From the Archives: Adam West interview from 1966: ‘Playing Batman is an actor’s challenge’
Guess what? I spent a day with Batman! We were at this beach house in Malibu. Only instead of his Batmobile, he drove his motorcycle, and instead of a cape and mask, he wore sneakers and jeans. In real life, on TV that is, Batman is Bruce Wayne — but in real life, away from the cameras, he’s Adam West.
What is Adam West like? He’s vital, boyish, handsome, intensely alive, witty, interested in everything! He skis, surfs, hikes, makes collages, draws (he’s taking an art course at UCLA), knows and loves music — especially jazz.
“Playing Batman is an actor’s challenge,” Adam said. “First it’s different; then, you have to reach a multi-level audience. The kids take it straight, but for adults, we have to project it further … When Batman was a comic it wasn’t camp, but the show is.” (For those not in-the-know, “camp” means a thing is so bad that it’s good, so unfunny that it’s funny. Pop art is camp; old ratty fur coats are camp.)
“When I got the part, I tried to remember Batman as I knew him when I was a kid — with emotional recall.” We left the apartment with its books, records, artwork; the patio faced the ocean. “We’re trying to create a folk hero … when you play a legend, you have to play it with a straight direct line, direct speech and movement … Now Bruce, on the other hand, has to come across as the kindest, noblest, most charitable guy — again, “straight-line” — not Cary Grant charming — know what I mean?”
Obviously what Adam West and producer William Dozier are trying to do is succeeding. Batman is the highest rated TV series today. It’s being shown in Canada; being sold to England. People hold Batman parties where they watch the show.
At the University of Michigan, Batman will be the theme of the winter wonderland; UCLA wants Batman as the theme of their mardi gras. Four thousand fan letters have arrived in only three weeks! “I even get them from teachers,” says Adam, “with little drawings from grade school kids.” And requests pour in daily to form fan clubs.
Why the appeal?
What’s the appear of Batman? Everybody’s trying to figure it. People either love the show or hate it; think it funny or just foolish. But they watch! For Adam West, it’s the windfall every actor dreams of. For years he’s been doing commercials and small TV roles. Now he’s a property to be guarded and cherished.
How does he see his future? “I’m interested in film — any aspect — acting, directing, writing.” When he was a teen, Adam’s major interest was writing, in fact.
“I was a maverick. I went to five different colleges looking for I don’t know quite what … Teens are mavericks today. I like that. It keeps them from that terrible thing — the herd. I dig their individualness.” That very afternoon 400 teens — high school editors in Los Angeles — were having a press conference with Batman … Would Batman tell all? Would he reveal his identity to the teen press? Zowie! Pow! Holy Popcorn! It’s Batman-Bruce Wayne-Adam West!!!
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