It was revealed at Comic-Con during a panel that Mark Hamill was not the first choice to portray the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. It's pretty hard to think of Batman: The Animated Series and not think about Mark Hamill's over the top portrayal of the villainous Joker and to many, he is the only Joker that they know. The Arkham video games had a major selling point when they were able to advertise that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill voiced the characters in the game and if you've never played Arkham Asylum, you're missing out on one of Hamill's best performances of his career.
So, it came as a bit of a shock when DCAU veteran Bruce Timm revealed via HeroicHollywood during a panel that Hamill was not the first choice to play the Clown Prince of Crime. Timm was sitting in on a panel to promote the upcoming Blu-ray release of 1993's Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when he mentioned Mark Hamill not being considered to be the Joker. He explains.
" Most of you guys probably know Mark first did the voice for us in the first Mr. Freeze episode; he played the guy who caused Mr. Freeze's wife to end up in a coma. He was so excited and full of enthusiasm for Batman. He's a huge comic book fan and he really wanted to play one of the big villains at that time and he specifically mentioned The Joker and at that time we were using Tim Curry as the Joker. And he was really disappointed and he said 'well, if anybody else shows up like Hugo Strange or somebody give me a call.' So many months later we made the difficult decision to replace Tim and we brought Mark in to audition for The Joker and he nailed it."
It has long been rumored that Tim Curry's portrayal of the Joker was deemed to be too scary by the studio for the animated series. It's also interesting to note that Tim Burton considered Curry for the part of the Joker in his 1989 Batman movie, but lost out to Jack Nicholson.
Hamill has said in the past that though he really wanted to play the part of the Joker, he panicked after he got the news that he had gotten the part. As it turns out, Hamill was nervous about taking on such a high-profile character and wanted to play a character that people didn't have any preconceived notions about like Clayface or Dr. Hugo Strange. Hamill obviously settled into the role, but after a bit of experimentation. Hamill has likened the Joker's laugh to a musical instrument and he would practice the maniacal laugh in the car on the way to and from voice over sessions to perfect the unhinged laugh that he is known for.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm also contains one of Hamill's best performances and as it turns out, Warner Bros. thought that the animated movie was too dark and too scary for younger audiences. In fact, some of it had to be redone. But looking back on it now after all of this time, one wonders how Warner Bros. was okay with all of the violence and killing that was left in the movie. There's some pretty dark stuff going on within Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
After 25 years it's almost impossible to think of anyone else playing the Joker. It would be like somebody else playing Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, it just wouldn't work out so well. Mark Hamill would never get the chance to play Joker in the flesh. But he has appeared on both iterations of The Flash as The Trickster, who has some similiar sensibilities. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm will be available on Blu-ray for the first time ever this Tuesday, July 25th in all of its violent glory. Go check it out to hear one of the best Mark Hamill Joker performances ever.