In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the classic 1966 ‘Batman’ series. This is thanks in part to the labyrinthine legal issues that had long stood in the way of a home video release finally being resolved, but more than that, it’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the show. Perhaps the most unexpected manifestation of this boom has been that the show ultimately received a revival of sorts. That revival came in the form of animated films, beginning with ‘Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders‘ in 2016. Following that film’s success, work soon began on a sequel, in the form of ‘Batman vs Two-Face‘. With that sequel’s release fast approaching, we sat down to speak with star Burt Ward at New York Comic Con. There, the unforgettable Boy Wonder shared some of his experiences making the film and even teased one of its more impressive bonus features.
How much fun was it to do ‘Batman vs Two-Face’?
Great. It was a lot of fun. I mean, for different reasons. I was actually given probably one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had by Jay Bastion, who was executive producer of Warner Bros. Animation, when during recording he actually stopped the recording, he came out, and he said “Burt,” – And I had watched them, all these guys – and remember these are pros. They do this every day. It’s not just ‘Batman’, they do all these movies and they have all the animated stuff and all these guys, I mean the supervising producer, script people, all these people, they’re all laughing! They’re all looking like there’s some party in there, and I’m figuring “Wait a minute, they’ve seen the script a thousand times, they know what’s in there, why are they all having such fun?” – and he came out, and he said “We’re blown away.” And I said “What?” He said, “You sound exactly like you sounded fifty years ago!” His quote was “It’s almost scary.” So for me, it was a great compliment. I couldn’t have gotten a nicer compliment. So I was thrilled. And I’m thrilled about this. This was the smartest casting, in my opinion, Warner Bros. could ever have done. Why? Because you have the two most iconic television shows in history, ‘Batman’ and ‘Star Trek’, with the actors working together. I mean, talk about the “dynamic duo” of television series! This is it. You couldn’t do any better. I don’t know how they could top this. And it’s a great script. It’s not what you think it is. And I get into some great fights, which I love to do. It is really good. I mean, every bit of it is excellent. Plus, they have a very special tribute to me on that show. Do you know about it?
No, tell us.
They call me in to do an interview, and you know, going in and doing five or ten minutes… No. This was not five or ten minutes. This was hours. And I said, “Boy, you’re asking all these questions!” And they – and I hope it’s okay, because they jump on me the minute I go off script here – they have produced a featurette that is being released with this movie. And the title blows me away. It’s called ‘The Wonderful World of Burt Ward’. I thought Disney owned that! [laughs] But what a compliment! And it talks about the show, it talks about my close friendship with Adam [West], it talks about our dog rescue, how we’ve doubled and tripled the lifespan of dogs – which for me is tremendous – and all this together is just an incredible piece. And the few people that have seen it have all said this is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. And this is not an ego booster because it’s speaking from the heart. I mean, there are some moments there that’ll bring a tear to your eye, talking about Adam and some stuff together and the loss of Adam. And it’s just such an incredible compliment, and I feel really, really good about it and I’m so thankful that Warner Bros. did this. Nobody asked them. My agents weren’t out saying “Well how about doing this?” This was completely on their one that they’ve done this thing. And they do like my charitable work. I like to say – and Warner Bros. actually likes this – where I say “I was the Caped Crusader, and now I am the Canine Crusader.” But with the movie, I was the Caped Crusader, and now I’m the Canine Crusader, and now I’m the Caped Crusader again! [laughs]
On that point, this is something that began fifty-one years ago. And here you are doing a press tour for a new movie. Is it at all strange to you that this still comes up as often as it does?
No. Because if something is right, it’s right. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, no matter what you do, you can’t make it work. ‘Batman’ worked, and I believe… I mean, first of all, there was so much going for it back when we first did it. The color right? A lot of people hadn’t seen color. And you talk about color? How could you have more color than on ‘Batman’? And the hero worship for kids, riding in this Batmobile, climbing walls, fighting heinous villains! All that action! Kids loved it, and it still connects. And what they’ve done with these two animated movies is they’ve taken the best of what we had, they’ve combined it with some of the newer stuff that they’ve done in the features, but still staying where it’s family entertainment. And you take the two and you actually end up with something that’s greater than the individual parts.
What’s it like to reprise this role after all this time?
You have to understand, I was hired by the executive producer who came to me and said “Burt, the reason we hired you, from eleven hundred young actors who tried out for the part, was because -forgetting television – if there really was a Robin, we think you would be it. We don’t want you to approach this like an actor approaching a role. We want you to be yourself and be enthusiastic.” That was a hard one, right? I mean, for me, I’m going to do a panel for thirty minutes? I do an hour panel by myself every week! I’m only going to have one breath for that thirty minutes! So that’s what I’ve done. There’s no recreating anything. When you saw me do stuff like that, that’s what I do! Jumping over the door to get into the Batmobile, jumping over the door to get out. See, they didn’t tell me to do that. They were so worried about the effects, the explosions. all these things were going wrong, you understand? I was left to do what I wanted. And I did it. Now, in the case of walking on top of that car, those people were having heart attacks, worrying that I’d scratch their paint job!
What is your take on the darker versions of Batman’s sidekick?
Look, everything has its place. Warner Bros. is very, very smart. These people didn’t build a big company by not knowing what they’re doing. They went into the theaters, they targeted the theater audience, okay? They wanted a darker, heavier side. But I look at it like the best of both worlds. You want to see a darker version? You can go in the theater. You want to see the family stuff? Watch us. And now with the movies that they’ve got, it’s a very good balance. I think they’ve done a great job. And they’re very true to the characterizations. The people that work on this project are all ‘Batman’ fans. They weren’t people who just came in and said “Oh, I’ve got to produce this movie…” These people are diehard fans. These people catch me on trivia like “Oh, I remember in that one show when you were fighting with Egghead there were six guys in that, what was the name of the third guy on the left?” My god! So they made this movie better because they love it themselves.
‘Batman vs Two-Face’ will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on October 17, 2017. In addition to Adam West, Burt Ward, and William Shatner, the film’s cast includes Julie Newmar, Steven Webber, Maurice LaMarche, and Lee Meriwether. Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on ‘Batman vs Two-Face’ as its release approaches!