Mark Hamill Says Backlash Over Michael Keaton’s Batman Casting Inspired Him to Audition for Joker: ‘There Was a Great Controversy’

While Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix and Jack Nicholson are the faces that pop into one’s head when the name “Joker” is said, no list of the best on-screen Jokers is complete without Mark Hamill. The “Star Wars” icon voiced the Batman villain on “Batman: The Animated Series,” which originally aired for 85 episodes on Fox Kids from 1992-1995. Hamill earned acclaim for the voice role, but it would have never happened without Michael Keaton’s casting as Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 comic book film.

As Hamill recalled during a recent Wired video interview, Keaton’s casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman earned backlash from comic book fans, considering he was more known as a comedic actor in films such as “Mr. Mom” and Burton’s own “Beetlejuice.”

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“I just read for it,” Hamill said of the Joker role. “I had a confidence that really helped me because there was this big outcry that Michael Keaton was gonna play Batman. ‘Oh, he’s Mr. Mom, he’s a comedy actor.’ I mean, they hadn’t even seen him [in the role] and they didn’t realize how great he would become. But, there was great controversy.”

Seeing Keaton overcome backlash to become an iconic Batman gave Hamill the confidence he needed that comic book fans would be willing to accept the Luke Skywalker actor as the Joker.

“When I went in [for the Joker role], I thought, ‘You think they’re gonna hire Luke Skywalker to play the Joker? The fans will lose their minds!'” Hamill said. “I was so sure that I couldn’t be cast. I was completely relaxed. A lot of times there’s performance anxiety because you want the part, here I knew I couldn’t get the part, so, who cares? I drove out of the parking lot thinking, ‘That’s the best Joker they’ll ever hear, and it’s too bad they can’t cast me.’ And as soon as they did cast me, it reversed. I was like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this!'”

Hamill said the Joker is one of his favorite characters to play “because he’s insane, and because he’s insane, he’s never boring. It’s just fun to play a character who creates chaos everywhere he goes.”

The Batman fan community often cites Hamill’s Joker as one of the best. It’s a role Hamill has returned to over the years, including in the animated movie “Batman: The Killing Joke.” Hamill voiced the Joker to Kevin Conroy’s Batman, and they both reprised their roles in the “Batman: Arkham” video games. Conroy died last November after a short battle with cancer.

“Kevin was perfection,” Hamill said in a statement at the time. “He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him — his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”

Watch Hamill’s new Wired video interview in the post below. Keaton, meanwhile, is reprising the role of Batman in Warner Bros.’ upcoming “The Flash,” in theaters June 16.

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