The Big Picture
- The Dark Knight Rises could have featured Leonardo DiCaprio as The Riddler, but the screenwriter and director decided to avoid casting a big name for the role.
- The studio wanted to follow the trend of focusing on the villain and building the movie around them, but Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer wanted to first determine the story and thematic elements before selecting the villain.
- Leonardo DiCaprio went on to star in Nolan’s next movie, Inception, but has not appeared in any superhero films so far.
The Dark Knight Rises is probably best remembered for its villain, Bane, and his hulking form which dominated Batman in the movie. Not to mention, the portrayal by Tom Hardy and, of course, that wonderfully bizarre accent that was almost impossible to place. However, the studio behind the movie had other ideas about what they wanted to see from another installment.
Following the immense success of The Dark Knight, the rumor mill was in overdrive as to what a third Nolan/Batman film would be, and what villain would be next. Having seen off Heath Ledger‘s Joker, the most anticipated villain to face off against Christian Bale‘s Bruce Wayne was usually The Riddler. Within Nolan’s grounded world, The Riddler as a terrorist leaving clues around ticking time-bombs would have been a tantalising villain, but if Warner Bros. had their way, it would have been a very big star in the role.
Speaking with the Happy, Sad, Confused podcast, screenwriter David S. Goyer, who worked on all three movies in Nolan’s trilogy alongside the director, admitted that Warner Bros. was pushing them to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as The Riddler in the final outing for Nolan, but that he and Nolan were adamant they would not be casting such a big name or even going in that direction.
“We had all these pitches. I remember at The Dark Knight [premiere], the head of Warner Bros. said, ‘You gotta do the Riddler. Leo [DiCaprio] as the Riddler.’ That’s not the way we work – not to take anything away from him,”
Avoiding the Superstar Villain Cliché
Goyer highlighted an emerging trend in the superhero genre at the time, which involved selecting a villain as the focal point and then constructing a movie around them. He emphasised that he and Nolan had a deliberate intention to steer clear of this approach, instead deciding to pick a villain once they knew the story they wanted to tell around the character of Bruce Wayne.
“I had a sense – with the Spider-Man movies or when superhero movies started getting made and you had sequels – that the studios would always say ‘OK, who’s our villain of the next movie going to be? And let’s build a movie around that. Chris was staunchly against that,” said Goyer. “Let’s figure out what story we want to tell [first], and what we thematically want to explore with Bruce. Then let’s figure out a villain that fits the story.”
DiCaprio would go on to star in Nolan’s next movie after The Dark Knight, as the lead role in Inception. To date, he’s still resisted the call of the cowl, or any other superhero films—for now.