Kevin Conroy, the prolific voice actor who defined Batman for generations of audiences, died Thursday (Nov. 10) in New York after a short battle with cancer, Warner Bros. announced. He was 66.
Conroy voice-starred in the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series from 1992-96 and continued with the role through nearly 60 different productions, spanning 15 films and 400 episodes of television as well as video games. In recent years, he was a fixture on the comic convention circuit.
“Kevin was far more than an actor whom I had the pleasure of casting and directing — he was a dear friend for 30-plus years whose kindness and generous spirit knew no boundaries,” said casting and dialogue director Andrea Romano. “Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”
Mark Hamill, who played Conroy’s onscreen foil the Joker, mourned his collaborator in a statement.
“Kevin was perfection,” he said. “He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him — his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”
Conroy was born on Nov. 30, 1955, in Westbury, New York, and grew up in Westport, Connecticut. He studied acting at Juilliard alongside noteworthy actors such as Christopher Reeve and was roommates with Robin Williams. He went on to pursue work onstage before landing roles in the 1980s on TV series including Dynasty, Tour of Duty and Ohara. He also appeared on the soaps Search for Tomorrow and Another World and had guest spots on Cheers, Murphy Brown, Spenser: For Hire and Matlock.
The trajectory of his life and career changed forever when Batman: The Animated Series debuted on Sept. 5, 1992.
“I remember Mark and I were at the WB sound studio to do ADR work and we got to watch the opening credits,” Conroy told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “We hear the opening theme with the strings and the lush colors. It was incredibly dramatic. And I looked at Mark and said, ‘Did you have a clue this is what we were doing?’ He said, ‘No, I’m blown away!’ We both felt we were a part of something really special.”
The series still resonated 30 years later, with J.J. Abrams and The Batman filmmaker Matt Reeves teaming with Batman: The Animated Series’ Bruce Timm for a new take called The Caped Crusader, though it is unknown if Conroy was to be involved.
Though Conroy worked often in animation, he stepped into the live-action DC universe in 2019 to play Bruce Wayne on The CW’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover story. He most recently voiced Batman in the video game MultiVersus.
Over the decades, multiple actors have put their stamps on Batman’s voice, with Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck in particular getting both praise and parody for their live-action takes. For Conroy, finding the voice was both a challenge and a choice that defined his legacy.
“Early on, I said, ‘This is the most famous and powerful guy in Gotham. Are you telling me he just puts on a mask and no one knows it’s him? Seriously? There’s got to be more to the disguise,’ ” Conroy told THR in 2017. “My template for the two voices was the 1930s film The Scarlet Pimpernel. I played Bruce Wayne as sort of a humorous playboy to counteract the brooding nature of Batman.”
Among the crowning moments of his career as Batman was the 1993 animated feature Mask of the Phantasm, which he counted as his favorite. It dealt with Wayne’s unresolved feelings toward his late parents, something Conroy would later say he could relate to given his own tumultuous relationship with his father.
“Andrea came in after the recording and grabbed me in a hug,” Conroy told THR in 2018 of voicing a particularly wrenching scene. “Andrea said, ‘I don’t know where you went [emotionally], but it was a beautiful performance.’ She knew I was drawing on something.”
Conroy is survived by his husband, Vaughn C. Williams, sister Trisha Conroy and brother Tom Conroy.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.