'Batman' Star Recalls Disastrous First Day on Set That Sent Him to the Hospital

Burt Ward quickly learned that playing Robin in the 1960s classic could be hazardous to his health: "I was in incredible pain."
Courtesy of 20th Century-Fox Television/Photofest
Burt Ward as Robin in 'Batman.'

Sometimes being a Boy Wonder isn't as glamorous as it sounds.

Burt Ward was just 19 when he landed the role of Robin for the 1966-68 ABC show, and he soon learned the job would be hazardous to his health. He was sent to the emergency room four of the first five days of shooting, because the production team insisted he perform his own stunts.

When he showed up to his first day of the job, Ward was asked to hop into the Batmobile for a dangerous stunt. Rather than seeing co-star Adam West (Batman) in the driver's seat, he saw a stuntman dressed as the Caped Crusader.

"He says, 'They don't want to take a chance of Adam getting hurt so they hired me to do it.' I said, 'Oh. Is it really dangerous?' " recalls Ward, who this weekend will have a panel at LA Cookie Con and Sweets Show. "He says, 'Oh yeah! In fact, the more bones I break, the more money I make."

Ward learned he did indeed have a Robin stunt double, and spotted him having coffee with West during the scene. He asked the assistant director why the double wasn't being used in the scene, and the AD replied, "Because your stuntman doesn't look like you!' "

The stunt went poorly. The door flew open, and nearly flung Ward out of the Batmobile at 55 miles per hour. 

"I instinctively threw my arm back and managed to catch my little finger around the gearshift knob, which pulled it right out of the joint, but it kept me in the car," says Ward. "Even with the glove on, my hand was twice the size. I was in incredible pain."

Though he needed to go to the hospital, it was only 7:30 a.m. and the production staff said they couldn't possibly dismiss him yet, because it would have cost too much time.

"I got to the emergency hospital at noon. That was the first of four days in a row," says Ward. "Each day I came back and it happened to be the same emergency room doctor. 'Are you accident prone? Whatever you are doing, this is dangerous stuff. You need to be more careful!' "

Now, Ward has traded in his Caped Crusader days to become the Canine Crusader. He spends his days on his five-acre estate, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, Tracy Posner Ward, and their 50 rescue dogs. (If that sounds like a crazy high number, he insists the pooches are so well-trained that you'd never guess there were so many.)

In a strange twist of fate, Ward went from playing the partner of billionaire Bruce Wayne to decades later marrying the daughter of a billionaire Wall Street raider. His wife is the daughter of Victor Posner, whose vast portfolio at one point included ownership of Arby's and RC Cola and who was said to share similarities with Michael Douglas' Wall Street character Gordon Gekko. 

"Every week when I was dating my wife, on average she and her father bought a company for $150 million to $200 million a week," says Ward, who admits even the whirlwind of Batman hadn't prepared him to be around that level of wealth and influence.

Now 71, he and his wife spend their days caring for their dogs and running the nonprofit Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions. In all, they estimate they've rescued more than 15,500 dogs. A 2016 Inside Edition segment estimated their monthly spending on dog food at $14,000, though Ward clarifies that is not only for the 50 at their estate, but also for dogs fostered out to people.

According to Ward, his brand of dog food is so healthy that it's allowed his dog to live unusually long.

"Dogs that are in our program of feeding and care are living as long as 27 healthy, active years," says Ward.

Ward has been able to enjoy a resurgence as Robin, thanks to the animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and its upcoming sequel. He says he's also keeping up on what Warner Bros. is doing in live action with the character.

"I try to watch them, and Ben Affleck is a very good actor," says Ward. "For their audience, they want the darker version. On television, like Adam West likes to say, In the movie theaters there is a Dark knight. On television you have the Bright Knight.' "

If you are in the Los Angeles area and want to hear more from Ward, check out the LA Cookie Con, running this weekend. 

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