Ricky Church chats with Batman: Hush voice actor Jason O’Mara….
Though it is a relatively new story in Batman’s 80 year history, Batman: Hush is considered by many to be one of the most essential tales in the Dark Knight’s vast library. Written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, Batman: Hush sees Batman at the heart of a conspiracy as seemingly all of his rogues gallery have come together to defeat him, led by a mysterious new villain who only goes by the name Hush. The story has been praised as one of the most memorable adventures Batman has ever had due to the complexity of its central mystery and was the beginning of some big changes to the Batman mythos.
Batman: Hush is the latest of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, adapting Hush into its current continuity of films. In the lead up to the film’s UK release on August 12, we were able to speak with the Batman himself, Jason O’Mara. Beginning with Justice League: War, O’Mara has voiced Batman in each of DC’s animated continuity films, including Batman vs Robin, Justice League Dark and Reign of the Supermen. In our discussion, we spoke about O’Mara’s work stepping into some big shoes as Batman, adapting one of the most famous Batman stories of the modern age and what makes Batman as well as his rogues gallery so special. Check it out below…
Batman: Hush is considered to be one of the best Batman stories told in the last 20 years. What’s it like for you to be a part of the animated adaptation?
It’s very exciting because I was hoping they were going to do Batman: Hush as an animated movie and I honestly would have watched it if I was in it or not. But the fact that they decided they were going to bring it into my continuity of films was particularly exciting because I knew we’d have to retrofit a few elements of the story and the character to make it work in this continuity. Obviously Tim Drake, Jason Todd, all that stuff doesn’t quite fit into our continuity so that had to had to be dealt with. Besides that, it actually worked really well in terms of where we are in Batman’s development in these series of films. This is my tenth outing as Batman and it’s the 13th film in the series and counting so it just seemed right. And you know, obviously Batman gets to be a lover in this with Catwoman and he gets to grapple with his own demons and it goes obviously quite deep into his own backstory which is always fascinating. So yeah, I was just honoured and thrilled really to get the opportunity to bring Batman: Hush, the classic and iconic comic book, to life as an animated movie. And it played really well, like gangbusters, at Comic Con to over 4,000 people. So that is always just a ‘pinch me’ moments where you’re watching a movie with 4,000 other fans. It’s pretty great.
Now as you’ve just said, you’ve been playing Batman in the DC original animated movies for quite a few years now. This is your tenth outing. What has playing the Dark Knight for so long meant to you in these films?
Really good question. I suppose, obviously when you get a chance to play Batman you’re fulfilling this childhood dream, you know? When I was first asked to do this seven or eight years ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I had no idea that it was going to become 10 films at the time. I didn’t know what the plans were and obviously they were taking it film by film. Yeah. And I don’t think even they knew it would have gone on so long. I think it’s a tribute to the character and the enduring fascination with all things Batman that we were able to do so many.
I think for me personally, another one of the reasons I wanted to take on the role was because I’m a father in real life and my son is now 15, but at the time he was only eight or nine. It was pretty cool for him that his dad was voicing Batman. We used to play together when he was younger with his action figures and watch the Kevin Conroy Batman: The Animated Series and act out all the voices. And so for me to be able to become Batman in a slightly more official way for him seemed perfectly natural, you know? Yeah, like “My Dad, we play Batman and then he goes and becomes Batman”. But also the fact that in this continuity Batman is a father, I was able to bring some of that to the character as it was actually happening in real life. I was able to bring that sort of sense of paternal quality to the character. And honestly that is what distinguishes the character in this version from others. He’s not a father in any other continuity as far as I’m aware of.
You alluded to it a couple of minutes ago, but Batman: Hush focuses a lot on Bruce Wayne’s personal life, which is a little different from a few of the past movies that we’ve gotten where he’s been purely Batman. How do you differentiate between Batman and Bruce Wayne, or do you think there’s not much of a difference between the two personas?
I think the line between the two personas is getting dared the deeper we go into this. I think Batman: Hush itself is about blurring that line between Batman and Bruce. He even reveals himself at one point to Catwoman, he takes off the cowl. While some purists might think that that’s cheating, there’s really no other way to do it because we were recording it and realized that actually when Bruce Wayne is Batman, he’s actually being quite emotional. There’s a scene with The Joker where he’s all emotion, then very tender scenes with Selina Kyle when he’s Batman. So we couldn’t really have this Batman voice which is, essentially, emotionally shut down. He’s very much about getting the job done, getting it done quickly, economically and moving on. That’s what Batman does. Whereas Bruce Wayne, obviously, there is more humanity there, but we found that it was getting increasingly difficult to reconcile the two personas.
In this movie, I think more than any other, there are times when I found Batman sounds like Bruce and vice versa. I think that’s really interesting. I really do. I think there wasn’t really any other way we could have done it, but I think that’s kind of cool. It’s getting to the point now in this continuity where whether Bruce Wayne has the cowl on or not, he’s still a father. He’s still a lover to Catwoman. He still has this childhood friend and it turns out that his childhood friend kind of knows Batman is Bruce Wayne anyway. That’s been a real journey of discovery because I feel like it’s maybe not new territory, but it’s territory that hasn’t been worked over or mined for some time. In this movie, Batman has to have access to his emotions and when he’s got the cowl on, it’s all about repressing emotion.
Another notable aspect about Hush that it makes it different from a lot of other Batman stories is that he’s not just facing down one of his villains. All of them appear in Hush. What’s it like for you to finally go up against some of his classic rogues, like The Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, Bane, etc?
Well, I think the rogues gallery in Batman: Hush is one of the greatest selling points. I’ve no doubt that it’s one of the reasons it was so popular when it came out in 2003 and I think it’s the main selling point as an animated movie. They’re all there and then some with an extra dollop on top. It’s brilliant. I love exploring new and perhaps lesser known villains when we do these because I just like building out the worlds and obviously it’s already been built out in terms of the comic book, but doing these animated films, it’s really nice to be able to dip into the mythology that’s been created on the page. At the same time, I feel Batman is defined by his villains so to see Joker, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Bane, Scarecrow and a host of others, you know you’re in the field of iconic story when they all show up.
I think a combination of the classic rogues gallery and the fact that there’s some romance that plays really well. It’s not just sort of tacked on there and I think that’s one of the reasons why the comic book was so successful. Jen Morrison just brings Selina Kyle to life. There’s actually some chemistry there which is really hard to do in an animated movie because you’re not even recording in the same room at the same time so you don’t know how it’s gonna hang together. So yeah, that was probably the one most pleasing aspects of that worked out. But also you’ve got this backstory of Thomas Elliot and what he meant to do Bruce Wayne back in the day. Even then we have some extra surprises in store.
Now, as you’ve said, one of the biggest selling points of Hush is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. The two of them have shared such a long history both within the continuity and pop culture. What do you think is so special about their connection? Maybe you can even talk if you know how Jen approached their relationship. How did you do that?
Oh, well, we never discussed it. I never discussed it with her and haven’t even met her. I thought she was going to be on the Comic Con panel and she wanted to be, but then she had a work conflict. I heard she was very disappointed that she couldn’t make it. So that was too bad. That was a shame. But you don’t really have the conversation, you just go in and you do it. You’re leaving an awful lot up to post-production to make it all work. But you sort of hope that your approach is somehow similar to the other actor’s approach and I believe in this case it was. I think the relationship is really about how much are you willing to compromise for love. No relationship is ever perfect. There will always be irreconcilable differences between Bruce and Selena because they want two different things out of life and out of their alter egos, which makes for an exciting story.
Cool. Now Batman: Hush is, at the heart of its story, a detective story as Batman tries uncovering the identity of the new villain Hush. What do you find appealing about Batman the detective versus Batman the superhero?
Well, I actually love that he’s the greatest detective in the world because I love detective novels. Dashiell Hammerson and Raymond Chandler, all these guys, I just devour all those books. Batman was created around that time. It’s no coincidence that Batman is himself the darkest of film noir detectives. He dedicates himself almost as a vocation to his work and to solving the case so he’s got many, many things in common with the classic noir detectives. I love all of that. I love the closer he gets to the truth, the more and more painful it becomes physically for him. That’s always a pleasure to play. Some actors don’t like dealing with exposition when it comes to just pure story, but I love it because it means we’re playing in that sandbox of grizzled but genius detectives who are emotionally flawed and that fits right into the Batman trope.
Yeah, for sure. As you mentioned a little while ago Batman: Hush, the animated movie, takes some liberties with the source material. You guys change things to fit the DC animated film continuity. What are your thoughts to the changes that were made in the film?
Well first of all, I don’t write any of this stuff. It’s decided by the writers. But even if they hadn’t made those changes to make it fit into this continuity, it still would’ve had to change because it’s an animated movie and it’s adapting a long and large graphic novel. It just doesn’t fit into an hour and 20 minute animated feature. So I think there were always going to have to be changes and even when we weren’t dealing with Hush, but dealing with, let’s say, Batman and Son liberties still had to be taken, you know what I mean? Just dramatic license if you like.
I think that the changes opened up the story and also had a very exciting climax. I feel like there has to be that final fight, that final conflict, you know, in a movie you sort of deserve it. And when Batman finally comes face-to-face with this mysterious villain you want them to go to town and you want them to be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s what’s fun about the Batman stories. You also want to get Selina Kyle involved somehow. So that’s what they did and I think for the movie it was a good choice. It also means that whether you enjoyed the comic book or not, the movie is still going to surprise you. And I think like a lot of people will forget about the graphic novel. It is wonderful and exists in its own medium, but this is great in its own way. The idea is that you forget the original story and you just get sucked into this one.
Thank you to Jason O’Mara for speaking with us!
Batman: Hush comes to DVD, Blu-Ray™, Blu-Ray™ Steelbook And Blu-Ray™ Mini Fig Edition August 12.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.