Batman is back. And I’m not talking about the upcoming Justice League movie where Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader will have a mood as dark as his cowl (why so serious?) The best incarnation of Batman was and always will be, especially for those who grew up watching the original (or repeats), Adam West’s pompous yet ridiculous, debonair yet camp crimefighter.
But Batman would only be half as dynamic without the other half of the duo: Dick Grayson aka Robin aka actor Burt Ward. Forget method acting, Ward is Robin.
He explains: “When I was hired back in July of 1965 the executive producer, William Dozier, said, ‘Burt, we interviewed 1,100 young actors for this role and we chose you. Would you like to know why?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I would.’ He said, ‘Because in our mind, if there really was a Robin – I mean for real – you, Burt, would be him. We don’t want you to act, we want you to be yourself.’”
When was the last time he wore tights? “I only wear the costume on two occasions: Halloween when I go trick or treating, and for very private moments with my wife.”
I only wear the costume for Halloween, and very private moments with my wife
Did he wear it this Halloween? “Of course! How can you go trick or treating without a costume?” the now 72-year-old asks incredulously.
Sixties Batman at least seemed aware of the absurdity of it all; a millionaire whose flying rodent-inspired alter ego rounded up supervillains as creepy yet charming as the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Mr Freeze, Egghead, King Tut… The rogues’ gallery was full of colourful characters who never stayed behind bars for long.
A brand-new animated film starring Adam West, in his last role, and reliable sidekick Ward, teams them up with another legend of ’60s pop culture – William Shatner as Two-Face. It’s a mind-meltingly amazing coming together of icons, and the film is an affectionate tribute to the spirit of ’60s Batman and a fitting homage to West. A tribute at the end reads, “Rest well Bright Knight,” reminding us that Batmans come in more shades than just humourless black.
“We were great friends,” Ward says about West, who died in June aged 88. “We’ve been together over 50 years, all the wonderful fun times we had, our families got on great. I loved the man and I miss him terribly.”
After half a century of being the Boy Wonder, Ward remains not just a glass-half-full kinda guy, but one whose cup is continuously overflowing. If he has ever had any frustrations being typecast he has long since resolved them.
“Think of it this way,” he says. “You could have a glass that’s full of a whole ton of different projects, or one gigantic spectacular project and other, smaller projects. That’s what I’ve done and I’ve loved every minute of it – I had the greatest time.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The great times were documented, often in graphic detail, in Ward’s autobiography, My Life in Tights, acclaimed as one of the sleaziest, and therefore most enjoyable, showbiz memoirs, with potent reminisces of his and West’s sexploits along the lines of: “Everyone wanted our Bat Sperm in every orifice”.
What was it about the tights that made them so irresistible to women?
“I think the action and the excitement and the derring-do was attractive to everybody – in different ways,” Ward explains. “Kids loved it; riding the Batmobile, climbing walls, fighting famous villains! For adults, it was the nostalgia of the comic books, for the teenagers and the college kids, when they saw what Adam and I did with the very suggestive double entendres, everybody loved it!”
If enthusiasm was a superpower then Ward is a real-life superhero. He doesn’t end the interview, he gets called away by a sudden crime-fighting emergency.
“Wowee zowie!” he exclaims. “To the Batmobile!”
Batman vs. Two-Face is out now on Digital Download and on Blu-ray and DVD