Batman Begins Broke the Batman Villain Rule

Those screen tests, which also famously included Eion Bailey and of course Christian Bale, were done with full-on sets and lighting before 35mm cameras, with each actor wearing Val Kilmer’s suit from Batman Forever. Amy Adams (before her breakout roles in June Bug and Enchanted) even read lines as Rachel Dawes opposite the potential Bruce Waynes. Looking back at it now, Murphy told EW that he always knew he was the wrong choice for Batman but went ahead and did the audition anyway. Nolan agreed Bale had a certain quality in the Batsuit. However, Murphy’s showcase of undeniable talent was useful in other ways.

“When we had our first conversation, I think both of us knew that you weren’t going to wind up playing Batman,” Nolan said, “but I really wanted to get on set with you. I wanted to get you on film… and I made sure that executives came down and watched what you were doing on set. Everybody was so excited watching you perform that when I said to them, ‘Okay, Christian Bale is Batman, but what about Cillian to play Scarecrow?’ there was no dissent.”

This was a bigger risk than might be obvious. While Nolan took a page from Richard Donner by casting his Batman origin story with a lot of prestigious talent like Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, and Liam Neeson, viewers would not know ahead of time that Neeson’s familiar mentor persona would actually turn out to be the surprise main villain of the film. In other words, the trailers and marketing would be selling Cillian Murphy, a relative unknown actor, as the main antagonist. This is a major departure from how only a year earlier, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jones were playing these roles at the peak of their popularity.

“All the previous Batman villains had been played by huge movie stars,” Nolan pointed out. “Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, that kind of thing. That was a big leap for them and it really was purely on the basis of that test. So that’s how you got to play Scarecrow.”

Ironically, it led to Murphy becoming the only Bat-villain to also appear across all three of Nolan’s Dark Knight films. While the subsequent The Dark Knight certainly got an A-lister in Heath Ledger to play the Joker, that role was pretty contentious too, and Nolan was soon back to getting relative unknowns, like Tom Hardy as Bane, and turning them into superstars.

When asked which appearance of Murphy’s Scarecrow is their favorite, both said it was when he popped up as the judge of a kangaroo court in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Who are the best Batman Villains?

Batman has one of the most iconic rogues’ galleries in all of comic book history, and it’s hard to narrow down the list of the best Batman villains to just a few. However, based on their impact on the character and their popularity among fans, here are some of the top contenders:

  1. The Joker: Perhaps the most iconic and recognizable of all Batman villains, the Joker is a deranged, sadistic clown who represents chaos and anarchy. He is Batman’s arch-nemesis and has been portrayed in many different ways over the years, from the silly to the deadly serious.
  2. Catwoman: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, is a complex and alluring character who has been both a love interest and a rival to Batman. She is a skilled thief and has a complicated moral code that sometimes puts her at odds with the Dark Knight.
  3. The Riddler: Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler, is a brilliant and obsessive puzzle-maker who delights in challenging Batman’s intellect. He is often portrayed as a more cerebral villain than some of the others on this list.
  4. Two-Face: Harvey Dent was once a noble and upstanding district attorney, but after being disfigured in an accident, he became Two-Face, a split personality villain who makes decisions based on the flip of a coin. He represents the duality of human nature and the idea that anyone can be pushed over the edge.
  5. The Penguin: Oswald Cobblepot is a devious and cunning criminal mastermind who runs the criminal underworld of Gotham City. He is often portrayed as a comical figure, but his schemes are always dangerous and deadly.

These are just a few of the best Batman villains, but there are many others who have left their mark on the character and his world. Each of them brings something unique and compelling to the Batman mythos, making them all memorable and enduring characters in their own right.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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