To many fans of the Dark Knight, Kevin Conroy IS Batman. The acclaimed voice actor has played the role on and off for almost 25 years a staggering 258 times across movies, TV, and video games (according to an estimate by IGN’s Daniel Krupa). Sure, actors like Ben Affleck and Christian Bale may be the more recognizable faces of Batman, but no actor has embodied the character to quite the degree that Conroy has … so who better to offer some advice on how to best play the character?
IGN recently interviewed Conroy about his experience playing the character and the most surprising revelation may be that Conroy doesn’t consider playing Batman a performance. Rather, he believes playing Bruce Wayne is the truly difficult side of the character to get right.
“The performance is Bruce Wayne. The real essence of the man is Batman. That’s when he’s his most comfortable; he’s at his most naked, most emotionally raw when he’s in the bat cave alone. When he goes out to Wayne Technologies. faces the world and puts on a suit – that’s the performance,” Conroy explains.
“Bruce Wayne is the performance element. That’s always been my key to the character, and I think when you play it that way it makes the Batman so authentic. It makes it less of an artifice. It just makes it ring true. So that it’s not just putting on this odd costume and pretending you’re someone you’re not.
It’s interesting to hear that Conroy subscribes to the popular notion that Bruce Wayne is the disguise Batman puts on to hide his identity, rather than the other way around. Pretty much every incarnation of the character has wrestled with this dichotomy and it’s one that Conroy certainly nails, as the actor notably uses different voices to play Bruce and Batman.
Still, Conroy is no diva and has nothing but praise for his fellow Batman actors.
“I love the fact that Warner Brothers have for the live-action Batman changed the casting so frequently. I think it’s really interesting to see different actors in the role, to see what they bring to the character. Everyone brings something different.
And there have been so many actors that have been wonderful. I liked Michael Keaton and I like what Ben Affleck is doing with it now. But they couldn’t be more different. It’s just the same with the Joker. When I started working with Mark Hammill I thought no one would ever nail the Joker better than Mark Hamill, and then I saw Heath Ledger, and he knocked it out of the park in just a different way.
There are so many valid ways of playing a role. It’s really fun to watch different actors do it. So I thought it was a really interesting choice that WB made to have different actors do the live-action character.”
While Conroy is quick to praise the actors who have played the Dark Knight in live action, he does take issue with the way Bats has been characterized on occasion, most recently in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As Conroy admits, he is definitely a big believer in Batman’s no kill policy and doesn’t seem happy with the direction Zack Snyder took the character in.
“Personally I love the fact that Batman – in the stories I’ve done, and the way he’s been rendered by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, the people I’ve worked with most closely – he never kills anybody. He doesn’t cross that line. Batman is not a killer.
In the most recent live action movie, that seems to have been a line that was crossed and it’s not one I’m particularly comfortable with.”
Understandably, since Conroy has been voicing Batman for 25 years, he admits that the most difficult part of the job is keeping things fresh, as he knows that fans will notice if he starts putting in less effort with his performances.
“If I ever lied, or if I ever phoned it in, they would be all over me. I would be crucified on the internet. They would hear it in a second. The challenge for me is how to keep him fresh.”
You can read Conroy’s full discussion with IGN here. In the meantime, we’ll just leave you with this scene from Batman: Mark of the Phantasm, arguably one of Conroy’s greatest Batman performances.