The Batman finds the Caped Crusader in his early years, struggling to balance rage with righteousness as he investigates a disturbing mystery that has terrorized Gotham City. At the heart of that is The Riddler, a terrifying new threat who looks set to push Batman to his very limits. It's lucky, then, that he has an ally by his side in the form of GCPD Lieutenant Jim Gordon.
During the UK junket for The Batman, we spoke to actors Paul Dano and Jeffrey Wright about bringing their respective characters to life in the grounded Gotham City created by Matt Reeves.
Wright talks in detail about bringing Jim Gordon into this world and elaborates on whether he, Robert Pattinson, and the movie's director discussed Year One and how whatever happened during that period influenced what we see in this story. Dano, meanwhile, explains how he embraced the madness of The Riddler, and both actors weigh in on sharing the screen with the Dark Knight.
Oh, and we wrap things up by hearing from Wright about taking a punch from DC's Caped Crusader!
Watch our full interview with Dano and Wright about The Batman below:
What was it like, Jeffrey, bringing a grounded character like Jim Gordon into this world of heroes and villains, particularly in what was one of my favourite scenes with you, Batman, and The Penguin?
Jeffrey: Well, I think the word grounded really is what we were going for. It’s what attracted me to Matt’s vision upon reading the script. What’s remarkable about our film is that, and it’s very gratifying to have been a part of, is that the script is really fully realised on the screen. Matt had very a specific vision and tone he wanted to realise, and we did it. It really was that; it was grounded and authentic. It was tangible. So, for Gordon, still a Lieutenant as we’re in Year Two of Batman’s story, he is literally boots on the ground in that he’s still a cop in the street and that partnership with Batman, who we celebrate as the World’s Greatest Detective going back to the origin of his character in the comics, really flourishes under this construct that Matt’s created. It was really activating for me and I think we see Gordon and Batman and their partnership in a way we perhaps haven’t in previous versions of the story.
Paul, in contrast, you really get to unleash this madness and violence with The Riddler, so what is it like getting into the mindset of a character like that to bring him to life here?
Paul: Matt laid out a beautiful script, but a great challenge as well. The first conversation he and I had were about hero and villain and the two sides of trauma. I think that was really the seed from which everything else grew. You can’t just jump to the villain part of the madness. Taking it from there and slowly building his past to page one and how that gets you there and who he was without the mask and what the mask allows him to be.
Of course, you’re both part of these very intense scenes with Robert Pattinson’s Batman, so for you as performers - and you’re obviously invested in your own characters - what’s it like when he walks on set in that iconic cape and cowl and how does it change the dynamic for you?
Jeffrey: Because Matt’s Gotham is tangible, organic, and something that seems familiar to us, likewise Robert in the Batsuit becomes organic as well. We ask questions early on about who is he [and] why is he. ‘Isn’t he strange?’ ‘Yes.’ We acknowledge that and then we move on. Because we’ve answered those questions, it raises the authenticity of his character and so it just becomes a Batman movie. But one that feels real and possible in a way that’s very exciting. We just take it from there and live our lives in Gotham…trying to survive it all!
Obviously, Paul, you have a costume in the film, but I guess that plays into the dynamic you have with Robert as Batman to some extent?
Paul: You’ve seen the film and I was waiting to see Robert for a long time. It felt pretty good when I did get to see him out the window there. I love that moment. Sure, I looked at a picture of his Batman every day [Laughs].
Jeffrey, this is very specifically a ‘Year Two’ story, so how much did you talk to Matt and Robert about what Batman and Jim Gordon’s relationship looked like in ‘Year One’ that then informed what you were doing in this film?
Jeffrey: Yeah, we didn’t delve down too deeply into the details of that, but we came to a common understanding that we’re on the ground floor [and] that this may be, within our film, the first time they’re seen together in public. They’ve been taking one another into view from afar, but recognise out of this sense of desperation and a decaying Gotham, that there’s a utility in a partnership there. It’s a place that’s devoid of trust and credibility among those that should be credible. Gordon, I think, is more in need of Batman than perhaps Batman is of Gordon, but what he sees in them is an integrity and a type of honour. Clearly, the trust is still building and that was very exciting too. Ours isn’t an origin story for Batman, but it’s an origin story for his emergence, though certainly not by going back to the death of the parents and all these things we’ve seen done before.
Finally, Paul you’re separated by glass when you see Batman, but Jeffrey, what’s it like taking a punch from the Dark Knight?
Oh, it’s…you know, if you’ve got to take a punch, I guess you’ve got to take one from Batman. I’m still recovering a little bit as you can clearly hear from my answers today. I may be suffering a little punch drunkenness this morning [Laughs]. I’ll use that as an excuse.
The Batman in cinemas 4th March.