Speaking at a fan expo, the original Pennywise and cult actor Tim Curry has given his explanation for his replacement on the much-loved Batman: The Animated Series. Just before the series took off, Curry was cast as the voice of Joker and recorded dialogue, but he was then replaced by Star Wars legend Mark Hamill and the rest was history. Now he has given a simple response as to the primary reason for that switch to take place.
Curry is going to be forever known as the evil clown Pennywise in the TV mini-series version of IT. But he’s also remembered for playing Dr Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and many other memorable characters like the devilish Darkness in Ridley Scott’s Legend. He’s also got an amazingly prolific history with vocal acting in animated series and video games, with some of his most recent work involving him performing as Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine in early episodes of The Clone Wars. So the news that he was the initial choice to be the Clown Prince of Crime in the much praised cartoon show raised some eyebrows. During this year’s SDCC, the showrunner Bruce Timm addressed the replacement of Curry, while celebrating the 20th anniversary of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
However it’s an issue that still intrigues fans of the show and Curry’s work. During the recent Canada Fan Expo this year his panel attracted a large number of people, and ScreenGeek took the opportunity to ask him to elaborate on the reason for his departure and Hamill’s appointment. Curry responded pretty quickly and simply:
“I did play Joker for a while, but I had bronchitis and they fired me … and hired Mark Hamill. That’s life.”
While Timm’s previous explanation elaborated on Hamill’s interest in the role and the difficulty in making the decision – and there’s probably a bigger story to be told in all honesty – it’s interesting to see how brief sickness may have played a part in the incident, possibly forcing chance into providing us with one of the best portrayals of the Joker.
There’s no denying that Hamill’s performance as the evil jester is now iconic, and a big part of the success of Batman: TAS. It’s extremely difficult to see the character in cartoon form – and video games – and not immediately expect to hear the actor’s menacing giggles come from the character. He was the go-to performer for the role in The Killing Joke as the definitive version, and he even uses the voice for political satire now.
But there’s a lingering curiosity as to what Curry’s interpretation might have been like if he had been allowed to continue, and whether he would have been as popular as Hamill’s version. Nevertheless, Curry still has the honor of being an unforgettable evil clown with Pennywise, and he remains supportive of that particular role saying that he’s fascinated to see the new version of the character and how Bill Skarsgard will play him.