This story first appeared in the June 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Warner Bros. has set the voice cast for its upcoming animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic 1986 Batman tale The Dark Knight Returns, from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video.
Peter Weller (Robocop) will star as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Modern Family’s middle child Ariel Winter will play Robin.
Warners and DC are splitting up the adaptation of the dense four-part graphic novel into two animated features titled Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 and Part 2. The first movie, which will be released under the DC Comics Premiere Movie brand, will hit shelves in the fall. Part 2 will be released in early 2013.
Also in the cast are David Selby, the veteran actor who starred in the original Dark Shadows soap opera as well as the 1980s primetime soap Falcon Crest; Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face; and Michael McKean as Dr. Wolper, the psychiatrist who releases the Joker from the insane asylum.
Jay Oliva, who storyboarded Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie Man of Steel and directed sequences of Warners and DC’s animated feature Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, is helming. Bob Goodman, a writer on Syfy’s Warehouse 13 and a veteran of many DC cartoons, penned the script.
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One of the most influential comics of all time, Dark Knight Returns is set in a near future where Batman is retired and Gotham City has slid into a dystopian state ruled by a gang of hooligans called the Mutants. The 55-year old Bruce Wayne is forced to don the cape once more, this time partnering with a female Robin to not only stop the Joker but keep the peace when the city falls into chaos after being hit by an electromagnetic pulse.
The four-book miniseries, along with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, also published that year, was praised for its mature and psychological take on superheroes. It set a violent and realistic tone in superhero comics and served as a big influence on Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movie trilogy, the last of which opens July 20.
“Dark Knight Returns is the granddaddy of beloved comics properties that we’ve ever attempted [to adapt],” said Bruce Timm, the veteran animation guru who has exec produced all of DC’s animated movies. “There is definitely the imperative to get it right.”
On the voice front, Timm described Weller a having “the proper weight to his voice. He definitely brings all of the world-weariness of the character and inner core of optimist covered in a cynical shell.”
Winter says she prepared for the role by seeing other Batman movies and asking, “How can I maker her different from the other Robins, other than just being female? She’s really tough and she needs to have an edge in her voice, so I tried a lower register for her.”
The movie will be the 15th in DC’s best-selling line of animated movies, many of which have translated stories seen in the comic books. Miller’s other seminal Batman story, Batman: Year One, was made into animated feature in 2011. (The line was called DC Universe Animated Original Movies but will now be called DC Comics PremiereMovies.)