One of the most adored Batman adaptations in the world, Batman: The Animated Series, turns 25 today—but while fans will remember the iconic work of Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight and Mark Hamill as the Joker, Hamill in particular almost never had the chance to become the animated clown prince of crime: Tim Curry was the first person cast for the role.
Curry’s involvement in the earliest days of The Animated Series have been known for years—and even brief, rare recordings of his performance have managed to make their way to the internet, as you can see below—but how he came to leave the series has been a bit of a mystery. There have been conflicting claims about Curry’s dismissal (including that his performance was deemed too fearsome for the show’s audience), and Animated Series producer Bruce Timm has noted in the past that the decision to recast the role was a difficult one.
But according to Curry himself, the reasoning was a little less unusual. Speaking at Fan Expo Canada this weekend with ScreenGeek, the actor revealed the real reason he left the series: he had bronchitis, necessitating the need for a replacement actor to step in:
I did play Joker for a while, but I had bronchitis and they fired me—and hired Mark Hamill. That’s life.
That’s life, as Curry says—and apparently the simple way that Hamill’s Joker, one of the most famous performances in animated TV history, was born.