It is the Era of the STANDALONE SPIN OFF MOVIE! Fan Fiction is now the Big Budget yet still, somehow smaller budget Zeitgeist quasi blockbuster template.
And DC/Warners have FINALLY cracked the formula. Don’t copy Marvel. Be your own thing. Your shared universe is the fact that you do NOT have a shared universe that is pre planned and micro managed. Instead? Organic one off character plays that can, later, maybe, team up. Or not. And, with a rogues’ gallery beyond Joker (Lex Luthor; Zod; Brainaic..from Superman and plenty from the Lanterns/Flashes et al, too) there remain plenty of properties to probe and experiment with.
Whyever not? If it is indeed a minor investment then it can afford to flop. But it won’t really flop because if it is a small budget, the curiosity, hype and IP recognition alone will generate a small hit. Win /win. And plenty of options for sequels / development, without committing too quickly or foolishly.
And it is in that spirit that JOKER has broken box office records. It has made more, as in MILLIONS more, than 2017’s Justice League! Unthinkable even five years ago. Now? It’s the way forward. And so it is that HARVEY TWO FACE appears next on the horizon. Not a sequel to JOKER; not even begging some shared universe crossover, whilst not ruling it out, either. Co-existing with other iterations, including whichever one they use in an actual movie featuring THE BATMAN in 2021.
Think The Lost Weekend meets Key Largo. It’s NOT a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart gone bad and morphed into Bogart; the crusader turned weathered bad guy yet still, somehow, sympathetic. A fusion of pathos to menace, via tragically charismatic charm and misplaced conviction in a system that fails.
Suspect this movie can be written and fast tracked quite efficiently. And casting rumours already circulating as it happens. Here are my TWO BY TWO choices!
- DOWNEY / GIBSON
Robert and /or Mel.
Either of these guys can do it. Or both! Robert needs a post Iron Man franchise beyond Sherlock Holmes. And frankly, even if he did not do this part, I’d pay money myself to see the look on Marvel /Disney corporate suit faces as they even contemplate a rival getting their big hitter. He does not owe those guys anything. Yes, Iron Man was good to him. But you know what, he was pretty good to Iron Man, too (2?). Marvel: bring him back and park TWO (that’s TWO!) money trucks outside his house. Or DC/Warners will try the same trick. He’s worth it! He’d be a better Joker (that was once mooted, actually, as was his playing Lex Luthor).
But Downey can certainly play Harvey Dent /Two Face. The character is a bifurcated District Attorney who goes crazy at the toss of a coin, switching from extremely decent good guy to totally nasty baddie. Think Natural Born Killers meets The Judge. Bravura, genuine Olivier level acting meets commercial charisma, novelty, curiosity. Instant hit at the Box Office and with critics. Maybe even get Oscar buzz. And great for Downey coz whilst it’s a brand and a commitment, it’s nowhere near as shackling as the Marvel machinery.
Now, if ‘Bob’ says no (and he will)..why not go to his mentor? Mel Gibson was actually offered the role in 1995 for Batman Forever. He was busied with Braveheart so turned it down; back when the method of operation was to cast a kind of big name baddie of the week to take on Batman. Is he TOO old now? No. Clint Eastwood was also offered it TWICE (once for the 60s tv show: Bill Shatner ended up voicing it instead as a one off cartoon in 2017) and then, like Mel, in ’95 (it went to Tommy Lee Jones).
Mel could play this in his sleep and direct it: The TWO Passions of the Dent?. HUG THAT CACTUS!
Think of Mel’s back catalogue: two sided face (Man without a Face; Braveheart). The righteous indignation that manifests itself as rage and violence (Ransom; Edge of Darkness) and the sheer outright madness (Conspiracy Theory, Lethal Weapon). Above all, we need to FEEL this tragedy. Harvey Dent is a fallen hero: a whiter than white poster boy for perfection who becomes tainted, both physically and then spiritually /psychologically, personifying the very crimes he swore to extinguish: order meets anarchy, vigilante and accidental crime lord at once. These TWO actors can do that. TOO easily!
- CRAIG / BROLIN
KNIVES OUT is being treated with universal acclaim at the moment. Now THAT is how you ‘subvert expectations’, Rian Johnson! Well done. There is a scene in the trailer where Daniel Craig’s character keeps flipping a coin. And his accent isn’t that bad. About the right age to play a DA? Not too old, not too young. Physically a credible threat /combatant for both goodies and baddies, Batman related or otherwise.
Traditional, old school: notice his tendency to play determined investigators + academics who maybe cross a line in their investigations and research (Archangel, Enduring Love, Girl wiv Dragon Wotsits). Can certainly play nasty nasty (Road to Perdition; Love is the Devil) and credible yet surreal descents into madness and /or domestic frustration (Dream House; The Mother).
So this must be a guy who loses everything at the highest of high stakes poker game of being a lawyer / politician / rising star hero with way too many expectations and stresses attached, thereby draining domestic bliss away (Harvey Dent is probably going to have his wife and kids leave him?) yet thereby empowering his ego and darker side to extract bloody vengeance on those he sees as responsible for his downfall beyond himself. Arrogant, effective in a violent ballet and able to take on gang underworlds like it’s nothing: Layer Cake and JAMES BOND! This is 007. With consequences. Daniel IS Harvey Two Face. A nice little post 007 mini franchise with all the fun / power /plaudits and half the effort invested.
And if he isn’t up for it ? Flip that coin and get JOSH!
Brolin is already comic book baddie royalty. THANOS! CABLE! A Man in Black! So this is not a stretch. He has played a younger Tommy Lee Jones and Jones has played Harvey Two Face. Jones was not miscast but misdirected; in effect camping it up rather than playing the kind of DA he had in The Client or lawman from The Fugitive gone bad? So think Jones playing it ‘right’: the kind of hype that generated back in 1994 when he was cast in Batman Forever and we all expected something amazing. THAT! But actually delivered rather than simply speculated. George W Bush is also an interestingly bifurcated American hero; lauded and vilified and then lauded some more: Brolin played that to perfection in W His Two Face could do the same..AND he has acted with JOKER’s Joaquin Phoenix
- OTHER POSSIBILITIES?