Holy Casting Rumours, Batman! Are these simply fiendish fanboy fantasies? Or is there both Truth AND Logic at Work?
Ok. So Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN is speeding its way through the paces of pre-production.
Casting rumours fly everywhere as with ALL Batman movies.
Remember years back when Robin Williams was going to be Joker, Penguin and Riddler..even a cameo, a Hugo Strange / Clock King? No? Ok. Best forgeotten as he was treated badly imho by the people who make these movies. Fan art of course nowadays goes a long way.
EVERYONE was convinced Leo DiCaprio would be the Riddler and were all taken by surprise when we were given Tom Hardy as Bane instead.
But these things sometimes converge; with sensible, logical though by no means necessarily lazy though not quite inspired either, casting choices, becoming a reality. Fans predict, promote, in public. Filmmakers perhaps ponder that and in any event probably had similar ideas.
And so it is, here. Everyone seems to know Jonah Hill was in talks for this latest Bat adventure. The sticking point is money. He wants 10 million, allegedly. Is he worth that? No, I’d argue, not as a leading man. But as a supporting cast member, in a role for which he was BORN? When EVERYONE would KEEP comparing the alternative choice to him, unfavourably? I’d tend to haggle a bit or promise him a Nicholson Joker level back end deal..but yeah..I’d probably go to his fee.
Hill = Penguin = hit. NOT because of one character being thought of as ‘fat’. No, Hill shed a bunch of weight. He’s ripped! But what he can still play, even better, now, is that sense of class war, of arrogant superiority and an ironic refusal to recognise his own predicaments, thereby digging a deeper hole. THAT is what makes Hill hilarious and scary at once in a range of roles and THAT is also, the essence of Penguin.
Penguin is American aristocracy, verging on more English than the English. Vain. Snobbish. Funny at times and very particular, without being either joke villain or actual Joke-r. He’s about the same age as Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, too: so adding an element of either lost friendship or even mere acquaintance based rivalry, like a frat boy / dorm raid bully. Can possibly handle himself in a fight too, up to a point, but hires muscle /plays dirty with his weaponised umbrellas once it looks like things are not going his way. Probably would not want his tax returns inspected..heck, might even run for office (‘Hizzonour the Penguin..Dizzhonour the Penguin’: cf, the 60s tv show).
Penguin is not psychotic; he’s a middle-man player in the underworld who deals arms and other commodities, with designs on proper Kingpin status whilst retaining his notions of being Jay Gatsby. And he’s vicious when cornered, with a slight complex about his looks / power. A bully who, like many bullies, started their lives as the victim and thereby rose up. Hint of a tender side, too: he loves those birds!
NOBODY BUT HILL CAN PLAY THIS! Unless you go back to Danny DeVito from Batman Returns (and even he was up against John Candy, Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Marlon Brando, Bob Hoskins, John Goodman, Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Oliver Platt, Gérard Depardieu, Dustin Hoffman..as other contenders for the part).
Just as importantly: we need a great Alfred. Michael Gough seemed definitive; ditto Michael Caine. You need to be the sage, the surrogate parent. But at the same time, still the servant, the willing accomplice, the person who at once disapproves of what ‘Master Bruce’ does and yet facilitates his every move. Somehow, one must buy into Alfred being a full time, live in companion, without any hint of this being two gay guys or one secretly being the other’s long lost Dad /Brother / Uncle etc.
The relationship must not be explained or reinvented. It is out of time and nobody must ask questions. Think the idea of Phileas Fogg and his man-servant, Passepartout. Nobody thought they were in any way a bit unconventional at the time..though Fogg does marry, conspicuously, on winning the titular travel based bet.
And who played Fogg, before he took on James Bond? PIERCE! Seriously. He is a NATURAL for Alfred. The right age: 66, so has at least a decade of vitality in the role, whilst remaining on the verge of elder statesman status. This is a take on the kind of mentor roles played by his own hero, Sir Sean Connery at around the same age?
It’s a small-ish investment of time, so Pierce can go off and do other things, whilst rewarding enough to enable his short and longer term comfort ‘in the style to which I am accustomed’, as the man himself might say? Pattinson works well with him in an onscreen dynamic. And remember that Alfred is whoever you want /need him to be.
You get the traditional, well spoken Brit archetype for guests to Wayne Manor ‘very good sir’ etc..but just a little HINT that this guy can handle himself in a fight, takes no shit and will tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to, whilst still knowing his place and being able to let go /step back etc. Transatlantic twang in that voice, maybe..trace of Eastender or Oirish fella, even?
Possible backstory may include military service of some sort but I’m not a fan of the idea that this guy was actually a full on SAS level superman himself; though his ability to do field level post combat surgery and surveillance do raise questions, best unanswered, but given a nod /wink here or there.
Oh and MUST look the part in white /black tie /tails /gloves and have a nice, big ‘tache when required. Have a penchant for tech / gadgets /suits/tailoring/fine cuisine and wines. Understand the thrill of the chase yet the need for contemplation away from the Wayne’s world of corporate clashes and crime fighting. Provide laughs /levity and thereby relieve Bruce Wayne’s darker nature. Can also, convincingly, give strategic advice ON those very choppy waters; the odd bit of commercial vision for Wayne Enterprises or a tip for the tactical tech in the field for Gotham’s favourite vigilante.
Played by someone who knows how to represent a brand to its and his very best potential, via seemingly effortless and pitch perfect diplomacy soundbites. If this is ringing bells..those bells are for Pierce! And hey, the guy was once offered the Batman role himself..so it’s all come full circle!
This is a great retirement plan, a greatest hits package.
James Bond, Thomas Crown, The Son, Lawnmower Man, World’s End, Noble House, Remember Me: all his work, in one supporting role! Able to give Bruce /Batman a pat on the back AND /OR a gigantic kick up in the arse when needed!
PATERNAL. PASTORAL. POISED. POLISHED. PIERCE! He HAS to play this. Heck: throw in Rene Russo as Leslie Tomkins and make this a proper reunion (Thomas Crown; also Rene was cast, initially, in Batman Forever, before Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as our lead hero) .
And women LOVE him. If Batman is away and Catwoman / Vic Vale / Chase Meridian /Poison Ivy /Silver StCloud visit the manor and need..well..attention? They will be very happy to see that Batman’s Butler is like..really FIT? I think girls still feel that way about Pierce, anyway. Plus, it’d be a funny possibility..a cough cough..nudge nudge..’Yes Master Bruce..you go give her one my son’ (no..that’s enough..stop it..stop it NOW..EDITOR; though..there was that bit in Dark Knight Rises where Michael Caine’s Alfred looks very interested in Selina Kyle).
THE BATMAN is set for a 2021 release. More details in time.
JAMES MURPHY: Silent Guardian. Watchful Protector. Never Two Faced. Bit of a JOKER! 😉