Mr. Beaks Talks to the New Voice of the Animated Batman, Diedrich Bader!
Published at: July 25, 2008, 11:40 a.m. CST by mrbeaks
Whenever you watch OFFICE SPACE, do you find yourself saying, "Gee, Lawrence would make a killer Batman!" Me, too.
Of course, limiting Diedrich Bader to his scene stealing portrayal of Ron Livingston's profanely wise neighbor does a complete disservice to the sheer volume of voice acting credits he's racked up over the years. Like Patrick Warburton, Bader is one of those enormously talented actors you hear more than you see (and more than you realize). So while you might think, "The dude who played Lee Oswald Harvey doesn't sound a think like any Batman I know," look over his filmography and give the man his due.
That said, it helps that BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD is going to evince a lighter sensibility than THE DARK KNIGHT or even BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. This doesn't mean we're going to get a comedic Caped Crusader (though Adam West's name does come up in our conversation); it's just that this particular Batman show is going to have a sense of humor. Apparently, this is a revolutionary idea nowadays. But, going off what James Tucker said in my other BRAVE AND THE BOLD interview, you're not going to have a Batman in twenty years if you don't hook kids with less sinister incarnations of the character now.
To that end, I think Bader is a magnificent choice for the Batman. He certainly couldn't be a nicer guy.
By the way, I interviewed Bader on the morning of THE DARK KNIGHT's opening, which should explain the first portion of this transcript.
Nice to be talking to today, since it's apparently "Batman Day" all over the country.
All over the world!
Have you seen THE DARK KNIGHT yet?
No, I haven't. You know, if I get the chance to go out, it's not to see a movie. I'd rather go see a friend. My kids are really little, so I have to go through the whole babysitter deal. But I am excited that there's a new Batman. The motorcycle looks really cool. And I hear Heath Ledger is fantastic.
He's amazing. His Joker is going to go down as one of the classic screen villains, I think.
It's right up there with Hannibal Lecter.
If you do get a chance, and find a babysitter and everything, I highly recommend the IMAX presentation.
That's what I've heard. A friend of mine said that was super cool.
So you're going to Comic Con next week?
We're going to rock the Con!
No. I'm really excited about it, though.
Well, I don't know what to say to you other than "Good luck."
I can't wait to see what you guys are working on with this. Reading the fact sheet, it sounds like it's going to be a little more comedic than what we've been used to with the Batman animated shows.
It's not quite as dark as THE DARK KNIGHT. Batman has a sense of humor. It's dark and ironic, but it's definitely there. Most of the comedy is actually brought by two things. There's the voiceover, which I do as Bruce Wayne; he thinks as Bruce Wayne, and he talks as Batman. It's a character he assumes when he puts on the cowl. Then we have guest stars like Tom Kenny and John Di Maggio, and they're just hilarious. It's a lighter tone. It's not necessarily a comedy show, but it's definitely a lighter show than in previous incarnations.
When we think about a more comedic Batman, we obviously flash on Adam West.
You've got to go to the West.
Have you incorporated and Adam West in your performance, and have you ever met Adam?
Adam and I did a series together. DANGER THEATER. That was a long time ago. It was my first series, right before THE DREW CAREY SHOW. Adam and I went on a press junket together, and he's a really nice guy. When I was a kid, I watched BATMAN all the time. I was a huge fan, so the opportunity to meet him was really cool. Then he guest starred on THE DREW CAREY SHOW. I don't really bring any element of what he did to it, but, overall, the tone is closer to that show than to any other incarnation of Batman. There aren't necessarily jokes; it's more situational comedy.
When you go from Wayne to Batman, is there that trademark drop in the vocal register?
Oh, yeah! Batman definitely uses the lowest part of my register, while Bruce Wayne talks kind of like me. It's really fun to do the Batman.
We've heard him done so many ways. Right now, Christian Bale seems to be emulating Clint Eastwood.
He plays him *really* straight. I definitely err on the side of being expressive just because I'm supposed to bring a lighter tone to it. But Bale's is very consistently dark. In my opinion. Just from watching the first movie.
From reading what you guys are up to, it sounds like it's going to be chockfull of cameos from different DC characters.
Oh, yes. There's tons every week. We have an opening that starts with two people you would recognize - one bad guy, and one good guy who teams up with the Batman - and then you get to the main show. It's a really fun way to do it. My son, who's four-and-a-half... he's just a fanatical comic book guy, and he always asks, "Who's the bad guy?" And the fact that we have two bad guys on every week makes him insanely happy.
Are you going to have to recycle appearances from certain villains?
There are some guys who come back. We're going to have recurring hero characters like Green Arrow and Aquaman, so, you know, it's nice.
Any chance of a Superman appearance?
I don't think we want to step into the Justice League arena. I think we're basically going to stick to Gotham and not venture into Metropolis.
I imagine that we'll be seeing a good amount of the Joker?
The Joker is in there. Can't talk too much about it, but you will dig the Joker!
Who's playing The Joker?
I do know who's playing The Joker.
(Laughing) Can you *say* who's playing The Joker?
No, I can't say. (Laughs) It's on my list of things not to say. It's a good guest appearance, and it's actually a really good storyline.
Gotta fish a little.
Of course! You're doing your job!
The voice actor thing has really been great for you.
It has. But in between the two interviews I've done today, I got and lost a job because of a conflict with BATMAN. Sometimes it interferes with the on-camera stuff, and sometimes it doesn't, but my heart is definitely in doing animation right now - mostly because of my kids. It's something I can watch with my kids and enjoy. Also, my son really digs that I'm Batman. I was saying to Annie [Chen of Beck Media & Marketing] earlier that after the first interview I had today, I came out and my daughter was wearing the full Batman outfit. The one with the muscles under the suit. And the cowl. So I said, "Batman!" And she said, "Follow me, Alfred!" All of a sudden, I was Alfred.
(Laughing) Do you have a voice for Alfred?
(Heavy British accent) Yes, I do, sir! (Laughs) It's basically a bad English accent.
It's good enough. Hopefully, she won't be too critical.
You mentioned how you're happy to be doing work that your kids can watch. I talked to Patrick Warburton a while back--
What a nice guy!
Yeah, he's great. And he was saying the same thing: that it's great to be doing work that's appropriate for them. Do you also have your own recording studio out of which you can work?
I prefer to go in and work with the other actors. It's much more fun. Sometimes Disney will have you do it in isolation, but I prefer the Warner Brothers way, which is to have all the actors together and read the script like a play. It's much more fun because having humor in Batman is kind of a high-wire act; we need to all be on the same page and hear each other and get the sense of what type of comedy we can get away with thematically.
Do you get a chance to improv at all?
Yeah. I do the lines as is, and then I hold up my hand - because they're on the other side of the glass - and say, "I have a pitch for this line." You know, we had Tom Kenny come on a couple of times, and he pitched some improv, usually in the rehearsal, and he was hilarious as Elastic Man.
I can imagine. That's a fun little roster of guys.
It's so much fun to do this show.
It sounds like it's very collaborative.
It's extremely collaborative. There's definitely a tone all the way through, where it's fun to watch. I think we've really broadened the demographic, which is crucial. I did a couple of episodes of THE BATMAN. Andrea Romano was the dialogue director on that, too, and she was nice enough to send me bootleg DVDs of the episodes that I did, just so I could see it before it went on the air. And when I watched it - because I preview everything for my kids - I realized that I couldn't show it to my son. He's a comic book fanatic, but it was just too dark and too violent; he wouldn't get the tone, and it would be too much for him. I thought at the time, "You know, they should bring something to it that's a little more inclusive. They could definitely build their product a little more." So this show, while not necessarily skewing younger, could attract a younger crowd as well as the die-hard fans.
That's good. There's been that tendency with comic book movies to push into really dark areas, and while the material can sustain it, they're not appealing to young kids at all.
I don't know if you're a comic book junkie, but do you know Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
It's one of the greatest comic books of all time, but he was the one who really pushed the character into a darker arena. And it works with Batman! There's some speculation that it's all a revenge fantasy, and he's definitely the darkest of all the superheroes. We don't betray that at all, but we do portray him as a more rounded human being. He has a sense of humor. And then let the guest stars play a little more than they might in some of the previous incarnations of the show.
You said that you're very happy within the realm of voice acting at the moment. That's great, but it's still a little heartbreaking because you're so great when you turn up unexpectedly in a movie like BALLS OF FURY.
What did you think?
I loved what they did with your character.
Cool. I'm glad you thought so. I enjoyed that show. You know, my on-camera agent is almost continually upset at me because I work as little as possible. My number one focus is my children, and them knowing their father. That's difficult in show business because they're always trying to pull you away: nothing ever shoots here, and you always have to go away for a long time. Most comedies, which is what I really want to do, are single-camera shows, like BALLS OF FURY. But they take you away for too long, and... they're so little. You don't get an opportunity to be with little kids that often, and it's really fun. That's my focus now. If someone sends me a really funny script - and I thought BALLS OF FURY was a really funny script. They asked, "Would you like to play a male escort?" It sounds hilarious! A sex slave! You bet!
A sex slave who plays board games all night.
(Laughs) That's for me!
Well, the one nice thing about doing all this voice work is that when you encounter kids out and about, you're less likely to be swarmed by adoring fans.
Yes, but once the word gets out... like, I'm a *god* at my son's preschool.
I just hope your kids aren't around when some twentysomething kid comes up and starts quoting OFFICE SPACE.
I know. (Lawrence voice) "Two chicks at the same time." I got that the other night when I was driving downtown with my wife. This guy pulls up and goes, "Hey, dude! Two chicks at the same time!" And I said, "Right on." Then I turned to my wife. "It's from the movie. You know."