Six Actors Who Could Be the (World’s) Finest Batman

With Zack Snyder dropping the "Batman" bomb at Comic-Con, it is time to consider who is most worthy to accept the cowl in our post-Nolan and post-Avengers world.

His throat cleared and brilliant character actor Harry Lennix uttered the words “I want you to remember the one man who beat you” to an enraptured and stunned audience. Lennix was quoting from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, but he was standing next to Zack Snyder, who had come to Comic-Con’s Hall H to discuss a Man of Steel sequel. Then it clicked. Lennix was reading Batman’s sizing up (and smacking down) of the Man of Tomorrow for what may be the most anticipated movie of tomorrow (or at least 2015). A Batman and Superman movie is finally happening. The crowd went nuts. In the mayhem that followed, which you can read about HERE, Warner Brothers has gushed about Zack Snyder, who is apparently co-writing the sequel/DC’s answer to The Avengers with Man of Steel scribe David S. Goyer. People applauded WB’s desire to stand up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and others wondered what role, if any, Christopher Nolan will have in this development (my guess is little…). But let’s be honest, what we are most keen on discovering is WHO’S THE NEXT BATMAN? By the time 2015 rolls around, it will only be three years since The Dark Knight Rises, which is a full year less than the time between Nolan’s much-lauded costumed crime epics, but the die is cast and Batman is getting rebooted very quickly. Thus, with this Man of Steel sequel or whatever you want to call it on the horizon, we at Den of Geek knew that it was time to offer a list of possible heirs to the Mantle of the Bat. Six men who could take the cowl from Christian Bale and make it their own. So, read on and wonder if any of these men are the hero we need or, dare I say, the hero we deserve… ****SPECIAL NOTE**** We will not include actors who have played superheroes in other films before.
 ARMIE HAMMER The first candidate is also the most obvious. Armie Hammer, the man who would be Bat, may finally get the opportunity to be the superhero once again. Hammer was famously cast in 2007 as the Caped Crusader for George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal film, which was tentatively slated for a 2009 release date. This development raised eyebrows, including supposedly Christopher Nolan’s, because this film would come out simultaneously during Nolan’s tenure as the Bat-director. It may have been odd to see dueling Batmans in separate franchises, but WB was confident audiences would buy into Director Miller’s (Mad Max) vision and its radically different concept. Unfortunately for Hammer, despite having gotten as far as costume fittings, the project fell through due to the 2007 WGA Writer’s Strike, as well as the production failing to earn its tax credit in Australia, where Aussie native Miller planned to lens the film. In the mean time, things seemed to work out for WB, as The Dark Knight (2008) went on to gross $1 billion WW (a first for the genre), earn an acting Academy Award and Nolan even used Miller’s choice of villain (Talia Al Ghul) in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Well, here we are again six years later and one-year out in this post-Avengers world. Could Hammer be destined to finally don the cape for a likely Justice League movie after being once denied? We think it makes sense. Sure the actor was in this month’s already legendary Disney dud, The Lone Ranger, but it’s safe to say that albatross likely hangs more around Depp and Verbinski’s neck than the guy cast to be essentially the sidekick, never mind the title. But more to Hammer’s credit, he was fantastic in The Social Network (2010). He exudes both charisma and an impressive physicality that may have explained why Jesse Eisenberg never wanted to talk to his twin characters in that modern classic. Then again, that Lone Ranger bomb looks awfully bad and thus far, he has relegated himself to Disney comedies since his 2010 breakout success. Could he handle a darker, more brooding role like Batman? I would say yes if they chose to take it in a more subversive Brave and the Bold manner, but with Snyder co-writing the film, a director who made Superman, of all characters, snap Zod’s neck, it is safe to assume that this will not be the direction for the crusading cape.
 DOMINIC COOPER A darker and more interesting choice may be the ready-to-pop into superstardom Dominic Cooper. He is still looking for the right vehicle to showcase his talents and what could be better than the somber and obsessive Mister Wayne? A bright, charming and relatively known character actor from the UK (kind of a running trend for DC heroes these days), Cooper is probably best recognized by Batman’s target audience as either the Undead presidential mentor with a penchant for scene-stealing in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) or Iron Man’s prequel daddy in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). In both films, he played a supporting role to the titular hero, and both times audiences were left with the uneasy sense that they were missing out on the better story and adventure with Cooper. This is likely because Cooper is a fantastic actor who has the ability to totally immerse audiences into his dark eyes. And they could not get much darker than in The Devil’s Double (2011) where he played dual roles, one of which consisted of recreating the chilling malevolence of Uday Hussein, son of Saddam. His work in that film is criminally overlooked and shows that he can bring just as much darkness to the enigmatic charisma he has thus far brought to the background of other films. We are clearly not the only ones to notice. Consider that BBC has cast him as Ian Fleming in their forthcoming miniseries about the man who created James Bond. Fleming may not have been 007, but BBC would have you believe so. Of course, there are practical considerations. Cooper is not quite 5’10 and Batman is a beast of human perfection in the comics. That surely did not stop Michael Keaton who, for a number of fans, is still the definitive Dark Knight. Yet, perhaps filmmakers shall look for a European character actor with a bit more height (and American notoriety) when standing next to Henry Cavill.
 NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU It has come to this writer’s attention that Richard Madden, the beloved Robb Stark, King in the North on HBO’s Game of Thrones, has become a fan favorite for the part of Batman. And while Madden is an interesting actor with plenty of potential, and a newly cleared production schedule to boot, I might suggest looking to one of the darker corners of Westeros, where righteousness broods hand-in-hand with serious anger. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a superb up-and-coming talent for American audiences. Indeed, his work on the third season of Game of Thrones has left many, including Den of Geek, feeling he was robbed during this week’s Emmy nominations. The studly 6’1 Dane did the impossible when he convinced a majority of television viewers to switch from hating his guts to cheering him on. Quite the accomplishment for an actor who was introduced to many English-speaking viewers by pushing a 10-year-old child out a window during the PREMIERE episode of Thrones. Coster-Waldau accomplished this feat by revealing a soft vulnerability and even an anguished justification for many of his character’s evil acts, as well as a magnetic outrage and boiling disdain for those who misunderstand him. Not unlike Bruce Wayne’s contempt for the criminals of Gotham City, and the corrupt and ambivalent in power who his public persona is a mockery of. That may extend to boy scouts in pretty blue tights and red capes as well. Certainly Snyder’s choice to use an excerpt from Frank Miller’s cruel and indignant take on Batman, as he is beating the living stuffing out of a Krypton-weakened Superman no less, could mean a more insidious take on the Caped Crusader to come. Plus at 43, the intimidating thespian could be a return to the more mature and seasoned Batman of the comics. It would certainly differentiate it from Nolan’s take who, for at least the first two films, depicted Batman at the beginning of his career. In that same vein…
 MARK STRONG Who could be more seasoned at kicking the ass of a hero, like Superman, than someone who often plays the villain? While Strong is pushing 50, the British actor has shown a remarkable ability at scaring the living snot out of protagonists until lazy endings take the easy way out and kill him off. The heavy in a slew of recent superhero or superhero-esque films like Sherlock Holmes (2009), Kick-Ass (2010) and Green Lantern (2011), the actor knows his way around an action tent pole (particularly when two of the above three were Warner Brothers!). However, he is a far more varied actor than some lazy name-association executives may suspect. Strong got a real moment to shine recently when he threatened to steal Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) away from Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and probably some other Nolan alumni. As the haunted and tormented CIA Agent Jim Prideaux, Strong brought an intensely suffering vulnerability and trauma to his usual alpha male presence. Jim is a wounded animal of war that has lost his way in the cloud of smoke, not unlike a grown man who dresses like a bat because of what happened to him as a child. Strong also displayed a great ability of capturing American gusto in last year’s Zero Dark Thirty. However, Strong’s age may be too extreme for some, especially because he would have to wear a toupee (like that ever stopped Sean Connery). And there is the fact he was IN Green Lantern. Sure, that movie was not his fault and did more harm to Ryan Reynolds’ career than any other actor. But WB may not want that reminder of their other (failed) attempt at creating a DC Cinematic Universe.
 IDRIS ELBA Yes, we know that Idris Elba is the go-to name for almost any fan casting, including on some sites for even Wonder Woman. But have you ever thought why? Because Idris Elba is awesome. The face of BBC’s Luther is a smoldering ferocity of class and machismo that could make criminals beat themselves silly with just his stare. You want someone who can stand next to Henry Cavill and still look like he has the ability to kick the red underwear back onto the Last Son of Krypton? The tenor of his voice could win the fight alone. And Elba is still looking for the right role so that Americans can stand up and take notice. Having appeared in small parts for both the Thor films and Prometheus, as well as a supporting but memorable soap box in Warner Brothers’ Pacific Rim, Elba is somewhat breaking out stateside. But unlike his British work, Hollywood has yet to give him a starring role that allows him to tear the screen to shreds. That may change later this year when his next film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (he plays Mandela) is scheduled for release. But perhaps by then, WB will have already realized that there is nobody better at bringing the menace to Gotham’s shadowy wraith than the man who literally canceled the apocalypse by the mere sound of his voice.
 JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT And then there is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Goyer and Snyder have both repeatedly said this will be a new Batman not played by Christian Bale, but why not Gordon-Levitt? Technically speaking, he would be a new Batman as John Blake, successor to Bale’s Bruce Wayne. Yes, we have all heard this will be a total reboot, but I also recall hearing that Marion Cotillard wouldn’t be playing Talia Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises and that Gordon-Levitt would not be some form of Nolan’s take on Robin. Look how that worked out. In the end, Batman is often about passing down his legacy. In The Dark Knight Returns, a book which very clearly has influenced Snyder, Batman takes to the sewers to train an army of successors to bring order to Gotham after he is deceased, and in the recently rumored-for-adaptation Batman Beyond, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm imagine an aged and reclusive Bruce Wayne taking on a surrogate son and heir in Terry McGuiness. It’s just that Blake skipped a couple of the middle steps so that a merely middle-aged Bruce Wayne could go canoodle with Catwoman in Italy forever after. Yet, there is still work that needs to be done. And let’s be honest. Snyder’s vision for Man of Steel was more than a little influenced by The Dark Knight Trilogy. Is it that hard to imagine that they are in the same world? Maybe Blake is watching Superman and Zod fight, thinking to himself, “What about the people?” So there you have it. Six men who may don the cape, the cowl, the utility belt and the whole shebang. Agree with this list? Disagree? Know who might be perfect? Leave a comment in the section below to let us know! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing.