From Bleeding Cool contributor Jimmy Leszczynski:
In 1992, I was there, sitting in front of my glorious 19” TV, when Bruce Timm and Paul Dini first convinced Warner Bros. that the Batman: the Animated Series was a good idea. Hot off the heels of Batman Returns, it was a tough sell to execs to bring the character closer to his film noir roots. Now everybody loves Batman, and it’s time to team him up with DC’S fastest growing property, Harley Quinn.
I had the incredible opportunity to chat with the cast of the newly released Batman and Harley Quinn. It was a rapid-fire roundtable, but it just so happens that Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Bruce Timm, director Sam Liu, and co-writer Jim Krieg sat next to me! POW!
As Kevin was talking, twice during our chat the hairs on my arm stood up. I mean, Batman was right next to me. His voice is so intoxicating that I started to see Batman. (That definitely wasn’t the food and sleep deprivation I was suffering. No way.)
Kevin once again plays Batman in Batman and Harley Quinn, the role he made his back in 1992, and in his words: “What other superhero is there? I mean, he’s the coolest!”
I ask him if he likes the new film, and he tells me:
“I’m happy with it! It’s fun because it’s sort of a lighter take on the story, but it still has the weight of Batman. You know, this darkness, the drama of Batman. Because there is Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, it just starts going off the walls. So it’s fun that way, it’s balanced. There is a balance to it.”
When Kevin was asked about the comedy of the film:
“You know, [with] Batman, you can’t play the humor. You play humor and you kill it. You always play the reality of the situation, and the let the humor kind of revolve around you. So Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy get what are you adding to legacy to do most of the humor. But I get to do takes on it. Especially after doing the Killing Joke, which was such a dark, dark, dark film. And Mark (Hamill) was just so brilliant in it. It was fun to do one that was lighter.”
I asked him if he thinks Batman killed the Joker at the end of the Killing Joke: “I can’t tell you that. I mean, we do know it’s only Batman laughing at the end.” Grinning as he does so, I took that as a yes. “Mark and I have had this sort of bromance for all these 25 years. He loves it when I’m good, and I love it when he’s good, because I know the more he gives me, the more I’m going to be able to give him.”
Ever since that sultry, early ’90s September night, it has been hard for me to read a Batman comic and not hear Kevin Conroy’s voice in my head. Kevin has been playing Batman for 26 years now. I asked him how his approach to the character has changed over the years and different incarnations he has performed:
“I think it’s just fine tuning how dark you get, how light you get. The secret has always been to be consistent with the character. It’s really the story more dictates that. The Killing Joke is so dark; [it] is such a dark world that no lightness really even comes in. Whereas this one is the other end of the spectrum — there is a lot of color, a lot of light.”
Batman and Harley Quinn writer and executive producer Bruce Timm, also the co-creator of Harley Quinn, said of the movie:
“The last version of Batman: the Animated Series was we did was the New Adventures of Batman, where we had Dick Grayson grow up to be Nightwing, and it always kind of bothered me we didn’t get more of a chance to put Nightwing in more stories. I thought he was a really cool character once he became Nightwing. So this was kind of just another opportunity to bring him back, and do something more with him. It’s one more chance to back and have some fun with these characters. I got to emphasize [that] its a very light story. It not full of a lot of drama, and angst, and life-shattering events — it’s comedy. It’s an action comedy, but it’s more of a comedy.”
He had this to say about newcomer and The Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rouch’s (not present) portrayal of Harley Quinn:
“She’s an absolute charming, delightful person to meet and to work with, and she hit it out of the park. She did exactly what she needed to do. She’s funny, she’s cute, she’s sexy, she’s vulnerable when she needs to be, and she has some other hidden talents that I don’t want to talk about — but she’s great. She did exactly what I wanted, so I couldn’t be more delighted with her.”
Each and every cast member talked about how Batman and Harley Quinn is a comedy — not something you usually see in a Batman film. I have it on very good behind-the-scenes authority that everyone was nervous if the comedy, and slightly adult humor, would play.
Loren Lester plays Nightwing in Batman and Harley Quinn, and has been playing Dick Grayson since 1992, when Robin joined the cast of Batman: the Animated Series. I asked what’s it like to portray Dick Grayson’s various incarnations over the years:
“I was thrilled they transitioned Dick Grayson from Robin into Nightwing, and I was thrilled that they brought him back for this film, because it’s been my dream to reprise that role. I always felt the show ended too soon — that there was so much more to tell. So much more of the story to tell. For whatever reason, they ended the show, but this is like the show all over again.”
Loren told us of his inspiration for the role:
“I got to take my hat off to Burt Ward, because that’s how I grew up with. That was The Batman and Robin. I was very little when that show as on the air, so I took it very seriously. I didn’t know it was a tongue-in-cheek thing. I was always afraid on Tuesday night, when the show ended, that he was going to die maybe on Wednesday.”
So does Nightwing get all the jokes in this movie? “That’s what I love about this script, when I first got it — it’s full of comedy. It really is really funny.”
Paget Brewster is on board to lend her talents to the alluring but deadly Poison Ivy. Paget was lovely and gracious as she told us what it’s like to play the deadly floral vixen:
“I got a phone call saying ‘Would you like to play Poison Ivy,’ [from] Bruce Timm. and I said yes. So then I started getting scared. I am I going to do a good job? […] The really interesting thing is this relationship between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn loving each other, and being friends, and end up having to fight each other for what could be the destruction of the human race. I just love that they both believe what they believe and have to fight for what they think is right. Even though that’s fighting against someone they love.”
Director Sam Liu sat down after a hectic day of being shuffled from place to place, but is still looking forward to the premiere. When asked how hard it is to make a Batman comedy, Liu said:
“It’s a lot more of a comedy. It’s set in the Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series universe, but goes off on this different path. The humor element, and how far we got to go with it — I think that was the most challenging thing about it. I think it went a little further than I thought it was going to go.”
Batman and Harley Quinn co-screenwriter Jim Krieg also wrote Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox (one of my personal favorites). He starts by telling us the Batman: The Animated Series universe this movie is set in is much more serious, so the the filmmakers didn’t want to mock him or make a wacky comedy:
“I mean, Batman is still Batman in this; the Batman we know from B:TAS. But in fact, if anything, he has become more rigid, so that Harley, who is a total wild card, clashes against him and becomes funny. They become an absolute perfect odd couple. They are great foils for one another.”
The Floronic Man/Jason Woodrue was voiced by veteran Kevin Michael Richardson, but unfortunately, time ran out before I got the chance to speak with him.
I am then rushed off to interview the Batman and Harley Quinn composer Michael McCuistion, moments before the movie premiered! Stay tuned, dear friends; the best is yet to come.
Batman and Harley Quinn is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.