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SDCC: Adam West On “LEGO Batman 3” and the Dark Knight’s Legacy

by  in Video Game Comment
SDCC: Adam West On “LEGO Batman 3” and the Dark Knight’s Legacy

“LEGO Batman 3” has a lot going for it — not only does it continue the epic LEGO story begun in “LEGO Batman” and “LEGO Batman 2,” it continues to expand the DC LEGO Universe in new and unique ways, with plenty of new features to boot. Perhaps chief among them is the new ’60s mode, which brings a familiar voice to the forefront: Adam West. Yes, the classic “Batman ’66” actor returns to the role of Batman for the game — he plays himself, as well — and he’s ready to dispense some justice.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world, to have been able to create a character that has become classic TV,” West told reporters during Comic-Con International 2014. “Now, the new game — ‘LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham’ — I enjoy that because it gives me chance to play Batman in a little different way, a way I think is more conducive to game stuff. What I’ve done with the character in the game is updated a little bit, but makes him even more zany and more forceful, so that it’s more exciting, because people who play games want to be excited by the game. I think we’ve really got a winner here, with this one.”

While West is no stranger to voice acting (he currently plays himself as the mayor of Quahog in “Family Guy” and has been featured in guest appearances on numerous animated series), he hasn’t played the role of Batman in many, many years. However, that didn’t keep him from being able to step right back in to the cape and cowl.

“When I assume the character, in whatever situation, that character I created comes right back. It’s easy,” he said. “You just slip right back into it if the chemistry’s right, if you’re allowed to work in an environment that isn’t inhibited. When I walked on the set during the time we shot ‘Batman,’ I always tried to create fun around me everywhere, because it was the only way that Batman could communicate that zaniness and fun for the kids and adults.”

Indeed, much of what makes “Batman ’66” unique is its freewheeling and humorous nature, provided not only by West and his television co-stars, but by the scripts, which references a number of callbacks, including a “Bat Shark Repellent” shout-out. West praised the game’s dialogue, which brings a special air of humor to the games, and enticed him to sign onto the series in the first place.

“Those lines were wonderful; we had really good, funny writers,” he said. “Lorenzo Semple Jr. — the late Lorenzo — had won a number of awards as a screenwriter. When he wrote the pilot script and I read it, I said, ‘I have to do this’ — and I’d been offered five more films. It was a leading man thing. It impressed me so much as a funny piece and a piece that might have longevity that I said, ‘Of course. With that script, I’ll do it.’ Lorenzo said after, ‘It’s the best script I’ve ever written.'”

Although he was the first to bring Batman to live action life in a big way, West says he wouldn’t presume to impart any advice to the talented actors that have donned the cape and cowl since.

“They do their thing and I did mine,” he said. “After all, they’re wonderful talents and in the films that they do, they have every production facility and aid that you could ever imagine. We didn’t, but we managed to put up and amass whatever we had at hand. They have great talent.” West also weighed in on the newest actor to step into the Batcave: Ben Affleck. “I have no idea how Ben is going to do Batman. I have a feeling that he’s going to be somewhat introspective and troubled. He’s a very good actor and I would never dream of telling him or, really, any other actor — unless I were directing — how to do it. He’ll be fine… he’s got to shave his beard!”

That said, West hopes that the newer films are able to incorporate a few moments of levity, to help bring hope to a desperate world.

“I would like to see human [moments],” he said of the new films. “I would like to see a sardonic wit, and maybe they’re doing that as well — but I don’t know. The way I might do it is to have more humor about myself and what’s happening, because it’s desperate, and as I said, troubled. If you can’t laugh a little at yourself or the Joker or whatever — I just feel the audience likes that moment of relief, occasionally. An added dimension to the character.”

Part of what makes Batman so compelling, according to West, is that the hero is “vulnerable” — and for good reason. More importantly, the vulnerability goes beyond plot-driven motivation all the way through to memories that fans have of their childhood.

“[Batman] developed his crime-fighting abilities, his physique, his mental capacities to an extreme degree, because he was motivated by seeing the death of his parents,” he explained. “You know, that backstory really works! What I really worked at in creating this character was just kind of a ‘sense memory’ of what it was like when I was a kid and I read a Batman comic book. I would say to my little brother, ‘You be Robin, I’ll be Batman! Let’s go out and play Batman! Come on, out in the backyard! I got a cape — a towel — here!’ If you bring to Batman — as long as it’s not gothic, dark and serious — but you have the task of making it fun, a ‘Bright Knight,’ you’ve got to remember the fun you had as a kid playing Batman, because you can use all that stuff. It communicates, it’s contagious with the audience.”

Although West was satisfied with being able to reprise his role as Batman for “LEGO Batman 3,” there are still a few aspects of the character he’d like to explore at some point.

“I’ve thought about a reinterpretation of Batman — even as Batman’s father, I’ve thought about what could happen, when things were so desperate that the younger Batman needed help,” West said. “Some dark and stormy night with lightning and the library buildings swinging open, Batman’s Bat-father comes swinging in and says, ‘Son, I know you’re in trouble. I can help.’

“It’s interesting to see all the different levels and character guises that Batman can take. That’s the wonderful thing about that character.”

Looking back over his career as Batman, West painted a picture of his busy life at the height of “Batman” — but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t having the time of his life.

“I was so busy. You work 14-16 hours a day, and then there’s the pressure — you have to pay attention there,” he recalled. “You try to have a little bit of a life, but every night, I fell asleep with the scripts on my chest, and maybe a bottle of beer or steak that I had cooked up, knowing that in the morning, I had to bring something fresh in… I don’t think I’d really change much about it.”

As for the resurgence of superheroes in popular media in the modern era, West believes it’s here to stay — at least for a while.

“Everything is kind of cyclical. It is the day and night of the superhero. It will probably last quite a while as long as it continues to bring big bucks at the box office,” he said. “People seem to like it more than ever, because this world has gone crazy. If you look around, hear the news, it’s gone crazy. Superheroes are a remarkable escape. You can dream with them, you can pretend with them. For example, my Batman, he’s a noble guy and he’s human, so you can pretend that you’re Batman, too. We all have to come out of whatever we’re doing and occasionally dream and have fun with something — because it’s a tough world out there.”

However, there’s definitely a reason the legacy of Batman continues to endure.

“Why has it endured? Because you, sir, can be Batman — you hang out with me, and you’ll see,” said West. “All you have to do is be crazy enough to fight crime 24/7, right?”

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