Okay, we’re doing this again, aren’t we?
Not too long ago, I spoke about how bizarre it was that an actor like Jonah Hill could be circling the role of The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming DCEU origin story, The Batman, which will follow a young Dark Knight as he navigates a Gotham City seething with villainy and corruption. Hill, who was far more suited to the role of The Penguin, eventually walked away from the project entirely, both due to that and the fact that he was asking for significantly more money than Warner Brothers was willing to pay for him to play a character they didn’t even want him to play.
And now we’re kind of in the same situation: just now, news broke that Andy Serkis, famed motion-capture performer and director of Sony’s Venom 2, will be joining the cast of The Batman (despite, you know, directing Sony’s Venom 2 at the same time) as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. Fans had long hoped that Serkis would exploit his friendship with director Matt Reeves (the two worked together on the recent Planet Of The Apes movies) in order to win a role in the DC film, so this isn’t disappointing news by any means. Andy Serkis is always a win. But it is kind of surprising, in light of the other casting announcement that came out mere minutes later.
Colin Farrell, the handsome Irish actor known for his work in films such as Saving Mr. Banks and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, has landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin in DC lore. To be clear, I’m not complaining about this casting choice, but if I had to choose someone to play the stout, eccentric Gentleman of Crime, it would not be Colin Farrell: in fact, if I had to choose an actor to fit that role perfectly, it would be somebody a bit older, with a crazy glint in their eye, somebody who could rival the incredible performance of Danny DeVito in the same role in Batman Returns – actually, it would probably be Andy Serkis. Whereas the taller, fine-featured, soft-spoken Farrell would be a perfect fit for the role of Alfred Pennyworth.
But as we’re beginning to expect with this movie, it’s the other way around.
Farrell’s casting, in particular, is noteworthy because (a) he’s another ridiculously good-looking addition to this already bizarrely beautiful cast, and (b) see above. The Penguin has never been portrayed as a handsome man, and, in fact, much of his origin story revolves around him being the exact opposite: bullied relentlessly for his obesity and shuffling gait, the young Oswald Cobblepot turned to his pet birds for friendship as a child, and became an avid student of ornithology, eventually adopting bird-themes into his villainous style. Reeves is obviously going in the opposite direction with this out-of-the-box casting – and, while I find it intriguing, I can’t say I abhor the idea of Colin Farrell donning Penguin’s signature top hat, monocle and umbrella while wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. It just makes me wonder whether Matt Reeves will reveal Gotham to be a stylish, trendy modern city more in line with today’s New York City. Maybe it’s time we moved past Gotham’s traditional representation as a depressingly gritty underworld of criminal activity, seething with corruption and pollution. Margot Robbie’s Birds Of Prey movie almost seems to be leaning in that direction already with its bright neon color palette and fresh, alluring style, but it’s too early to tell yet if she got to that idea first, before Reeves.
Farrell and Serkis will join Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright in The Batman, which is slated to release in 2021.
So what do you think of the idea of Andy Serkis as Alfred and Colin Farrell as The Penguin? Should the actors have been swapped? How would you feel about a new take on Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!