Tim Curry was supposed to voice the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and the audio has finally been released.
By Nathan Kamal | published
The idea of Tim Curry voicing the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series is one of pop culture’s great “what if” stories, not counting What If…? stories. Legendary actor Tim Curry was initially cast as the voice of the Joker in Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Mitch Brian’s influential show, but reportedly developed bronchitis and was unable to continue past a few sessions. Mark Hamill stepped into the role and became perhaps the most definitive Joker of all time, but now a few of those initial Tim Curry vocal sessions have become available.
As you can hear in the video above, Tim Curry’s take on the voice of the Joker is significantly different from pretty much every other interpretation of the character. Specifically, Tim Curry performs the Joker in a rather deep register with a distinct (though somewhat generic) New York accent that seems a bit like a reference to 1940s gangster movies. In the second scene of the short clip, Tim Curry’s Joker voice is noticeably higher, which indicates that the Charlie’s Angels actor was still working out exactly what he wanted to do.
However, that historically significant case of bronchitis knocked Tim Curry out of the role and Mark Hamill stepped up as the Joker, a role that he has continued to play to the present. Interestingly, both Tim Curry and Mark Hamill had previously starred as famed composer Wolfgang Mozart in stage productions of Amadeus; Hamill has credited the high, piercing laugh he developed for the character as key to his performance as the Joker. Famously, Mark Hamill actually audited for the role in the acclaimed film adaptation of Amadeus and was turned down, allegedly because the producers thought no one would take the movie seriously if it starred “Luke Skywalker.”
Mark Hamill’s voice is so associated with this version of the character that hearing Tim Curry’s idiosyncratic portrayal of the Joker over the classic, art deco-style visuals of Batman: The Animated Series can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance. Tim Curry is legendary for many wild performances in works as varied as The Rocky Horror Picture Showthe cult comedy Cluethe Alec Baldwin superhero movie The Shadowand Muppet Treasure Island. However, the win on this one has to go to Mark Hamill.
There likely is not a whole lot of audio of Tim Curry as the Joker that exists, though it is unclear exactly how much he recorded before stepping out of the role. Since then Mark Hamill has voiced the character in multiple animated series, was dubbed into the WB’s live-action Birds of Prey series, various video games, and even toys and amusement park rides. Although he has never won an Academy Award for playing the Joker (unlike Heather Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix), it is safe to say no one has shaped the character as much in recent decades as Mark Hamill.
In another world, perhaps Tim Curry powered through the bronchitis, and we got a gravelly-voiced gangster version of the Joker. Now, that would be an interesting multiverse story.