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EXCLUSIVE: Shortlist of Actresses Vying for Next Batman Film

Dark Knight Ladies
Getty Images

Christopher Nolan is looking at some of Hollywood's leading actresses -- as well as a few emerging talents -- for major female roles in The Dark Knight Rises, his next Batman film.

Sources tell Heat Vision that Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel (pictured, top left) are due to test for roles in the Warner Bros. superhero tentpole in the next two weeks. Also testing are relative newcomers Kate Mara (top right) and Charlotte Riley (bottom left). Hot British actress Gemma Arterton (bottom right) has also scheduled to test but, as Heat Vision first reported last week, Arterton just landed the female lead in Paramount's Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and might now have scheduling issues.

Dark Knight Rises needs to fill two big female roles, a villain and a love interest. Sources say one character is Talia, the daughter of villain Ra's Al Ghul, who was portrayed by Liam Neeson in Nolan's first Gotham-set crime pic Batman Begins. In the comic books, Talia is both Batman's lover and antagonist, ultimately siring his alter ego Bruce Wayne's son.

While Knightley, Hathaway and Biel are well-known actresses, the other two are up-and-comers. Mara had brief roles in 127 Hours and Iron Man 2 in 2010. Her sister Rooney Mara is currently shooting David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the title role. Riley is a British actress who has done mostly TV work. She is engaged to Tom Hardy, who co-starred in Nolan's summer smash Inception and has already booked an unspecified role in Dark Knight Rises.

Despite some online reports, Naomi Watts and Eva Green have not been cast. Although there has been interest in Watts, the Australian actress can't even do meetings as she is busy shooting the tsunami disaster drama The Impossible with Ewan McGregor in Thailand. (Watts can't be completely discounted, though, since she will wrap before Dark Knight Rises begins.) Green, meanwhile, is due to star in the business drama Arbitrage with Al Pacino, which shoots in April.

The film, written by David Goyer, Nolan and his brother Jonathan and produced by Nolan, Emma Thomas and Charles Roven, is looking at a May start, with shooting to take place in London and Los Angeles, according to insiders. Christian Bale is set to return as the Caped Crusader.

Nolan and Warner Bros. declined to comment.