Conroy: His Voice IS The Night...
Conroy, facing the press at Comic-Con.
ago, we had a chance to meet Kevin Conroy for the direct
to video Mystery of the Batwoman. At the time, he owned
Batman, no question. Nobody could imagine anybody else providing
the voice of the Dark Knight and, well, in the years since,
though many have tried, fans still have trouble imagining
So when Eidos announced that Conroy
and Mark Hamill would be voicing Batman and the Joker for
Batman: Arkham Asylum, the reaction was, "...but of
course. You want this game to be goooood." And so it
At Comic-Con, we got to sit down at
a roundtable event with Conroy, a gracious man, Juilliard-trained
actor and a great conversationalist.
You’ve been voicing Batman for a
long time now. How was it reuniting with Mark Hamill, and
was it hard getting back into the role?
Conroy: Well, I never got out of the role. I’ve
been doing it since ’91, so that’s eighteen
years. And the great thing about working with the same people
for so long is that when you do get together there’s
sort of a short-hand you all know about each other. Mark
and I have been working literally for eighteen years. So
we know how we all work, and there’s no sort of ‘getting
to know you’ period. We can just jump right in.
A friend of mine
came to watch a recording once … a session, and was
so amazed at how … He said, ‘I didn’t
even know what they were asking you to change. I was still
trying to figure out what they were trying to get you to
change. And you made the adjustment and change that they
recorded and they had moved on to the next note. He said,
‘You all have such a short-hand for understanding
each other.’ And that just comes with years of working
together. So working with the same people is a great advantage
for that reason.
And also Andrea
Romano … She didn’t do this project, but she
was the casting director on most of the Batman projects,
and she put together really good actors. She has a great
feel for people that aren’t just talented but who
work well together. Who are respectful of each other, who
come prepared … who come on time. (laughs)
You’d be amazed at how unprofessional some people
a very good group of people, and coming back together …
We really never really left, even if it’s a year or
two between games, or films, or something. That’s
not much time really, in terms of Hollywood.
lean and wiry as Conroy himself.
Do you follow what goes on with Batman now? I mean, comic
book-wise, what did you think of The Dark Knight? Do you
have a connection with the character now that you like to
keep up with what’s going on in his life?
Conroy: To be honest, I don’t really …
I have my own relationship with the character, and I don’t
really … I do watch what other people do with it,
but I try not to have it influence me too much and with
my take on it. But yeah, sure, I go to watch the live-action
films that they do.
Did you like it?
Conroy: I loved Heath Ledger’s performance.
He was phenomenal as the Joker. And Christian Bale I felt
was fantastic in his first Batman film that he did, he was
fantastic. Something happened with his voice in the second
one he did. He’s obviously a very talented actor,
he knows what he’s doing. Everyone criticized that
about the film, and I think that was a fair criticism. I
don’t know what that was about. But the Heath Ledger
performance was fantastic. Fantastic!
Let’s have a Joker-off: Mark or
Conroy: Well, no, I mean, you can’t compare,
because they’re both wonderful in different ways.
Heath Ledger was fantastic, but Mark Hamill, if you’ve
ever been in a recording studio with him and watch what
he does, I mean, he practically devours the microphone.
He really transforms.
And before Mark,
a lot of people don’t realize, the first three or
four episodes of the original show was Tim Curry, who was
also fantastic. He was fantastic, but in a different way.
He was Joker … scary, scary funny, and Mark is Joker
crazy funny, and a little scary, you know. But Tim was terrifying
funny, you know. He was so dark, that they thought kids
wouldn’t sleep at night after seeing that. But he
we can all agree -- this Joker is NOT for kids...
So, you know,
everyone brings different things to the role, to the different
roles, and that doesn’t mean that one’s better
than the other. Better is a qualitative judgment that people
outside of the industry like to put on people inside the
industry. And it’s not really fair.
What did you think of the game’s
story when you first read the script?
Conroy: I thought it was a great idea. I was surprised
that actually no one had ever come up with it for a storyline
for the show.
Can you break it down for us?
Conroy: Well, it’s essentially that the Joker
is put in Arkham Asylum … finally, and virtually every
other major villain from the show has at this point been
captured. Batman has cleaned up Gotham City. Joker takes
over Arkham, and he has every major lunatic from the city
in there with him. I mean, think of what they can do.
great story idea. And as we were recording I thought, ‘Why
did we never do this on the show?’ This is sort of
a natural idea, you know. Arkham is where they all get sent,
and what if they all get sent there at the same time and
Joker masterminds a mutiny?
essentially what the story’s about, so it’s
great for a game, because think of all the variables you
can do. All the different directions the game can go, all
the different characters, the interaction … And there
are some surprises. There are obviously, in every game there
are surprises. But in this one there are some major surprises.
So yeah, I thought
it was a great idea for a story; I was surprised no one
had thought of it years ago, to tell you the truth. But
Paul just told me he had another great idea. (laughs)
So there’s another one! But how does Paul come up
with these ideas? It’s been eighteen years! Just keeping
the voice fresh over all those times is hard, but to come
up with fresh ideas? I’m in awe with these guys’
Conroy, facing the press at Comic-Con.
actually why the original series went off the air, originally.
Because the audience loved it, the numbers were as strong
as they had ever been, the network wanted it renewed, the
studio wanted it. Everyone wanted it. Tim and Bruce and
Paul were totally wrung out after so many years of coming
up with stories. They said, ‘We really can’t
do this anymore.’ They just wanted to move on to something
else. So it was totally by choice, and it was because they
had been cranking out so many episodes for so many years.
You described Batman as Hamlet, which I never thought
of until I heard you say it. After eighteen years, you're
voicing him for a videogame, it's been your signature role;
are there moments you just kind of go "...this ain't
Conroy: That’s so funny you should say that,
because I just recently connected with … You know,
I trained at Julliard, and I went when I was seventeen.
I left high school early. So I was the youngest one there.
Robin Williams was my roommate; he was six years older than
me. Everyone was so much older than me. I was the kid in
So I just recently
connected with some of my old classmates in New York, and
one of them is an actor named Casey Biggs, who you might
know from Star Trek. One of the Star Trek
incarnations, Casey was on it.
He said, ‘How’re
you doing? You’re Batman, that’s so cool!’
And I said, ‘Yeah, but Casey, I mean four years of
training at Julliard, that’s not exactly what I went
through training for.’ And he said, ‘Hey …
Neither was Star Trek. If it’s a great job,
you know. And it’s all entertainment.’
a piece of work is Batman...
true, it is all entertainment. You know, you do what you
do. I do theater occasionally to replenish my juices, and
then I do this stuff. I’ve really grown in my appreciation
for it as I’ve done it over time. I really wasn’t
that aware … This was the first animated show I ever
auditioned for. The first animated character I’ve
ever played. Talk about a lucky break, I mean, unbelievable.
It’s like hitting a home run your first time up at
bat. So I had to develop a lot of knowledge and appreciation
for it, and I did over time. I realized it’s beautifully
written, it’s beautifully drawn, it’s very complex
… It’s got a great history. The cartoon going
back to the Bob Kane and The Dark Knight series and everything.
So I respect
it, and I respect being a part of it. It’s all entertainment,
and you go back to where theater came from. You know, the
morality plays and stuff, they were all about entertaining
people with teaching stories through entertainment. It has
to be entertaining or it won’t sell. That’s
what my first agent used to say, ‘It’s called
show-business.’ And the business part of it’s
just as important as the show part of it. It’s gotta
sell or it’s not art.
And many are arguing that Batman: Arkham
Asylum IS art. No small part of that is thanks to Conroy,
and we're grateful for the chance to have sat down with