After the success of Return of the Caped Crusader, the animated movie set in the Batman ’66 universe starring the 60s show’s original stars, Warner Brothers is following it up with another movie set in the same Batman ’66 universe. The first big news about this movie was the decision on the main villain, a classic Batman A-list villain who had never appeared in the 60s series, none other than Harvey Dent aka Two Face. The second piece of big news was when it was announced was who would be playing Two Face in Batman Vs. Two Face. They had cast none other than William Shatner, the star of that other classic 1960s TV series, Star Trek. William Shatner, along with Co-Star Burt Ward, Producer James Tucker, Co-Writer and Producer Michael Jelenic and Director Rick Morales sat down with Comics Beat on Sunday at NYCC to talk about the upcoming movie.
The big elephant in the room was the absence of Adam West, who had been to New York Comic Con both in 2014 and 2016, first to promote the Blu Ray and DVD release of the entire Batman TV series, and later to promote the animated Return of the Caped Crusader. Michael Jelenic said, “The reason I did this project is that I wanted to do a movie with Adam West and William Shatner. He was in great shape last year. We were all all shocked that he’s not here now.” Was Adam West still recording his part for this movie at the time of his passing? James Tucker answered, “He finished recording three months before he passed. I’m still processing it. In a year, I may be a mess. It’s all very surreal to me.” Burt Ward is also still dealing with the passing of his colleague and friend, saying the toughest part of Adam West’s passing was “when I go out on these weekends signing autographs and I see that empty chair.” They keep the chair next to Burt empty in honor of Adam at every signing that Burt does.
William Shatner and Adam West knew each other going back decades. Shatner elaborated, “I knew Adam. We did a pilot together. I was playing Alexander the Great. It didn’t sell. We met there but then each of us went our way. But I got to know him over the years. Lovely, lovely man.”
What attracted William Shatner to the role of Two Face? “The appeal is right there,” William Shatner quickly responded, adding it’s a “juicy role. I tried to do the voice organically so that it was all one thing. I allowed the bad guy to emerge out of the good guy, much like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. There are these different voices inside our heads all the time. Should I eat that candy? Should I not?” Shatner even related Two Face to the recent tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, saying “In Vegas, there’s this very mild mannered guy, but this man who sought to terrorize and kill and maim, who knew he was going to die in the end whether by the hands of the law or his own hand, what was going on in his own head?”
How did Shatner come up with his Two Face voice? The actor said, “In the sound booth…I went back and forth playing the voice as Harvey Dent and Two Face. It was spontaneous.”
While at first saying that “there has been a ton of great portrayals” of Two Face over the years, Director Rick Morales also said “Shatner’s version of Two-Face is incredible. It seems he thought about it and had a voice in mind before he came in to record.” Burt Ward was equally enthusiastic about William Shatner being in the movie, saying, “It’s genius to cast Shatner. You have the two most iconic shows in history, Batman and Star Trek. When I heard that casting, I knew it was going to be great.” He also added, “They couldn’t have picked anyone on this planet better than William Shatner.”
Michael Jelenic’s favorite thing about Two Face is his visual, saying there’s something “very interesting about his visual. Such a cool, strong design. His look is amazing. He’s a sympathetic villain. He’s got two sides, and fights with himself.”
When asked if it was hard playing a villain for an actor best known for playing heroes, William Shatner said that it wasn’t, elaborating, “You try to bring a truth to everything you do. The truth of being evil or antisocial is just as equal as the truth of playing love.” Both Jelenic and Tucker knew Shatner could play dark, foreboding characters. Jelenic explained, “There’s a Twilight Zone or something that (Shatner’s) in that James (Tucker) was pulling from for an inspiration for this movie, where he plays a guy with two sides.” Tucker added, “Before Star Trek, Shatner was all over television playing really interesting damaged characters. He’s played psychotics before. It was a no brainer.”
As for the tone of the movie, expect a darker movie than Return of the Caped Crusader. Jelenic explained, “The first movie had that Adam West feel. This one is more a campy noir.” Rick Morales agreed, saying this movie has a “much different tone than the first one. It’s darker. Early on, James Tucker said to me, we’re thinking about it as more of a Batman: The Animated Series feel with the Adam West Batman.” Tucker added, “Return of the Caped Crusader embraced the campiness of the series, but Batman vs Two Face is more like Batman mixed with The Untouchables.
Both Tucker and Morales have a deep affinity for the Adam West and Burt Ward Batman television series. James Tucker credited that show with his career, stating “I wouldn’t be in animation if it weren’t for the original Batman TV series.” Rick Morales said the project was a “Dream come true. The Adam West show was my entrance into the Batman world as a kid. Being able to work with them was mind blowing.”He also added, “James asked me to direct the first one and I said “Yeah, of course, I have to.”
For a time, it looked like the world would never see this version of the caped crusader return. Michael Jelenic noted, “When we were developing The Brave and the Bold, we were told not to use the word campy. But by the end of our run, that kind of fun take on Batman, with him not being gritty all the time, it was nice to see the comic book community embrace that take on Batman.”
Can these movies continue without Adam West? Director Rick Morales said, “I don’t know. I don’t think there would be a reason for it.” Are there any future plans for animated movies starring Batmen from different film eras? Rick Morales enthusiastically answered, “I’d like to do Batman ’89,” and quickly added, “There’s no plans for that.”
Burt Ward had a different take on the future than Morales. When asked if there are future plans for this series of movies, Burt Ward responded, “There’s a lot going on that I can’t talk about. Possibly another series.” Wait, does he mean Nightwing? When asked, Burt Ward nodded his head, but didn’t answer out loud. Dear James Tucker: Nightwing and Wonder Woman ’77 team up cartoon, please!
Billy Henehan writes for The Beat. When he’s not writing for The Beat, he writes silly Game of Thrones recaps for Tuesday Night Movies and co-hosts the Run Chat podcast.