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(Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson)

Film

How playing Mozart helped Mark Hamill become 'The Joker'

@Russellisation

Whilst in popular culture Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as Batman’s mighty antagonist, the Joker in The Dark Knight, is the greatest iteration of the character, fans of the caped crusader would argue on the contrary. Ledger’s performance is, of course, influential in more ways than one, though the efforts of Jack Nicholson, Joaquin Phoenix and, notably, Mark Hamill are often recognised as among the very best. 

Never actually appearing in a live-action Batman movie or television show, Mark Hamill’s performance is unique as it is restricted to pure voice talent, first appearing as the Joker in 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series. The celebrated actor, known first and foremost for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise, went on to enjoy a healthy stint as the Joker, appearing in the Justice League TV series as well as the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. 

Strangely though, if it wasn’t for Mark Hamill’s role as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the stage performance of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus in 1983, Hamill may have never got the part of the Joker. As Hamill recalls to Cinemablend: “I had done Mozart in Amadeus in the first national tour, and then they transferred me over to Broadway, and one of the things that is relevant to my audition [for the Joker] is that Mozart had this sort of ghastly laugh that threw everybody”. As Hamill adds regarding his iconic laugh, “I played with that laugh a lot. I’d do a little Dwight Frye, I’d do a little Sydney Greenstreet”.

After trying several versions of the character’s iconic sinister giggle, the actor recalled, “After getting the part, I asked Andrea Romano, ‘How did I get it? What was the process? How did you know that you wanted me” And she said, ‘The laugh'”. 

Discussing how he then worked the laugh into the Joker’s personality, Hamill interestingly remembered: “One thing that stuck with me was, when Frank Gorshin was talking about the Riddler [whom Gorshin played in the 1960s series], I was reading about him and he said, ‘A lot of times, it’s not that the Riddler laughs, it’s what he laughs at’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. If I can find places to open a little window into the psyche of this psycho, I’m going to use that'”.

Mark Hamill has since enjoyed a fruitful career in voice acting, having appeared in an eclectic mix of films and television. Such credits include Hans Christian Andersen in The Little Mermaid: The Animated Series, the Lobster in Johnny Bravo as well as portraying (the voice of) Harrison Ford in Robot Chicken

To watch Mark Hamill in action as the animated Joker in Rocksteady’s video game Arkham City, take a look at the clip below.

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