Tuesday, 11 July 2017

BATMAN & ADAM WEST - WHAT IF...?



Back around 1988, when the BATMAN movie
was going into production, ADAM WEST was trying
to drum up support for him getting the opportunity of re-
prising his role as the Caped Crusader.  Interviewed on
TV-am, he said he'd only be interested in doing it if it was
a film noir, gothic, serious type of movie, but was cer-
tainly up for playing Batman on the big screen.

TIM BURTON wasn't interested in West though,
beyond offering him a cameo role as Dr. THOMAS
WAYNE, young BRUCE's father.  Perhaps West felt that
Wayne Sr. being killed at the beginning of the movie would
somehow symbolise the demise of his ownership of the role
of Batman, but whatever the reason, he declined.  If he
couldn't play Bruce then he wouldn't play at all.

At the time of the movie being made, West was
only around 59-60, so it wasn't altogether impossible
for him to have carried it off, especially if the producers
had followed FRANK MILLER's concept of an older, re-
tired Batman returning to the fray.  As Batman in action
was mainly a stuntman in the suit, I feel there was no
real impediment to West's participation.

Except one perhaps.  That being, with West's in-
volvement, audiences would've anticipated the movie
being like the '60s TV show.  In the end, it didn't matter,
because that's exactly what they expected anyway.  On my
first visit to see the movie, I overheard departing viewers
at the film's finish saying "I thought it was going to be
just like the TV show!"  They sounded disappointed
that it wasn't, much to my surprise.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been.  A TV-am techni-
cians strike in November '87 resulted in the '60s show
being hastily drafted in to fill airtime and, surprisingly, it
became quite a hit with early morning viewers, sparking a
minor resurgence in 'Batmania' that almost rivalled its
'60s heyday.  It was relatively short-lived, but the camp
version of Batman was freshly re-established - in the
minds of British viewers at least.

It would've been interesting to see West getting a
crack at playing the DARK KNIGHT persona of Bat-
man.  I think he could've pulled it off, but alas it was not
to be.  On reflection, perhaps it was for the best.  Maybe
Adam West's Batman belongs in the '60s, as much as
The BEATLES and SEAN CONNERY's version
of BOND - at least to people around my age.

And yet... I still think it could've worked, and it
would've been great to see West finally getting what
he so richly deserved - a major, motion picture block-
buster movie, reprising the role with which he'd been so
long associated, but playing it straight and without the
laughs.  C'mon, admit it - you'd have loved to see
  that movie too, wouldn't you?  Do tell.  

32 comments:

TC said...

After the Batman TV series ended, West starred with Nancy Kwan in The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969). It was sort of a film noir type thriller, and his character was sort of a Bogart type, similar to Rick in Casablanca. It failed to change his image, though, and he spent much of his later career doing Batman homages and self-parody.

I believe he could have played Batman straight, in something like The Dark Knight Returns or Batman Beyond, that would have allowed for his agenda. But he was so strongly associated with the campy 1966 version that audiences would have been expecting a comedy. Although, as you say, a lot of them did, anyway. A lot more people watch television than read comics, and many of them only knew the character from the 1966-68 TV show.

West finally did play Bruce Wayne's father on Cartoon Network's Batman: the Brave & the Bold some time around 2010 or 2011, IIRC. It was a flashback scene that retold the hero's origin.

Kid said...

It's also said that Cubby Broccoli offered him the part of Bond in 1970, but West reportedly turned it down because he thought only a British actor should play the part. I'm not entirely convinced by this, because I know that John Gavin was given the part of Bond for Diamonds Are Forever, but had his contract bought out at the last minute when Connery returned. Adam West as Bond though? I think he could've pulled it off if he hadn't had the shadow of Batman hovering over him.

Colin Jones said...

I never knew that about John Gavin and Diamonds Are Forever !!

But Adam West was just too old by 1989. And Tim Burton wanted something completely different from the TV show so he'd never have given Adam West the role.

Kid said...

He wasn't too old for a 'Dark Knight Returns' scenario, CJ. And Burton could still have done something completely different to the TV show even with West on board - which was my point. However, the main impediment (perhaps) to West reprising the role - even above giving audiences the wrong impression about what to expect - was the fact that Warner Bros were probably aiming for a long-running series of the character, and West would only have been good for one movie - two at the most.

baab said...

I went with a girl and another couple to a packed cinema for Batman,
about twenty minutes in she said loudly,"When is he going to fly?"
I cringed in my seat.
I should not have worried,there was probably a majority thinking the same.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, I seriously doubt Tim Burton had even heard of the Dark Knight Returns (which was only a couple of years old when they were planning the 1989 Batman film) and he wouldn't have been interested in an old Batman anyway. By the way, I loved Prince's song "Batdance".

Kid said...

Did you marry her, Baab? And did she ever ask you when you were going to fly? You're right though, it's amazing the misconceptions people have about Batman.

******

I'd be surprised if he hadn't heard of it, CJ, as it got a lot of public attention at the time. And where do you think he got the idea to do it as a grim-dark, gothic Batman movie? You sure do come out with some sweeping statements sometimes. Preferred the Danny Elfman soundtrack to be honest.

paul Mcscotty said...

For me Adam West was not only too old (59/60) , he just wasn’t “right” for the movie at this time. Michael Keaton who was 39 was (imho) the right choice and age and is an excellent all round actor and was a great Batman. I think his role and that film changed the way superhero films were produced and perceived by the public (not always a good thing in hindsight for the comics though) . Saying that if the 4th film in the series “Batman and Robin” was the first one (if that makes sense) West would have been idea for the role as it was played “camp” then again it was a rotten film even with Clooney playing Batman. I would be stunned if Burton wnasn't aware of Millers Dark Knight comic as well Im pretty sure Burton is a fan of comics (cant conform that but he has an interest).

Kid said...

He wasn't too old to play an old Batman though, PM, and I think it would have been good to see him have a chance to play the role straight - that's all I'm saying. Having said that, I really enjoyed the 1989 Batman movie, and (despite its faults) I think I prefer it to any of the Christian Bale Bat-movies. I'd say that the 1978 Superman movie was the one that changed the public's perception of superhero films - Batman followed in that mould. And I also have the impression that Tim Burton is a comics fan. Apparently, the reason that the last couple of 'old' Batman movies were 'camp' was because the studio believed that was what the public wanted going by the growing feedback to the previous ones they'd had.

paul Mcscotty said...

I have to disagree, for me 60 is to old to play Batman in a role where Batman is supposed to be youngish man (ie not like "Logan" where Wolverine is getting on a bit) - gawd I'm 2 years away from that age,I go to the gym most days, am pretty healthy and I can't even play a board game without getting tierd (that was long way round for a bad joke :) ). I didn't like the Superman movie(s) so tend to ignore it but your right that was the first.

Whats your favourite of the superhero movies and opinionof the changes made to fit them into the big screen ?

Kid said...

I'll repeat my point, PM, as it seems to have gone over your head - serves you right for only being 5' 9". West wasn't too old to play an OLD Batman, which is what Dark Knight is all about - an old, retired Batman coming out of retirement. If they'd gone down that route, West would've been around the right age for the part. (Of an OLD Batman remember.)

I've liked most of the Marvel movies, not so much the recent DC ones, apart from the Batman ones. Having said that, the only one I've seen apart from them is Man of Steel, which I thought was okay, nothing brilliant.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, nobody wanted to see an old Batman !! And I'd never heard of The Dark Knight Returns even if it did get a lot of public attention. Where did he get the idea for a dark, gothic Batman ? Perhaps because those are the kind of films that Tim Burton always makes ?

Kid said...

Well, it's hardly surprising that YOU'D never heard of the Dark Knight, CJ. YOU'VE never read an issue of 2000 A.D., YOU'D never heard that Star Wars saved Marvel, YOU'D never heard of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, YOU'D never heard that John Gavin was signed as James Bond, etc., etc. And I could multiply that by quite a bit if I could be bothered checking your previous comments over the years. What YOU'VE never heard of would fill a telephone directory, CJ, so I'm sure you'll understand when I say that I hardly consider you the fount of all wisdom on a whole lot of subjects. And now you're suggesting that the fact Batman was originally a dark, creature of the night in his earliest appearances, and had returned to that in the late '60s (camp Batman was a blip in his history) - well, that was just a coincidence when it came to how Tim Burton directed the movie? Maybe he chooses subjects that are already dark and gothic - ever think of that? Just as well DC didn't think that nobody wanted to see an old Batman or the Dark Knight would never have been published. And it was a huge success. Fact: Loads of people went to see the 1989 Batman movie thinking it was going to be like the TV show. Therefore, they wouldn't have been surprised to see the actor from said TV show reprising the role. However, had West played an older Batman, coming out of retirement (which is what West himself suggested in his TV-am interview), and had it been played straight, I think it would've made for an interesting movie - AND rewarded West for his many years of being associated with the role by letting him play the 'real' Batman.

paul Mcscotty said...

I totally understand and accept your point Kid I was only giving my “small (perfectly formed) bodied” opinion that for me 59/60 is too old to play Batman in that film. The Burton “Batman” film was only (allegedly - but let’s face it, it was) loosely based on "Dark Knight returns" (and "Killing Joke") and in “Dark Knight” Batman is only 50 years old, it may only be 9 years of a difference but I think at that age it’s a lot (50 -60). Nothing against Adam West (an icon) but for me not the best leading man actor . I do feel that if you disagree with me again I may be forced to set up a false twitter account lambasting you for your intransigence lol.

TC said...

I never knew that John Gavin was considered for Bond. I knew that there were rumors in 1967 that Adam West, Richard Burton, and Lee Marvin were all being considered, but it was all just idle speculation. As were rumors in the 1980's that Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were being considered to replace Roger Moore.

I can almost see West as Bond, but he would have been severely handicapped by his image as Batman, as well as by comparisons to Connery.

I would assume that Tim Burton had at least looked at a few Batman comics, possibly including Miller's DKR, and knew that the character was being portrayed in a grimdark style in the comic books.

BTW, the second paragraph of my last post should have said that a Dark Knight Returns or Batman Beyond scenario would have allowed for West's *age.* Autocorrect keeps fixing stuff that ain't broke.

Kid said...

Well, I'd agree that Adam West was too old to play (a young) Batman in 'that' film - as it was written and shot, PM. I'd also agree that Michael Keaton was brilliant in the role. However, had they wanted to do the same kind of film (mood-wise) about an older Batman coming out of retirement, and had they wanted to reward old Adam for his many years of being associated with the role (to the detriment of his career to some extent), then it would've been the perfect opportunity for them to do that. And, I think, old Adam would've surprised a lot of people. It would've been a different film of course, but it could still have been a great one. I'd certainly have been interested in seeing it. And ol' Westie certainly wouldn't have been the first actor to play a character who was younger than himself. They could, of course, just have taken the liberty of having Batman coming out of retirement at 60 instead of 50 and got around it that way. (Wait, what was I thinking? Movies never take liberties.)

No, no - not another Twitter account! I take it all back! (Though if you do, just don't be publishing responses designed to look as if they're from me.)

******

TC, he wasn't just considered, he had signed on the dotted line so he actually WAS the next Bond. Until Sean said okay, he'd do it, whereupon Gavin was paid the agreed fee (as far as I understand) and informed that his services would no longer be required. I agree that West's Batman image would have been a potential problem, but Bond & Batman were so different in tone, it might not have been quite the problem we'd imagine. I doubt he was a serious contender in the mind of Broccoli though.

Colin Jones said...

Crikey, you certainly put me in my place there, Kid !! But I'd never heard of The Dark Knight Returns because 1) I didn't read DC and 2) I wasn't reading any comics between 1983 and 2007...but I did hear about Spider-Man's black suit and the death of Superman storyline in 1993. And TC didn't know about John Gavin as Bond either - I'm sure a lot of people didn't. We aren't all as knowledgeable as you, you know !! And yes, I'm sure you're right that Tim Burton knew all about The Dark Knight Returns :)

Glas0101 said...

I don't know if anyone has considered this and probably the Adam West of the time might not have considered it, but - Adam West as ... Alfred to Keaton's Batman? A friendly nod to the past, and the fans, with an actor who has a sardonic sense of humour - which every Alfred has to have, as a carer trying to keep his young, psychotic ward as grounded to reality as he can. Well, in all the multiverse maybe it was as real as that Miller-based Adam West/ Dark Knight Returns movie directed by Michael Mann (which he filmed insteasd of Manhunter)

Kid said...

That's m'boy, CJ. You know my 'pops' at you are all in good jest for exaggerated comedic effect, I'm sure. And I'm also sure you probably know a lot of stuff that I don't.

******

As you suggest, Glas, if West wouldn't consider playing Wayne Sr. then he probably wouldn't have wanted to play Alfred either, apart from not being quite old enough for the part. It's just a shame that he knocked back the cameo, because in comics history, Bruce's dad was the first 'Batman' (at a costume party), so in a way, if West had played Thomas Wayne, he'd have been playing Batman at the same time. I'd have liked to see him in the movie in some way, just (as you say) a friendly nod to the past.

paul Mcscotty said...

Colin If it’s any consolation I didn't even know who John Gavin was (until I looked him up) let alone that he was considered (or was actually given) the role of James Bond.

Kid said...

What? Call yourselves Bond fans? Hand in your Lone Star 007 guns at once, you amateurs. Everyone knows who John Gavin is - just ask his mum.

Colin Jones said...

I remember my father saying that he couldn't think of any other film except 'Psycho' that John Gavin had been in. I replied that he'd played the young Julius Caesar in 'Spartacus' but I couldn't think of any other films starring John Gavin either. I think he was also an American ambassador like Shirley Temple.

Colin Jones said...

He was ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1986 - I just googled it :)

Kid said...

I'll tell you another thing about him, CJ. Although he was signed for Bond, United Artists weren't exactly happy with the choice, so they were ecstatic when Connery finally said he'd do it. Poor JG, eh? It'd probably have been the biggest film role of his career.

Colin Jones said...

Bond should be British !!

Kid said...

Bond IS British. You mean the actor playing him? I wouldn't mind an American, Canadian, or Australian actor playing Bond as long as he could do a convincing British accent. After all, a Brit currently plays Superman and two Brits have now played Spider-Man. Fair play and level playing field and all that. (That's a British characteristic of course.)

Colin Jones said...

It must be very annoying for American actors when they see these Brits taking roles meant for Americans - Superman and Spiderman are iconic American characters. Likewise Bond and Dr. Who should be played by British actors.

Kid said...

Personally, I think that as long as the actor is the right man for the job and fits the established character, then I don't much mind whether he's American or British. Had Australian George Lazenby been a more experienced actor and been able to do a convincing British accent, then he'd have been a good James Bond. He looked the part until he opened his mouth - then he didn't really sound the part.

vwstieber said...

At the time, I hoped that Schwarzenegger would be tapped to play Frank Miller's Batman. I still think that would've been a great movie.

Kid said...

That's an interesting notion, VWS, but I think if someone of Schwarzenegger's size and build were Batman, his identity as Bruce Wayne would've been a bit more obvious. Besides, they'd have to dub Arnold with an American accent, like they did in Hercules In New York. (But better than that, obviously.)

Warren JB said...

I didn't know about Adam West's role in the Brave and the Bold cartoon, but I did wonder if the turned-down role in Batman 1989 led him to accept the role of the 'Gray Ghost' in the 90s animated show. A favourite Shadow-style pulp TV hero of young Bruce Wayne, so a kind of 'spiritual father' to that universe's Batman. The whole episode came across like a love letter to the Batman that had gone before.

I don't know if Adam West would have worked as DK Batman. If even the 'camp-noir' feel of Burton's film was too dark for people expecting the 'camp-camp' of 60's TV Batman, then I don't think they could have handled 'he's young, he'll probably walk again', 'the mutant leader ripped the mayor's throat out with his teeth. The mutant has been returned to his cell. More on this as we get it', 'Said I didn't deserve to run a cash register. He grabbed a pair of wire cutters...' and so on.

Kid said...

I think, much like casting directors, we're all sometimes guilty of type-casting when it comes to certain actors, WJB. I think Adam would've surprised us - as long as he understood he wasn't supposed to give us the TV Batman. The Dark Knight story would've had to have been toned down anyway, in all likelihood, in order to get a rating that wouldn't exclude kids, but the basic premise of an older Batman coming out of retirement - even if it veered away from slavishly following Frank Miller's story - would've been worth seeing with Adam in the role, I think.

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