This week marks the 25th anniversary of the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. As well as its “Dark Deco” art style and mature storytelling, one of its most celebrated elements was the casting of Mark Hamill as the Dark Knight’s eternal nemesis, the Joker.
It turns out that Hamill wasn’t always so confident he was going to nab the part of the Clown Prince of Crime, though. While he had a very clear idea of how he wanted to play the role, the Star Wars legend assumed that his performance as Luke Skywalker would mean that he’d always be typecast as a good guy.
“I figured there was no way they’d hire Luke Skywalker as the Joker. So, in a way it was very freeing. I had great confidence at the audition because I thought there was no way I could get it. I thought, ‘I’m going to give them the best damn Joker they’ve ever heard and they’re really going to regret not being able to cast me.’
“I remember going in and they gave me the Nicholson note, which wasn’t anything I wanted to do,” recalls Hamill, a note that said ‘Don’t Think Jack Nicholson’. “I wanted to deliver an old-school comic book interpretation of the Joker. He’s a theatrical guy who really has fun; the joy has to come across in his battle with Batman.”
Thankfully, Hamill was gifted the Joker and the rest was animation history. That wasn’t, however, his only role in Batman: The Animated Series – he first appeared in the acclaimed episode “Heart of Ice.”
“I called my agent and said, ‘I really want to get on this, but I’d like to play a villain that’s never been done before… Clayface, Hugo Strange, Two-Face.’ So my agent reached out and they wanted me for an episode,” says Hamill. He was cast as Ferris Boyle, Mr. Freeze’s boss. “I modeled Ferris after Phil Hartman, a guy with a smooth public persona and a different one behind the scenes.”
As fans will know, Mark Hamill was not the producers’ original choice to play the Joker. Pennywise the Clown himself, Tim Curry was initially contracted to voice the role before dropping out. For years, we were told that Curry’s performance was deemed too terrifying in the part, though the actor recently claimed that he was actually suffering from Bronchitis and that’s why he got the boot.
Whether there’s any truth to that or not we’ll probably never know, but I think we can safely say that everything worked out just fine in the end – for both Curry and Hamill.
Source: Radio Times