While previously known as a serious leading man and versatile actor, William West Anderson (September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017), better known as Adam West, got his real fame and reputation as the 1960s Batman. Following that, he was pigeon-holed into similar roles or parodies of such, which he proceeded to embrace completely, and led to him naming a trope.
His roles prior to that include being the main star of a children's show called El Kini Popo's Show, in the film The Young Philadelphians, and appearing in multiple Westerns, including portraying Doc Holliday in Lawman. He also guested in Perry Mason and was in the last ever The Three Stooges film, the Western comedy The Outlaws IS Coming!.
And then the role that changed everything...nana nana nana nana nana nana nana, Batman!
Some of his roles since included a washed-up former superhero actor in Batman: The Animated Series "Beware The Gray Ghost", a washed-up superhero who was just a deluded actor in Kim Possible, another deluded actor (this time thinking he's qualified to be a detective) in the pilot of Lookwell, a super powered version of Ernest Hemingway in Histeria!, a super-powered pizza boy in Meet the Robinsons, the mayor of Gotham City in The Batman...notice a pattern here?
When not playing or voicing characters related to superheroes, washed-up actors, Batman, or a combo thereof, West often just portrayed a over-the-top version of himself. Examples of this include appearing on The Simpsons, Johnny Bravo, and 30 Rock. A version of him, voiced by him, was the Mayor of Quahog in Family Guy.
He occasionally took other roles. He was a lawyer in The Boondocks, as well as playing one in the sitcom George Lopez. He also was a "Dr. Wayne" in the 1990s Zorro series, who's astounded at the idea of riding out from a cave under a mansion to fight crime. At one point, he was even offered the role of James Bond (for Diamonds Are Forever), but he turned that down, stating that Bond should be played by an Englishman (even though he had already been played by a Scotsman and an Australian).
In 1994 he published his autobiography, Back to the Batcave, and in 2012 he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was the subject of the biographical documentary Starring Adam West.
Tropes associated with Adam West's roles:
- Adam Westing: Obvious Trope Namer. He couldn't completely escape the campy nature of the Batman TV series, so he eventually leaned into how the public perceived himnote and played up his image as a jocular, slightly peculiar, older man chasing after old glories.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Much of his Self-Parody had his characters being rather eccentric superheroes or versions of himself. Examples included Catman and Mayor West.
- He Really Can Act: The man managed to make both Bruce Wayne and Batman talk to each other despite both being the same guy, simply by making Batman sound more authoritative and firm. While the feat has been repeated to a tremendous extent by Kevin Conroy, West one-ups the new caped crusader by doing so live on camera.
- Hostility on the Set: Pretty much never the case, except when Otto Preminger appeared as Mr. Freeze on Batman, like most of the cast. He didn't mince his words and outright called Preminger "despicable" in his autobiography.
- He also admitted to finding Neil Hamilton, who played Gordon on Batman, tough to work with, though it was more because Hamilton took his job very seriously rather than any genuine acrimony.
- I Am Not Spock: Was severely typecast after Batman, but eventually embraced it, returning to both play and voice Batman several times, all the way up until his passing.
- Large Ham: One of his most recognizable traits was overacting as much as possible. In a testament to his acting skills, he managed to pull this off on Batman while maintaining the caped crusader's famous status as The Comically Serious.
- Method Acting: West himself didn't use this technique, but was on the receiving end of it from Julie Newmar when filming with her. In order to get the sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman across on screen, Newmar used to flirt outrageously with West at every opportunity without following through, so both West and Batman wanted someone almost unbearably but couldn't have them.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: 6'2, and considered one of the most attractive men in 1960s pop culture.
- Tuxedo and Martini: Was outright offered to play the role of James Bond after Sean Connery, but declined as he felt the role should be played by an Englishman.
- He also got his big break on Batman after he portrayed a parody of Bond in a mid-60s Nestlé commercial.
- Unusual Euphemism: According to his autobiography, while filming the Batman television series Julie Newmar in her Catwoman costume caused "curious stirrings in my utility belt".
- Vocal Evolution: Age did a number on West's vocal cords over the years, which can clearly be deciphered in his more recent Batman roles; the original 1966 series had him at a crisp register, but in subsequent appearances such as Simon Trent in Batman: The Animated Series his voice becomes deeper and hoarser. By the time of his final performance, West's voice had become far scratchier than his first stint as the Caped Crusader.