Adam West talks ‘Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders’ and All That Jazz
Adam West explains why HIS Batman has had such a lasting impact and what it’s like being BACK beneath the cowl.
The only difference is I made it funny. I’m a happier Batman.
– Adam West
The stunningly sharp-witted 88-year-old veteran TV crime fighter was in high-spirits while promoting his upcoming animated return to the screen for “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” at the 2016 New York Comic Con. As a fan of the ’66 “Batman” television series since childhood, it was spellbinding to watch the indomitable Adam West in full-form and just as enthusiastic about his cowled counterpart as ever.
During our round-table discussion, West treads through a variety of topics from his inspiration for “Batman,” to his Jazz-fueled Bat-mantra, to what has made his franchise iconic enough to stay relevant even in today’s new-age of superhero cinema and fandom. West even laid out a detailed “How-To” on becoming Batman and why he chose to interpret the iconic comic book hero with a unique sense of humor.
Watch the entire New York Comic Con 2016 roundtable discussion with Adam West below:
Adam West is obviously no stranger to the cowl, so when asked about his preparation voicing the ’66 “Batman” he explains how he never lost his familiarity with the caped character in the first place.
You play a character for three years and then you get material that’s good, like these guys gave me, that really captures the tone of what we did [in the ’66 “Batman” series]. So, it wasn’t really that hard… It stays with you.
As the Batman universe has segued into a darker and more hyper-serious world over the years, West seemed to have tremendous confidence in co/-producer/co-writer team James Tucker (“Batman: Bad Blood”) and Michael Jelenic (“Teen Titans Go!”) and their ability to capture the essence of the original television series… but with a modern twist. He continues saying that while he didn’t feel the need to ad-lib or add to the dialogue his work environment was flexible enough to give him that ability if he so chooses.
I think the writing for this film was good enough that my challenge, it occurred to me, let me try to do again exactly the writer’s intent, to see what I can do with it. If it gets to a spot that you know damn well that you can enhance something, make it funny or whatever, they allow me to do it like we’re family kind of.
Although west has had some experience with voice acting, most notably as Mayor West in “Family Guy,” the question came up how the dialogue was recorded and whether or not it was more difficult to conjure the beloved caped crusader without the added physicality.
Sometimes you work with the animation coming after. They film or watch whatever you’re doing with the characters and that helps the animators. This time… we lip sync with the animation. We had a chance to watch the film with the animation and then put it together as we went along. that was kind of fun. I liked that.
With the ’66 “Batman” television series celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, the question arose as to what has given Adam West’s uniquely humorous Batman such a lasting appeal with both old and new generations.
The longevity is owing to the fact that we did it seriously for the children, you know so they would be excited by it, but “funnily” for the adults. They would certainly be able to sit with the kids, while the kids would take it very seriously, dad would laugh his head off. Now that was a tightrope…To have to play the seriousness for the children and at the same time tongue and cheek for the adults.
Of course, the question arose as to what West thinks of the cinematic translations of Batman.
I ran into [George] Clooney, here as a matter of fact, one time. And I started to say “George, you didn’t kill the Batman franchise,” but before I could open my mouth he said to me “Adam, I ruined the Batman franchise.” Different actors have different ways of doing things, and I think everyone that is doing Batman now is very talented, and very good. Just because I did it better…
At one moment during the roundtable the question was asked whether he thinks Batman NEEDS a Robin, to which West cracks up the entire table with his dramatic pause. West continues by detailing his Jazz-fueled mantra when trying to get into the character of the Batman.
[My assistant] would come in and immediately switch on the kind of music I really like. I love jazz, big band jazz. So I would hear this and it would get me there a bit… And then the cowl.
West continues by encouraging the value of having fun with the role, stressing the importance of being enthusiastic when donning the cowl, despite the discomfort of wearing a sometimes suffocating costume.
Hey, Let’s go out and play Batman! Come on, come on. You be Robin and I’ll be Bat… Yeah. You see, that kind of child like enthusiasm was what really keyed me into doing this, I think, the way I did. You remember what you felt as kid about the character and playing him.
West departs from his explantation for a moment to add a little levity, evoking laughter from the whole table.
And then of course, there was the years and years of Actors Studio.
The conversation closed as with West giving his take on what it takes to be Batman and why he is not too fond of the more serious interpretations.
To do a more brooding, introspective, haunted Batman, I can do that. I used to do those roles. I chose to make it funny. I think it was okay.