We’re once again teasingly treated to a casting shortlist, this one for two female roles in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” According to Deadline, the names up for contention for either Bruce Wayne’s love interest or an unnamed villain are as follows: Natalie Portman; Blake Lively; Rachel Weisz; Anne Hathaway; Naomi Watts; Keira Knightley. If I had to guess and/or choose, I’d pick Lively as the love interest, because I don’t see the others being wasted in that capacity nor do I see her as villain material just yet. And I’d go for Weisz as the villain, especially if — though unlikely — the part is Catwoman. Not just because she’d been rumored for that very character two years ago, but because she was also the preferred choice back when her (now ex) boyfriend, Darren Aronofsky, was planning a Batman movie.
The list of possible actresses looks so common and predictable, though. It seems like the same young women being courted for every female lead in a major tentpole film. So I’d like to suggest that Nolan look at some less obvious dark horses for at least one of the characters. Check out my own shortlist after the jump.
1. Emily Watson
She has great chemistry with Christian Bale having so far co-starred with him in two films, “Metroland” and “Equilibrium.” She may be significantly older than the actresses shortlisted for the role. She’s even a good seven years older than Bale. But who’s to say that just because he’s a wealthy playboy that Wayne must go for the younger ladies? Like all those listed save for Lively, Emily Watson is also an Oscar-nominated actress. But unlike all of them, she has been nominated twice. Typically I think of Watson’s roles as being made up of relative sweethearts (part of it’s her eyes), even if they do tend to be pretty complicated souls. But she’s definitely got an evil streak in her and at least has given some great performances where she’s completely insane — a main ingredient for many Batman villains. Imagine Bess McNeill from “Breaking the Waves” as Catwoman. And no, I’m not the only person who thinks Watson would be perfect for that part. Even if the role is not that of Selina Kyle, Watson could knock it out of the park. Plus, the Batman movies could be a little sexier, like so:
2. Charlotte Gainsbourg
Another actress who’s played a woman off her rocker in a Lars von Trier film (“Antichrist”), Gainsbourg similarly has great potential to play a comic book movie villain. And let’s just imagine for a second Batman meeting his most frightening match in a mad mama with a block of wood and a drill. If Heath Ledger’s Joker couldn’t prove that chaos reigns in “The Dark Knight,” she’s the only one who might have a better shot. Gainsbourg formerly played wife to Ledger in a movie also featuring Bale: “I’m Not There.” She might not have the kind of body we think of for Catwoman or Poison Ivy, but she is quite suitable for the part of a psychologist gone crazy, so I could see her playing Harley Quinn, particularly if we’re aligning her “Antichrist” character with the Joker.
3. Rebecca Hall
Christopher Nolan seems to like recasting the same actors in his films, and he previously worked with Hall in “The Prestige” as Bale’s character’s wife. She could possibly play a villain, but she would be a better choice for the love interest, especially preferred over her “The Town” costar Blake Lively.. She’s more Wayne’s type if we think of his leading lady in the first two films: sweet but strong, and brunette. I used to think Hall was just as terrible an actress — and similarly mistaken for being great — as Maggie Gyllenhaal, but she’s changed my mind this year with surprisingly good performances in “The Town, “Please Give” and the “Red Riding” trilogy. So perhaps Wayne can date someone we’re not rooting for to be killed off.
4. Hillary Swank
Swank has also worked with Nolan before, in “Insomnia,” and even greater than Watson she has won two Academy Awards. She hasn’t had much luck lately with chasing further accolades, even if she is decent in “Conviction,” and her attempts at blockbuster fare (“The Core”) have so far proven to not be worthwhile either. Nolan’s Batman movies overlap the two sensibilities, though. They’ve got appeal to the Oscar crowd — with 10 slots for the category now, “The Dark Knight Rising” could even do what many people had hoped “The Dark Knight” would, be nominated for Best Picture — and the mainstream audience. It’d be hard to accept Swank as the love interest, but I can totally see her as a villain. I’d love to see her as a female False-Face (or maybe Clayface). Swank is good as a master of disguise, including and especially when she pretends to be a guy. Perhaps we even meet her character masquerading as a man.
Can I get a show of hands for a “Newsies” reunion? It’ll be twenty years since the musical’s release by the time “The Dark Knight Rising” comes out. Bale is now a grown man, while Ann-Margret is still a beautiful woman on the eve of her 70th birthday. Can we please let Poison Ivy be an older lady? This is a time when we’re seeing more and more senior actresses playing tough and sexy (I wouldn’t balk at the idea of Helen Mirren being cast as a Batman leading lady, either). Again, she too is Oscar-caliber, having also been nominated twice. But Hollywood would more than likely prefer someone like Rose McGowan, who portrayed Ann-Margret in a TV movie. Well, how about at least an onscreen musical cameo? Maybe Bruce Wayne goes to see a vaudeville show as a little homage to this (or the non-embeddable “High Times, Hard Times” number):