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There are few movies as shrouded in as much mystery as writer-director Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Among its many unknowns: What villain will The Dark Knight be facing?
It turns out there will be multiple villains, Reeves reveals as part of a Creative Space interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s West Coast TV editor Lesley Goldberg.
“You can’t have Batman without a villain,” Reeves tells THR. “There will be a rogues gallery.”
The filmmaker says the casting process will begin shortly, and while the Warner Bros./DC film has no official release date, he could see it landing in late spring or summer 2021.
Reeves is remaining mum when asked if The Batman will feature villains new to the big screen or baddies audiences have seen before, but when pressed he did react to Josh Gad’s not-so-subtle Twitter teases that fans have interpreted as the actor lobbying to play the classic villain The Penguin.
“I love Josh Gad,” says Reeves, noting that his son is in class with the actor’s daughter. “We’re good friends.”
Batman has one of the more celebrated rogues galleries in comics, though most movies have featured just a few villains rather than a whole assortment of them. Adam West’s 1966 Batman movie featured Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), The Joker (Cesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) uniting against the superhero. The most recent example of a full-on rogues gallery hitting the big screen was Joel Shumacher’s ill-fated Batman & Robin (1997), which featured Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane (Robert Swenson).
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012) grounded Batman in a more realistic world, with his films typically focusing on two chief villains, such as Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), while sprinkling in mob figures like Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) for flavor.
Judging from comic book lore, three options seem to present themselves for Reeves’ film: The villains are all teaming up, a la the 1966 movie; the villains are all working for a mysterious boss, such as in the 1990s storyline “Knightfall” in which Bane freed all of the inmates of Arkham Asylum; or perhaps the villains are working totally separate from one another. After all, does Gotham’s underworld really coordinate when they are going to commit crimes?
“We’re starting to put together our battle plan,” says Reeves of the process for casting his rogues gallery. “The studio has a definite shape in mind for when they see us doing it, and I think it’s aligning pretty well with what we’re thinking, too.”
Reeves’ pic will depart from previous big-screen iterations of Batman by zeroing in on the notion that he’s the world’s greatest detective.
“It’s very much a point-of-view-driven, noir Batman tale,” he says. “It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films.”
Reeves joined The Batman in February 2017 after Ben Affleck exited as director, and in the time since there have been questions as to whether the actor would remain on as its star. Sources told THR in July 2017 that Affleck was unlikely to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, which he has played in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League, as well as in a cameo role in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Affleck denied the report at the time.
Reeves is declining to comment on Affleck’s status, but does have another interesting tidbit to share: While he’s been calling the film The Batman, that is not written in stone. Affleck teased The Batman as the movie’s possible title in October 2016, when he was still attached as director, and Warner Bros. unveiled a The Batman logo at Comic-Con in 2017 during its Hall H presentation.
“I’m working with it as The Batman in my head and that’s what we’ve always referred to it as,” says Reeves. “But these things have taken a life of their own. As we go deeper into it, it may become clear, ‘Oh, actually this might be a great spin on the title.’ But as of now, it’s The Batman.”
Reeves’ Batman film comes at a time when Warner Bros. has been recalibrating its features to focus more on stand-alone projects rather than emphasizing a shared universe, a la Marvel Studios. The DC film universe saw Aquaman become its first $1 billion grosser earlier this month, and has Shazam! due out in April, The Joker opening in October and Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 slated for 2020. Each movie is billed as having a different style with distinct filmmakers behind them.
“That is what they’ve been talking about, and that’s the support that they have given me,” says Reeves.
For more from Reeves, including his thoughts on his Fox series The Passage, his forthcoming collaboration with Shonda Rhimes and what it’s like working with J.J. Abrams, read the full interview here.
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