Pt 2: Being in the Moment
I drove the Batmobile for nearly twenty minutes before we arrived at the park. Even as I pulled up into the parking space that they kept open for me, kids and their parents were already coming up to the Batmobile. This was the location where Joe and Jordan had been filming all day but there was no sign of either of them yet. I could see that there was more activity off in the further corner of the park where there seemed to be a picnic area and a playground.
But that wasn’t my concern at the moment or my task at hand. I was there to meet the kids. My scene wasn’t even going to be filmed here. That was going to be on another end of town and required yet another police escort. Jordan wanted me to show up at this location as a treat for the kids who worked hard all day on the project and to get some photo ops of them with Batman and the Batmobile. It didn’t seem like there was going to be any shortage of photos because he had a professional photographer on hand snapping away as soon as I pulled up.
Jordan really had this thing thought out. He had the kids there filming all day and then tied in a Batman themed party with cake and snacks afterwards. As it turned out, Jordan’s son who was playing Little Batman had a birthday recently so they tied that in with it as well. Three for the price of one, I’d say. I wasn’t making a birthday party appearance but I was definitely the surprise. Kids started to inform me that they had been making a film about me on the other end of the park. I guess they figured I didn’t know about them if they didn’t know about me arriving.
Holy Bat themed party!
The first set of kids didn’t seem to be from the cast but otherwise, brothers, sisters and friends of the cast. Kids lined up and took their turns greeting me and posing with me next to the Batmobile. Very shortly, kids in costumes started to trickle in although they tended to have their masks and capes off since they were now off camera.
Their outfits were amazing. My friend Greg Maraio had made all of the colorful costumes except for Little Batman and myself. He had made my wife Vickie’s most recent Catwoman suit and his talents were not wasted on these kids’ costumes. I got to meet the film’s Batgirl as well as their Riddler. The kid playing Riddler really came across as Frank Gorshin as a little boy. He had that impish look in his eye, that contagious smile and definitely a lot of energy fueled by excitement. That was perfect casting if I ever saw it. The kids turned to their mothers to get some of the gear on for the pictures.
While the kids crowded around, I could see one little boy in a grey and blue suit wearing a cape slowly making his way through. It was the star of the film, Jordan’s son, Preston. After a few quick pictures, the photographer asked him to get his cowl on for some more shots. I told him that it was the best little batsuit I had ever seen. I even mentioned about the cowls being a little uncomfortable just to let him know that we shared the same type of cowl and Batman gets uncomfortable in his too. His utility belt was spot on and his boots were almost identical to mine. What kid wouldn’t have wanted that suit while growing up? I had to wait until I was 40 to get mine. No fair. He was a quiet and very well mannered boy and he knew how to pose as Batman. He was a natural but then again his dad brought him up right. This kid had even met Adam when he was a little over three years old.
Cowl to Cowl with Little Batman
Never underestimate the power of a good cape shot
Joker, Penguin and Catwoman all eventually made their way towards me and we all stood for some pictures in front of the Batmobile. Everybody was having fun and smiles were going around. I know I was.
Riddler looks excited
Then I finally got to meet the man behind this whole thing, Jordan Wachtell. And true to form he was busy organizing the adult crew in moving things into the loading trucks and getting ready to move out to our next location. I got a quick handshake and we took a few pictures and then he was back into action. We were behind and we were going to be losing sun soon. He was on it.
The Wachtells: A Wonderful Family
Around this time, most of the kids went back to their cake and party while I got a chance to really thank Dan for the unbelievable thrill it was to drive his Batmobile across the town like that with the full police escort. He seemed to be just as excited about it. He said that he never had a Batman drive his car before and it was a kick for him to see that vision go down the road. We were definitely riding on a geek high at that time.
Yeah….who’s having fun here?
Around this time, they were loading up the props like a 14 foot Penguin missile. The set designer, Ross Chirico did a great job on this thing. All of the props that I started to see were impressive such as the miniature batgirl cycle by Andy Garringer. I didn’t even know he was involved in the project. It was a wonderful piece. A lot of love and time went into the making of this film.
Ross Chirico with his magnificent Penguin Missile
Then they pulled up the item that started this entire venture for Jordan. The kid sized Batmobile. This thing was a work of art. It started off as an item owned by Nate Truman. Jordan had offered to buy it from him years ago but Nate wouldn’t part with it. But then after Nate’s daughter outgrew it he felt that somebody else’s kid should get to enjoy it as part of their childhood as well. But Jordan had big ideas for the car and hired Nate’s talents to kick it up a few notches. After the car made its way across country, Jordan still had even bigger ideas for the car and found a local kid’s car guru, Jason Peck who took the crime fighting vehicle to new heights. This thing had more working gadgets, bells and whistles than most full size Batmobiles I’ve seen. Jordan was blessed in finding very gifted and wonderful people to get behind this film.
Words and pictures do not do this car justice
After more handshakes, pictures, hugs and even some autographs it was time for our next roll out. Preston waved and said goodbye to me and told me that he had to leave to go film some more. I told him that I would be seeing him there as well. He gave me a puzzled look. I guess nobody told him that he was going to be doing a scene with Batman. He left with his mom looking a bit bewildered. I’m sure it had been a pretty exciting day to try and take it all in for him as well. After all, he was getting to star in his own film as Batman, drive a Batmobile (albeit a smaller one) and fight dastardly criminals in front of the cameras. He was closer to being Batman for the day than I was for sure. Lucky kid.
Some of New York’s Finest
Time and sunlight was of the essence and we needed to get to the other side of town again to shoot at our next location in a residential area. Our police escort was ready and this time Jordan got to sit in the passenger seat for a ride in the Batmobile. As soon as I started the engine and pulled out from the parking lot, Jordan looked over to me while I was driving in full bat suit and turned five years old all over again. He was a happy kid again riding along with Batman in a Batmobile. Or so he told me while I was driving. Once again, we were following the police and going through the stop lights. I don’t think I could ever grow tired of that experience. It was unbelievably surreal but it was happening.
We finally got to our location and had very little time frame to work with but the camera, crane and lights all had to get set up. That gave me a little bit of time to see the set for the Batcave that was being constructed in the garage. Once again, Ross did an amazing job. There were foam constructed rock formations going over and around the walls and ceiling. The Atomic pile reactor was incredible and I wanted it for my garage. The computers were kids’ size and lit up just like the reactor did. This was way too much to take in the degree of excellence these people had brought to the fold. I even got to spend some time with Jason Peck as he gave me a guided tour of the mini Batmobile. He happened to be working on deploying the chutes while I as standing there. Unreal.
Throughout the entire experience at the park and in front of the house location, Dan stood close by and we both kept talking about what a thrill this was and were both truly geeked out. He told me that while he was on his way from Jersey to the hotel today that he needed to stop off for some gas. He said that a guy came up to him and asked if he was heading to New York to work on the “Little Batman” project. It ended up being the set and film prop designer, Ross.
Setting up the next location
I also tried to take the time to bond with Preston before we were going to do our scene together. He was dressed in regular clothes now and wanted me to see his costume pieces. We looked at the cowl, the boots and everything individually. I would hold some of the different pieces up to my own costume to show him how much they matched and how impressed I was with his costume. He didn’t treat me like I was an actor or some guy in a bat suit. To him, I was Batman and he was getting to share his excitement with his hero. I couldn’t tell him that I was a guy who was just as excited to get to do this as well without spoiling the magic that only kids really get to enjoy at that age. He was a great kid. I’m glad I got to take the time with him amongst the busy schedule that I had been facing.
Relaxing on the set with Dan and Preston
Things were set up, Preston was now sporting a Batman backpack for his scene. His mom, Mary was playing the part of, guess what, his mother. Jordan had people down the street with signs to hold up that said, “Quiet. Movie being filmed.” Of course, residents came out and had to look. They had a Batmobile sitting on their block. We had the Batmobile sitting down the street out of view from the camera. Preston and Mary did a few takes of their part in the scene and then it was my turn.
With director Joe Valenti
We did some blocking and established the marks for where the Batmobile was to come into the shot. I then sat about half a block away in the car and waited for people to wave me on to when to start my approach. This was it. This was not an improvised short, interview or a documentary of a convention like I had done before. I was sitting at the wheel of a Batmobile getting ready to play the part of the Batman I had grown up with. I never thought that when I decided to join a message board, meet Adam West for the first time, start a website and then get the bug to buy a cowl that I would ever get to do anything like this. Whether it was for two hours, two minutes or two seconds of film, I had never dreamed that it would have happened to a fanboy like me.
I’ll let the pictures tell the story here…
TO BE CONTINUED…