I’ve always believed that the star of a Batman movie is…BATMAN.
For me, it is not about hiring a big box office draw like making Tom Cruise Batman for a generation. It is all rather about making Bruce Wayne come to life.
Because of that conceptually, the most important aspect of casting is not necessarily the actor, but rather the filmmaker.
Does the filmmaker have a love for and understanding of the character?
Does he or she have a passion for the character?
Does the filmmaker have a vision for the character and do you believe he or she can execute that vision?
Ultimately, more than track record, it comes down to trust.
Christopher Nolan is a genius in my book.
Part of his genius is, coupled with his vision, his innate ability to cast out-of-the-box, rarely as expected.
His work with Christian Bale nailed the character of Bruce Wayne in an incredibly believable way and his casting of Morgan Freeman enabled us to truly believe that all Batman’s amazing tech was real.
Then, there was a tsunami of outrage by fans when he announced Heath Ledger to play The Joker.
Something Heath had done prior as an actor had them pre-convinced that “the gay cowboy” was going to play the villain and ruin him.
When it came time for Chris to cast his Catwoman, traditional thinking had audiences and execs guessing Angelina Jolie.
But Chris always takes the unexpected route.
He cast Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle…to the outrage of fans who felt, based on her previous work, she would be soft and girl-next-door rather than edgy and dark.
Similar outrage was aimed at Ben Affleck when he was cast as Batman.
But, no one moreso than Michael Keaton, whom fans were sure, based on his past work (as well as Tim Burton’s), that our 1989 revolutionary film — BATMAN ’89 — would be another “Pow! Zap! Wham!” comedy.
Is it the duty of the studio to have to win the fan’s trust each and every time a comic book movie is produced?
Yes, it is.
Historically, generally in the motion picture and television industry, there have been betrayals in the holy name of toys and happy meals.
And that’s why the real focal point must be on the filmmaker and what his or her vision is. If we have some faith based on that person’s passion, knowledge, understanding, talent, and track record, then we must sit back, discuss, debate, argue as only we fan-boys and geek-girls do so well and with such heart and soul, and make our judgment calls once we see the end result.
And everyone who ever hated Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger before seeing their films will heartily agree.
At the end of the day, after 80 years, who really is the one correct and true Batman/Bruce Wayne? I believe it is, and always will be, the one you first met as a child or reader or movie-goer, or cartoon watcher, or game-player.
The most wonderful part of all this for me over the last thirty years since our 1989 BATMAN, has been hearing so often how much that movie and Michael Keaton’s Batman means to them; because their fathers or grandpas or moms — who have since passed away — took them and shared that important and defining Batman experience with them.
Their TRUE Batman is a character and film forever frozen in time and with such personal meaning grafted on to them!
And soon, in the footsteps of Lewis Wilson, Robert Lowery, Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and for someone out there, George Clooney, yet another actor will become Bruce Wayne.
And this new Batman on film will, in turn, become a TRUE Batman for yet another generation of fans.
There’s a gifted filmmaker at work here with an exciting vision and who truly cares about the integrity of Batman.
Let’s see what he can do.
And then, as is the duty of every fan, judge the hell out of it at that moment in time. – Michael Uslan
Michael Uslan is currently inside the mechanical dinosaur, in the Trophy Room, in the Batcave, and underneath Wayne Manor, in Gotham City, USA.