Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin...
Rachel Weisz as Catwoman...
Eddie Murphy as the Riddler.
Despite how far-fetched and unfounded some of these “casting scoops” are, there’s no stopping the ever-moving juggernaut that is the Batman rumor mill. Given the record-breaking success of THE DARK KNIGHT, it’s only a matter of time before movement occurs on a third film in Chris Nolan’s Batman series. But movement has not occurred yet – at least nothing official in the public eye – and as such, rabid fans and other caped crusaders are hard at work churning out the next ridiculous lie about the as-yet-announced BATMAN 3.
At the risk of adding more grist to the gossip grinder, I humbly posit the following to Warners, Nolan and anyone else behind the wheel of the BATMAN franchise…
Give us SCARFACE.
Forget Mr. Freeze. He’s been done before, admittedly to low standards, but even a career change and the time gap between 1997 and now can’t kibosh Arnold Schwarzenegger’s epically (or is that ice-pickly?) awful turn as Victor Fries.
How about the Riddler? I like Axel Foley as much as the next ‘80s lover, but so help me god if you actually drag Murphy’s wise-cracking keister into the mix. Johnny Depp might do the role well, but you have to wonder if the actor can create a terrifying enough Edward Nigma to follow Heath Ledger’s legendary performance.
No, no, no. Give us something horrifying. Give us something new. Give us SCARFACE.
For those of you scratching your head, don’t feel bad. Scarface is one of the more obscure rogues in Batman’s gallery. He is a dummy dressed as a stereotypical 1920s gangster, complete with the cigar and tommy gun. Arnold Wesker, a mild-mannered man, is the “Ventriloquist” behind the doll. Suffering from “Dissociative Identity Disorder,” Wesker exhibits a bloodthirsty penchant for crime through Scarface, developing a terrifying alpha persona that causes Gotham’s criminals to bow at the murderous marionette’s feet.
If you haven’t already vacated the premises at this out-of-leftfield suggestion, hear me out. On the surface, the idea of a glorified Chucky in pinstripes sounds ludicrous given the gritty realism of the “Nolanverse.” But there are ways that Nolan et al can knock this character out of the park and deliver a third grand slam.
Just as Carmine Falcone’s reign over Gotham City ended in BATMAN BEGINS, so too did Joker’s end in THE DARK KNIGHT. With Batman on the run and the city’s thugs scattered all about, it’s only a matter of time before someone ascends the throne of crime and assumes the crown. How do you follow in the footsteps of a sociopathic killer in caked-on white make-up? Easy. You hire the guy with the puppet on his hand.
While BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and the comic books occasionally suggested that Scarface has a sentience separate from Wesker’s diseased brain, a Nolan take on the deadly dummy wouldn’t be able to go there. The visionary director has made it clear that “superheroes” and their like don’t exist in his version of Batman, and that would preclude any sort of supernatural element to Scarface. That’s totally fine – in fact, that works even better. Hype up the Ventriloquist’s insanity instead. Make him a guy teetering back-and-forth on the brink, equally capable of a feeble apology and a squeeze of the trigger at a moment’s notice.
Wesker’s origin could even be tweaked to fit into Nolan’s continuity. What if he was a victim of the fear gas in the Narrows back in BATMAN BEGINS? Already predisposed to mental illness, the effects of Scarecrow’s toxin heightened his insanity and brought Scarface into the forefront. Tying it in further, and similar to the character’s origin, Wesker could be a relative of Carmine Falcone’s. Already linked to Gotham’s criminal underground, Wesker would have easy access to thugs and low-lifes when both Falcone and Salvatore Maroni “exit” the family business.
The important part, though, would be to keep the Ventriloquist sympathetic. Wesker is a man who has a real desire for power at a base level. You see that in how Scarface manifests his bloodlust, but Wesker has a longing to control his own destiny. He’s an easily intimidated boy-in-man’s-pajamas, which renders him subservient to the dummy on his fingers. In stressing this element of helplessness, Bruce Wayne is granted an opportunity to save Wesker from his madness. Further, if Wesker’s origin is tied into the Narrows, it provides Batman a shot at redemption. He can clean up an old mess, save a sick man’s life and find a shred of the inner-peace he so desperately needs after the events of THE DARK KNIGHT.
Now, to really sell the character, you need an actor who can disappear into the role, just as Heath Ledger disappeared into the Joker’s oversized clown shoes. One guy who could do the job flawlessly is oft-rumored Riddler contender Johnny Depp. Already a cinematic master of disguise, Depp could easily slip into the skin of sheepish Arnold Wesker while simultaneously amping up the ruthless insanity of Scarface. He could deliver a performance that is at once both heart and gut-wrenching. Depp’s not the only actor who could ace the part, but if he’s already thinking about a trip to Gotham City, give the man some pinstripes and throw away the green jumper. The Riddler’s been done.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a Scarface-centric BATMAN 3 is the character’s lack of popularity. Is Scarface enough to carry a Batman movie on his own? Maybe not. You could always throw The Penguin in there and have the two villains waging a turf war over control of Gotham City. Hell, that might be a pretty cool flick. But even I have to admit Scarface’s relative anonymity to mainstream moviegoers could be a box office threat. The Joker sells theater tickets like the sun rises and falls, while Scarface doesn’t have that same star power.
Good thing that everyone and their grandma will be seeing BATMAN 3 no matter what the heck Nolan and company decide to do.
Mr. Nolan, this is your chance to do something even more art house with Batman than you pulled off in THE DARK KNIGHT. You’ve earned the audience, hook-line-sinker. They’ll be there opening night. Everyone wants to see what you’ve got for a third installment. But there are skeptics out there that think TDK can’t be topped. Seriously, the late great Heath set the bar at nose level with the freaking moon. How do you top that character? Can you top that character?
Prove them wrong. Give them a reason to believe. Give them someone to fear. Put a smile on their face, say hello to your little friend and give them SCARFACE!