Batman’s Batman: Posh Knob Or Cockney Hardman?

By Stuart Black Last edited 36 months ago
Batman’s Batman: Posh Knob Or Cockney Hardman?
Jeremy Irons' Alfred eyes up Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne in the new, snappily-titled mashup Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

There aren't very many London superheroes, as proved by this slightly sad list.

But we do at least get to be the butler for one of the best superheroes of all. Alfred Pennyworth looks after the orphaned Bruce Wayne, never once raising an eyebrow when his master says he's going to work through his repressed feelings by dressing up in a black rubber suit (how very English).

As well as oiling the boss's fetish gear, Alfred also helps him find criminals to duff up and, in the new film Batman v Superman, he gets to drive the Batwing too (and after a few ales by the sound of it).

Here's our rundown of the different incarnations of Alfred as he veers from posh west Londoner to Cockney hardman — yet always manages to steal the scene.

Jeremy Irons

The latest top-notch actor to take on the part, Irons is one of the few in the new film who can pull off the overwritten dialogue, making clunkers like this just about work: "You’ve been to deduction what Mozart was to the harpsichord." He’s a more censorious mentor than we've seen before with a sardonic presence that nicely undercuts the general bombast. Oh and hats off to Irons for dropping the f-bomb live on Radio 2 only weeks after his delightful use of the c-word during a squash game with Tom Hiddleston in High-Rise.

Michael Caine

Probably the best interpretation so far, Caine appears in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as a loyal east Londoner with a paramilitary history. As a payoff for the countless scenes of exposition he has to grind through he gets to turn on the waterworks all through the last one.

Michael Gough

This take is the more traditional version of the noble manservant as presented in the original comic books. Gough was a veteran of Hammer Horror movies and had a healthy sense of the absurd, which was useful after director Tim Burton handed over to the series top supervillain: Joel Schumacher. Gough's Alfred was just about the only character to make it through the infamous rubber nipple era with dignity intact. He even manages to pull off this gloriously bad Diet Coke tie-in.

Alan Napier

This seasoned West End stage actor was cast in the tongue-in-cheek TV series in 1965. This is how he got the job: "My agent rang up and said, 'I think you are going to play on Batman’, I said 'What is Batman?’ He said, 'Don't you read the comics?' I said, 'No, never.' He said, 'I think you are going to be Batman's butler.' I said, 'How do I know I want to be Batman's butler?' It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. He said, 'It may be worth over $100,000.' So I said I was Batman's butler."

Sean Pertwee

We never get sick of hearing Bruce's tragic backstory — how his parents got shot yadda-yadda, yawn — but at least Sean Pertwee's Cockernee geezer version of Alfred in the spin-off TV show Gotham makes it a bit more bearable. Gertcha!

Last Updated 24 March 2016