Cesar Romero Took Joker Role After Seeing Frank Gorshin As The Riddler
Cesar Romero, who played the Joker in the 1960’s Batman TV series, not only loved the character, but actually never even knew about the character before being offered the role.
In a 1989 segment from CBS This Morning, which can now be viewed on YouTube, the 1960’s cast of Batman reunited, including Adam West, Julie Newmar, Burgess Meredith, and Cesar Romero.
When Romero was asked about getting the Joker role, he admitted to not even knowing the character, saying, “I didn’t follow the comic strip. I didn’t know anything about it.”
He explains that producer Bill Dozier was interested in him playing the Joker, but when he called him and realized that Romero had no knowledge of Batman, he offered to show Romero the first episode of the show he was producing, which had already been taped.
The Joker doesn’t appear in the first episode obviously, but the Riddler does, and is played quite cunningly by Frank Gorshin, whose laughter as the riddle-maker is somewhat contagious. Dozier explained the Joker character and likely how it’s similar to the Riddler. Romero recounts his reaction after seeing Gorshin as the Riddler, as well as his reaction to the episode, by saying, “It was wonderful.”
He then explains what happened next, saying, “I read the script and I fell in love with the Joker. I thought he was a wonderful character to play so I did the show and I thoroughly enjoyed playing that character. It was a hoot, believe me.”
Perhaps the funniest moment of the segment was when Burgess Meredith explained how he developed the unforgettable Penguin laugh. Meredith states that he wasn’t actually a smoker and that the character unfortunately smoked often. So, whenever he would puff, it made him choke and he covered up his constant choking with an odd throat clearing laugh. “That’s how the laugh started,” Burgess explains, “I began to choke from the cigarette.”
In 1989, the first Tim Burton version of Batman was released, and is credited with starting the modern Batman movie series. At the time of this reunion, the movie was just being released, so interviewer Harry Smith naturally asked the original cast about it.
None of them had seen the film yet but Romero said he was amazed to read a review that suggested not to take kids. “The violence in it is pretty severe. They said it’s not a picture for children but Batman was such a popular thing for kids.”
Julie Newmar noted, “I think it’s the evil version of Batman.”
Adam West, who said he cried for an hour when he was denied the 1989 movie role, suggested he wouldn’t see it.
Romero then added, “What I understand is it’s treated very seriously. It’s a dark somber crime drama more than anything else while ours was tongue-in-cheek and a big camp.”
However, Burgess Meredith was the wisest of all of them, saying, “Well, wait a minute, we haven’t seen it yet!”
The cast concluded that regardless of how good the Batman movie was, that they likely would always love their version more.
Romero was sure to add, “Critics said that Jack Nicholson was fantastic as the Joker.” That’s when Adam West unjokingly replied, “So were you, Cesar.”
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