Have you had a chance to catch ‘Batman: Hush’ yet? The classic Batman comic book storyline is now an animated movie, and it’s available to stream right now on DC Universe! We recently had a chance to chat with Jason O’Mara (the voice of Batman), Maury Sterling (Hush and Tommy Elliot), Geoffrey Arend (Riddler), Jason Spisak (The Joker), Hynden Walch (Harley Quinn), and Bruce Thomas (Jim Gordon). And they gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how the movie brought the comic book saga to life. Here’s what they had to say...
On the Appeal of the "Hush" Storyline
Sterling: “I think Batman goes through some real changes in this [film]. You see a really different expression of Batman, and more vulnerability. He feels like he's changing in this, so you see a difference in him, not to mention he's really challenged. He's really threatened. And you get to see one villain after the next. It's so freaking cool how they each keep coming and coming. And you get the history; I think it's cool that you get the Thomas Elliott part of that too. The backstory and the childhood. There's a really touching scene between Thomas Elliott and Bruce Wayne that's about their childhood and loyalty and backgrounds and how Batman says, 'I want to be a better friend.' You can feel him starting to go, 'Maybe I don't want to be the Batman that way anymore.' So I think that's really cool. You see the iconic character make a change.”
O’Mara: "Just as 'Batman: Hush' was an era-defining graphic novel for its time, I feel that this is continuity-defining for this particular animated series [of films]... There's a group of Batman fans who have grown up watching these movies now, which is very rewarding.'
Sterling: “It's fun to play the bad guy. It's an intense story... It's dark.”
Spisak: “I'm super honored to get a chance to do this. Not only is it a great story, but the fact that they've created a whole new Batman universe [in which] I got to just do my own thing as the Joker and not have to imitate anybody else is a big honor. I'm a very lucky guy.
Arend: “They approached me for the Riddler. I was a fan of the 'Hush' storyline, and when I found out I was going to play the Riddler I was very excited. He's a small part, but he plays such a big part in getting all these bad guys together. This story is so cool. It gives us the romantic Batman that we wanted to see with Selina Kyle. It gives us this emotional pulling back to his childhood. It puts him on the ropes. It's always good to see Batman falter a bit. He's such a sociopath. To see him get nervous is really fun.”
On the Film's Intensity and High Stakes
O’Mara: “I feel this is earned. It's not like 'Batman: Hush' has come out of nowhere. It almost feels like this is kind of the next logical step to the next episode for this particular universe.”
Arend: ” Warner Brothers Animation is the best. If this movie was live-action, it would be a 500-million dollar movie. The size of the cast, the set pieces, and they do it right. They're one of the only [places] that do these animations right.”
Thomas: “There's so much chaos breaking loose in such a mysterious way. Nobody knows what's going on. So Gordon leans more on Batman more than he ever has, and he has to shove aside his inclination to arrest the idiot for creating such a hard time for the city.”
Sterling: “Hush is ahead in the chess match. He does have this sort of almost military tactician/Sun Tzu kind of methodology where he actually is ahead of Batman. He's pretty cool. The writing is so good and that helps us so much. [With] a lot of villains, I think you can kind of see how they're powerful and then you see their flaws. And Hush is like, 'No, I've got this,' and that's all he does for a while. It backfires. He isn't that way inside necessarily. He's so troubled. That's what came across for me as I was playing it -- [but] for most of it, he's got it; which was cool.”
On Finding the Voices of Their Characters
Walch: “Harley's pretty much the same for me. I was the second person to voice her after Arleen Sorkin. I played her on 'The Batman' and then a few movies, like 'Assault on Arkham.' The voice acting in this movie is just great. It's so understated and realistically felt.”
Thomas: “[Gary] Oldman's performance [as Commissioner Gordon] showed me the kind of emotion that a father has in the way he protects the people of the city. That for me really rings a bell. I'm a father and that's what I try to bring in to my Gordon. The caring for all people.”
O’Mara: “I think we are all servants to the character. Whether you're playing it in live-action or voice-acting, or whether you're drawing a frame or a cell, you have to serve the character. The character was around long before I was born and will be around long after I'm gone. You just try to leave the character in a better place than you found it, and serve it as best you can. It's always an honor and a privilege whenever I get a chance to do it, and particularly so in this case. I'm very proud of this movie.”
Sterling: “I think because the writing is so strong it kind of pops off the page. It helps that you can find images [for] in your voiceover work. I think it's helpful to be able to find a physical representation, because it's incredible to me that if you change your body your voice changes. So if you pose yourself differently, you carry yourself differently. It does affect. So it's helpful to have images to reference, that all helps create something.”
Spisak: “The Joker’s laugh -- it's like a symphony to me. So it has like the bass notes, it has the breathiness, it has the super high notes, and I just thought about it like composing [music]. What notes do I want to have in there? It was like making a piece of music for me.”
Arend: “The 'Batman: The Animated Series' Riddler was my favorite iteration. [Actor] John Glover's take on it, the real pushing into the cerebral aspect of what who the Riddler is and that upper-class 'I'm smarter than you are and I'm toying with you.' But also respect for Batman. I thought that was incredible. It was impossible for me not to think of him. I went back and watched a lot of it, because the blu-rays came out.”
On the Recording Process
Spisak: “The alley scene was very difficult because it's incredibly brutal. It's incredibly physically exertive, and I'm in the [recording] booth full-on choking myself and the whole nine yards. I wish there was video of that. They'll tell you that I'm full-on inhabiting it when I'm in that booth, and it can get taxing. You're doing take after take and you want to get it just right, and you want it to feel like it's visceral. It sounds weird, but it was incredibly fun to choke myself. It's incredibly fun to really get into that, but also physically challenging.”
Sterling: “Fight scenes are always tough, they're fun. Wes, our casting director, is very helpful in giving you, even if it sounds random, instructions like 'Okay no, that was a left elbow to the jaw.' Like, get real specific, otherwise they can start sounding all the same. It's really helpful when you have a director in the room, because they can make you start to differentiate so they don't all sound exactly the same. And again it's really interesting when you get that specific and how the sound totally changes. Those are the ones where you have to be careful with your voice. We always do those at the end.”
On Batman’s Growth in the Film
O’Mara: “I'm playing a version of Batman who's a father. That was established in 'Son of Batman,' and then that sort of evolved over in 'Batman vs. Robin' and 'Batman: Bad Blood.' Then we sort of carried it through 'Justice League vs. Teen Titans' and all the other Justice League titles and the Superman titles. Now we have a situation where that same version of the character falls for someone and is completely taken off guard by it. In a way the timing couldn't be worse. I feel pretty strongly that for the first time since I started playing the character that the lines between Bruce Wayne and Batman are really getting blurred here. How do you define it? Is he Batman when he has the cowl on and Bruce when he doesn't? But he's also a father, and now he's a lover. You can't really be yourself when you're trying to be someone else. I feel like the line between them is being blurred here, and I find that really exciting. I find that really exciting, because I think it's defining and makes this version of the character kind of unique.”
On Hush’s Place in the DC Animated Continuity
O’Mara: “This is now the tenth film in the series and it's almost like 22 hours of television. It's like a full season of ups and downs and it continues the story in a very strong way. Some changes had to be made to sort of retrofit 'Batman: Hush' to fit into this continuity, while also remaining faithful to the principles and the themes of the story. I didn't have to do any special preparation, I was already a fan of the comic book, and honestly I was just waiting for them to announce that they were going to do 'Batman: Hush' with someone else in some other version of the universe. Then when they said they were going to do it with this one, I was doing backflips for joy. I really was. It’s almost like, this time it’s personal for Batman, and it’s personal for me too.”
On Being a DC Fan
Spisak: “I think I've found my niche. I actually have always loved the DC stories better. I read Green Lantern when I was growing up, I had a voice for Joker in my head before I ever heard Mark [Hamill] or anybody do it. I'm bringing the voice that I hear when I read the comics, and I'm hoping I share that with DC fans, and I'm hoping they like it. Because that's why it's original, because it's from me. It's always just kind of been in there. The Joker's always been in my head. But don't tell anybody that! [Laughs.]"
Sterling: “I remember going to school when I was six dressed as Batman, and then it was tights and black underwear and I think I got laughed out of school. But the point is, I was into that world from a young age. I think coming to Comic-Con and getting to be a part of this is so cool.”
Thomas: “I just love Gary Oldman to death, because every single scene that he's done he's walking that line between love and hate for Batman. There's just this need to have him as a partner in crime but also wanting to arrest the guy. There's that huge dichotomy in his mind every single day.”
Where Batman Should Go Next
O’Mara: “I think there are some unanswered questions about his relationship with Damian. I think that's got to come full circle somehow. I think that's always been integral to this run. I think something has to happen with the Justice League and some of those relationships. Although I do feel like Batman and Superman got a lot of mileage out of those Superman movies that just came out. I think it's more personal for him. I think it all boils down to Damien. I don't know if that's something that will ever be resolved. Whether it'll be sooner or later, and how long this is going to go on for. I'm certain they're going to write it for as long as they ask me. But this does feel like a highwater mark for this continuity. I'm just going to try not to think about the future. I'm just trying to enjoy this for what it is.”