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Casting The BATMAN BEGINS Sequel
Author: Jett
Friday, January 6, 2006

We all know -- or hope -- that when the sequel to BATMAN BEGINS rolls around in a few years, the returning cast will stay intact. Christian Bale will return as The Batman/Bruce Wayne, while Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, and Morgan Freeman will return as Lt. Gordon, Alfred, Rachel Dawes, and Lucius Fox respectively. We may even see Mark Boone Jr. and Colin McFarland return as Flass and Commissioner Loeb.

But what of newcomers to the cast? The word is that The Joker will be featured prominently in the next Bat-film. And that’s not a shock to anyone due to the way BATMAN BEGINS ended. But there are also rumors that District Attorney Harvey Dent, crime boss Roman Sionis (AKA “Black Mask”), British arms dealer Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot, and ATF agent Sarah Essen may be part of the sequel.

As a result, the Net is all abuzz with casting rumors. Visit any movie or Batman message board, and fans have their own ideas of who should be cast for each role.

Today, I’m going to give you my takes on casting the sequel. Of course, my opinions have absolutely no bearing on just whom Mr. Nolan and the producers will actually hire. And I am most certain that many of you will disagree with my choices. As a result, I’ll do my best to mention the casting suggestions that you have sent BOF. So here we go!

Oswald Cobblepot, aka “The Penguin”

This cinematic go-around should be much different than the goo-sprewing, sewer-living, “Penguin” from BATMAN RETURNS. It has been said that this classic rouge will play a minor role in the sequel as a British arms dealer. If so, I would liken his appearance to that Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkenson) in BEGINS.

While Bob Hoskins’ name has been rumored for the part (honestly, I do like this possibility and would have absolutely no problem with Mr. Hoskins in the role), my choice is 38 year old American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (CAPOTE, M:I3). Hoffman is currently getting rave reviews for his role as author Truman Capote in CAPOTE. When I first reported that he was being mentioned for the role, I wrote that I was not familiar with his work. Then I want back and took a look at what Hoffman had done and realized that I did know this guy! And that is precisely why I gravitated towards Hoffman.

The guy simply seems to disappear into a role, and I like this sort of “out of the box” casting. He’s a fantastic actor who I think can successfully pull off the role of an "aristocratic," British -- um -- thug. He certainly isn’t the first guy you would think of when you think of potential “Penguin” actors -- and that’s not a bad thing. Would you have thought of Gary Oldman for Gordon?

BOF‘ers have suggested the aforementioned Hoskins, Joe Pesci, Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti, and even using Danny DiVito again!

Roman Sionis, aka “Black Mask”

Roman Sionis was born into one of Gotham’s wealthiest, well-to-do business families -- the owners of Janus Cosmetics. After the death of his parents (by a fire set by Roman himself) Sionis inherited his family’s business -- and then proceeded to run it into the ground. He was eventually bailed out by billionaire Bruce Wayne when Bruce bought the company. Roman, seeing this as an insult and losing face, made a mask out of his father’s coffin lid, and became the criminal Black Mask.

This role was the toughest for me to “cast.” Sionis is susposed to be the opposite of Bruce Wayne -- a wealthy heir who goes bad instead of good. I figured you would need to choose someone around the same age as Bale who is a fairly good-looking guy.

My first inclination was to put X-MEN star Hugh Jackman in the role. Jackman is fairly well known and many fans have suggested the 37 year old Aussie for the part. Plus, Jackman will soon be working with BEGINS star Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan on THE PRESTIGE. But that was too easy.

But I guess I’m still going to be a little lazy here by choosing someone with ties to Mr. Nolan. I’d cast Nolan’s MEMENTO star Guy Pearce as Black Mask. For one thing, I think he has the acting chops for the role. Secondly, I am of the opinion that Pearce would be up for a smaller role such as Roman Sionis (similar is scale to Dr. Jonathan Crane in BEGINS), rather than a major role --and two films -- like Harvey Dent/Two Face.

Salvatore Maroni
Carmine Falcone is looney as can be in Arkham -- unless he escaped with the others as well. There is going to be a void to Gotham’s underword. A “freak,” Black Mask, will try to fill it. But what of the traditional crime element? That’s where mobster Salvatore Maroni comes in.

It has been whispered to me that the Maroni character will be included in the sequel. So who is going to play him? You could go with Al Pacino, and he’s worked with Nolan before (INSOMNIA). What about the great Robert DeNiro? Too predictable and cliché? Same with Pacino I would venture to guess. And why would they take fairly small part like that of Maroni?

So, what about the 50 year old Ray Liotta nabbing the part? Liotta -- who recently won an Emmy for a guest role on ER -- is not as “stereotypical” as I believe Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Pacino would be in the role. But he has played a mobster before, is a seasoned actor, and perfect for the part in my humble opinion.

I wonder what his choice of acid would be?

Sarah Essen

In the current BATMAN comic books, Sarah Essen is a member of the Gotham PD who married fellow cop/police commissioner Jim Gordon (unfortunately, she was murdered by The Joker at the end of the “NO MAN’S LAND” storyline).

Bat-sequel scuttlebutt has suggested that Sarah Essen will be part of the sequel as a former cop with ties to Gordon, who now works as a federal ATF agent. I’m going with the first person I thought of when I heard that the character may be in the next film: Julianne Moore. Not only is the four time Oscar nominated Moore one hell of an actress, the 45 year old thesp just screams “Sarah Essen” to me. Plus, she is only about 2 years younger than Gary Oldman -- making Essen and Gordon roughly around the same age. That works out well if indeed Gordon and Essen have some sort of past “history.”

Rachel Dawes, Gotham Assistant District Attorney

Yeah, yeah I know. This role is already filled. Katie Holmes played Ms. Dawes in BATMAN BEGINS -- and was viewed by many to be the weak link of the cast. But I am on the record saying that I want both the Rachel Dawes character and Katie Holmes to return for the sequel.

So why am I “re-casting” the role? Well, we’ve got to have a back-up plan, right? Rumors are abound that the future Mrs. Cruise may give up acting once her little bundle of joy is here (which I don’t believe, by the way).

So let’s say Katie does retire. Jennifer Connelly would be absolutely perfect for the part. For one thing, she’s fine -- uh, I mean she’s a fine actress. She’s an Oscar winner (“Best Supporting Actress” in A BEAUTIFUL MIND), which puts her in the same company as Morgan Freeman and Sir Michael Caine. And frankly, she is more age-appropriate for the part. I took it that Rachel was just a bit older than Bruce Wayne (Rachel was already an assistant D.A. while Bruce was still at Princeton).

Nothing against Katie, I wish they had cast Connelly for the part originally. With that said, I do hope that she returns. But just in case….

Harvey Dent, Gotham District Attorney

For quite a while, we’ve heard tons of names for this role, coming from fans and the Net. Guy Pearce, Rufus Sewell, Denzel Washington, Vince Vaughn, Gary Sinise, Josh Lucas and a multitude of others have been suggested or rumored for the role. So who would I cast if I were in charge?

Liev Schreiber.

This is probably the one role in which there is much agreement among fans. Since word first broke that Schreiber was in the mix, he became the fan favorite -- and he’s mine as well.

Mr. Schreiber has acting experience on both the stage and screen. Not only do I think he can portray a guy we all like and root for in the sequel, but he certainly has the acting skills to make us despise him -- eventually -- as Two Face. Plus, he looks very much like the Dent from THE LONG HALLOWEEN. Schreiber is the man for the job.

The Joker

I saved the best for last.

The choice for this role is clearly the most talked about by fans on the Net. I would venture to guess that it is a role desired by many in Hollywood. A chance to portray arguably the greatest comic book villain in history, certainly has to be appealing to many actors.

And boy have we heard the names: Sam Rockwell (who reportedly covets the role), Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Benicio Del Torol, Tim Roth, Jim Carey, Crispin Glover, Christopher Eccelston, Jason Lee, the great Johnny Depp, and on and on and on.

I was torn on this one, as there are two guys I like quite a lot for the role. I'm of the belief that the role of The Joker needs to go to an “unknown” -- someone who will totally and completely vanish and truly become “The Joker.” As good as Jack Nicholson was in BATMAN ‘89, I still couldn’t get past the fact it was Jack Nicholson with white makeup and a purple suit up on screen first and foremost.

We shouldn’t laugh at or with this Joker. We shouldn’t like him or have any sympathy towards him -- as we might for the tragic Two Face. We -- the audience -- should completely despise The Joker this time around. And in my opinion, this can be achieved only with a quality actor that is not a household name.

I like Paul Bettany for the part -- a lot -- but my choice goes to Aussie Lachy Hulme.

Simply call it a gut feeling with Mr. Hulme. I’ve only seen the guy act in a few things -- as Sparks in THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS and also in the film FOUR JACKS. Nothing particularly “Joker-like” in either of these films, although his “Carl” in the latter displayed a dark and violent streak.

There is just something about his "look." Hulme certainly has the physical attributes for the role: he’s tall (6‘ 3“), lanky, and resembles The Joker facially. Perhaps it’s the blue eyes with the cold stare. I just get the idea that Hulme can pull off creepy, threatening, and menacing --as The Crown Prince of Crime should be.

So there you have it, my casting choices for the next BATMAN film. Will any of my picks pan out? Who knows? Probably not. And of course, I reserve the right to *ahem* change my mind. But, as you all know well, it’s always fun to speculate. So, TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK and WHO YOU LIKE!

"Jett" is the editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and BATMAN IN COMICS.

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