Adam West: Forever the “Bright” Knight
Adam West, who would have turned 89 this month (Sept. 19, 2017), was known for his role in the iconic 1960s TV series Batman. Here, he reminisces about his days as the Bright Knight in a 2010 interview with Richard Crouse.
Batmans come and go. For a time Michael Keaton wore the caped suit. Then in rapid succession Val Kilmer and George Clooney donned the cowl. In recent years Christian Bale has been fitted for the Bat-Suit, but of all the actors to have played the Dark Knight, one stands head and shoulders above the rest in our imaginations. For two-and-a-half heady years—and 120 episodes—from 1966 to 1968 Adam West was Batman on the most popular show on television.
“We never stopped,” he says. “I know a lot of TV series people complain about hours and pressure but we really had them. We worked fifteen, sixteen hours a day! We were on twice a week so you really had to run.”
The worst part for West wasn’t the hours or the pressure, it was the blue, purple and gray Batsuit. “It was a time when they didn’t have the materials they have today and it was just plain hot and itchy.”
Driving the Batmobile, the show’s sleek signature car—it’s stylish lines are said to have been inspired by the mako shark and the manta ray—however, was one of the job’s great pleasures, but not without its challenges.
“Getting behind the wheel of the Batmobile was like driving a broken down old 37 Ford wheat truck. I gotta be honest. But you know what? I didn’t mind because it was so tricky and fun and funny and perfect on film and the kids loved it. It’s the most famous car in the world and everybody today that I meet still prefers that car to any other.”
The “any other” he refers to are the movie Batmobiles used in the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan Batman films. His intonation begs the question, how does he feel about the recent movies?
“I don’t feel,” he says. “I really have no feeling because they are good for what they are. I can’t be a critic. They do their thing. They have The Dark Knight. We did our thing and I’m The Bright Knight.”
For all the memorable elements of the show—the crazy pop art KAPOWs! And BOFFs! that punctuated the fight scenes or the cliffhanger endings, “Tune in tomorrow—same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!”—West says, for him, two moments stands out above the rest—one professional, one personal.
“The defining moment of the character might be when he [Batman] sat at the disco bar and they slipped him a drug, or a Mickey in his orange juice. So with great abandonment he stood up and created The Batusi (The go-go dance later done by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction). That moment to me kind of summed up everything that it was. That it could be really funny, absurd, fun and yet serious,” he says, “and the kids would really take it seriously.”
“The other defining moment was when I first put on the costume for real and was about to leave my trailer on the stage and walk out in front of the crew and the press, and into the light. I thought, ‘Oh Lord! Are they going to laugh? What’s going to happen here?’ Well, I walked across the stage as dignified as I could and there wasn’t a sound. People stood there in awe and I thought, ‘Yes, this will work.'”
And more than forty years later it is still working. West hung up the itchy Batsuit years ago, but for a generation of fans he’ll always be the Bright Knight.
A version of this story was originally published on August 26, 2010.