Lewis Wilson – The Batman (1943): Before the 60’s TV show came a serial staring Lewis Wilson as Batman. Made during World War II and seeing Batman as a U.S. government agent pitted against Japanese agent Dr. Daka.
Adam West – 60’s TV Show & 1966 movie: With a movie and 120, 25 minute episodes between 1966 and 1968 Adam West has by far the most screen time as Batman. The camp action comedy show is considered a bit of a joke now but was hugely popular at the time (and in the early 80’s when I saw the rerun) and led to West being offered the part of James Bond in the early 70’s.
Michael Keaton – Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992): Looking back Its hard to believe that there were more than twenty years between Adam West handing up the bat cape and Michael Keaton taking it up. What is also hard to believe is that it has been a further twenty years since Keaton gave up the role. Now sadly tainted by the two Joel Schumacher efforts and lost in the shadow of the Christopher Nolan movies, Tim Burton’s original two films are well worth another look.
Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995): In fairness to Val Kilmer he isn’t a bad Bruce Wayne / Batman, sadly he is hampered by being in a truly bad film.
George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997): As bad as Batman Forever was, it is Citizen Kane in comparison to Batman & Robin. A few years ago I fell into a conversations about how many more Batman movies Christopher Nolan should make. We all agreed a trilogy was about right, I then suggested they should make a movie based on Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. I suggested Michael Keaton reprises the role of Batman, no one agreed with me and the question was then asked, what square jawed actor in their late 40’s early 50’s could play the part? When George Clooney’s name was mentioned we all thought it was a great idea for about a minute until we remembered Batman & Robin, but you never know!
Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) & The Dark Knight Rises (2012): The star of the most recent Batman series isn’t Christian Bale, its Christopher Nolan. Like Quentin Tarantino, the director has achieved superstar status over his actors, unlike Tarantino, he has done it without acting in his movies. Bale’s standing was further dented by the admiration for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. This is unfair, Bale really makes the movies work and like Daniel Craig in the current Bond movies, there are few actors who could do such a good job.
Tomorrow, The Batmobile.