Before he was cast as The Joker in The Dark Knight, the late Oscar winner Heath Ledger actually screen-tested for the title role of Batman Begins when it was still in development - which is a bit odd to imagine, I will admit. However, an actor playing both the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime is not so far fetched, and has happened before, believe it or not.
In fact, there are quite a few Batman actors who have also filled the shoes of other Gotham City residents in additional (or even the same) DC movies, TV shows, and other forms of media. Just as Batman would, let’s further investigate this surprisingly common phenomenon one actor at a time, starting with the beloved “Bright Knight.”
Adam West (Batman on Batman, The Gray Ghost on Batman: The Animated Series, And More)
The campy and cartoonish 1960s Batman TV show bares very little resemblance to how the character was originally visualized for DC Comics, but the late Adam West’s rich and lively performance continues to be idolized to this day and would earn him several cameos in subsequent DC TV shows. For instance, he voiced Gotham City’s mayor on the mid-2000s animated series The Batman, and Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas, on the 2008-2011 animated hit Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
However, my favorite is his memorably meta guest spot on Batman: The Animated Series as an out-of-work actor whose TV persona “The Gray Ghost” served as a huge inspiration to young Bruce (Kevin Conroy).
Kevin Conroy (Batman In Various Titles, John Grayson On The Batman, Thomas Wayne In Batman Vs. Robin)
Speaking of, after voicing the Dark Knight in countless DC animated movies, TV shows, and video games since 1992 (when he was cast in Batman: The Animated Series), Kevin Conroy has become just as iconic as Adam West, and also has a couple of exciting cameos as other Gothamites to prove it. In addition to also appearing on The Batman as Dick Grayson’s late father, he also filled the role of Bruce Wayne’s late father in the 2015 movie Batman vs. Robin, which was inspired by Scott Snyder’s “The Court of Owls” story line.
Ben McKenzie (Batman In Batman: Year One, James Gordon on Gotham)
Despite spending most of his life without a father, Bruce Wayne was at least blessed with a number of people who acted as father figures in life, such as his crimefighting ally James Gordon. Years after leaving The O.C. cast, Ben McKenzie would lead the Gotham cast as a younger version of the future Gotham City police commissioner from 2014 to 2019. Coincidentally, the actor previously voiced a younger version of the Dark Knight in 2011’s Batman: Year One - an animated adaptation of an acclaimed reinvention of Batman’s origin story by Frank Miller.
Jeffrey Wright (Batman On Batman: The Audio Adventures, James Gordon In The Batman)
Ben McKenzie is actually not the only actor play to both Jim Gordon and Batman, either. In 2019, Emmy winner Jeffrey Wright joined the cast of Matt Reeves’ DC reboot, The Batman, as the legendary Gotham cop, followed by news that he would also reprise the character in an upcoming HBO Max exclusive spin-off series. In 2021, the streaming platform debuted an original, comedic podcast called Batman: The Audio Adventures featuring the voice of Wright in the title role.
Troy Baker (Batman And Joker In Various Titles)
Troy Baker is the kind of voice actor who is so prolific, especially in superhero movies and other related media, that I could do an entire article on all of the Gothamites he has played in Batman movies, shows, and video games, including heroes like Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, or villains like Two-Face and the Mad Hatter.
So, for this section, I decided to focus just on his two most famous roles: Batman (usually in video games like Batman: The Telltale Series or ones of the LEGO variety) and The Joker (also in various games, TV shows, and plenty of movies, as recently as Batman: The Long Halloween). He even tackled both characters at once in the crossover film Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from 2019.
Jensen Ackles (Batman in Batman: The Long Halloween, The Red Hood In Batman: Under the Red Hood)
In both halves of 2021’s Batman: The Long Halloween adaptation, the Batman to Troy Baker’s Joker is voiced by Jensen Ackles, who is otherwise best known for playing Dean Winchester in the Supernatural cast for 15 seasons. However, I personally remember him best from 2010's Batman: Under the Red Hood (widely considered to be one of the best animated Batman movies of all time) in which he played the latest generation of title villain who carries a shocking secret related to Bruce Wayne's past.
Diedrich Bader (Batman, Solomon Grundy, And More On Batman: The Brave And The Bold)
In addition to a some other notable DC characters, fellow prolific voice actor Diedrich Bader has played the Dark Knight on a few different DC TV shows - namely HBO’s Harley Quinn series more recently, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold as a less-brooding, Adam West-style Batman. During the series’ run, the former The Drew Carey Show cast member also voices a few other Gotham City staples, including anti-heroic zombie Solomon Grundy, Matches Malone (actually a persona Bruce Wayne crafts to infiltrate the criminal underworld), and a grown-up version of Wayne’s son, Damian, in a futuristic episode.
Will Arnett (Batman In The LEGO Batman Movie, Slade In Teen Titans GO! To The Movies)
Of the lighter and funnier iterations of the Dark Knight, my favorite as of late would have to be Will Arnett’s spot-on performance as LEGO Batman, whom he has played in three movies (and even a couple of video games) so far - including his own solo spin-off, The LEGO Batman Movie, in 2017. The former Arrested Development and Bojack Horseman star has also voiced a lighter and funnier iteration of the Batman villain Deathstroke, who is referred to as the more kid-friendly “Slade” (his real first name) for his appearance in Teen Titans GO! To The Movies in 2018.
Will Friedle (Batman On Batman Beyond, Nightwing In Various Titles, And More)
The role would see the beginning of a remarkable voice acting career spanning countless iconic characters from the DC Universe (and elsewhere), including villain Gearhead on a 2005 The Batman episode, a Japanese-anime style Tim "Red Robin" Drake in 2018’s Batman: Ninja, and the animated anthology movie Batman: Gotham Knight as various characters. I would not be surprised if he holds a record for the number of times playing Nightwing, such as on the Batman Unlimited series and in a few straight-to-video LEGO movies.
If you look at the cast lists for all of the Batman movies in order (and TV shows, too), it is pretty astounding to see how many actors are given dual roles. For instance, before Mark Hamill even debuted as The Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, he played Ferris Boyle - a slimy businessman indirectly responsible for creating Mister Freeze in the seminal “Heart of Ice” episode, and later played Tony Zucco on The Batman.
The different shades of all the different characters, as distinguished by their performers, is one of the most fascinating things about the DC Multiverse, if you ask me.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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