether he’s ready to hang up the joy buzzer, we hope he sticks around for at least a few more projects.