Still the Mount Everest of Batman stories after thirty years, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns remains the gold standard for fans of the character. While WB and DC did release an animated film adaptation of the story, I still pine for an honest-to-goodness, hard-R live-action adaptation, and Brandy and I are going to battle it out for our dream cast.
STEVE: Viggo Mortensen
STEVE: He may not have the heft that Miller gave Bruce Wayne on the page, but if there's someone I would love to see play an aged Dark Knight, it's Viggo Mortensen. I mean, come on, just look at that chin! He was born to play Batman and the character's world weary attitude in DKR is right in Viggo's wheelhouse. Hearing him say, "This is the weapon of the enemy," while snapping a gun in half would be worth the price of admission alone. Viggo's a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for, and I think he would absolutely crush it if given the chance. Brandy? Who's your Dark Knight?
BRANDY: Rob Lowe
BRANDY: Rob Lowe just looks like Bruce Wayne to me. He's the right age to play Miller's Batman, and Rob's jawline rivals Viggo's for most superhero-y ever. He's also a storied actor, and he can bring the intensity needed for Miller's Dark Knight. Mostly, I just want to see him in that cowl. And now, time for me to bring back an old favourite...
BRANDY: Michael Caine
BRANDY: Michael Caine is the definitive Alfred for me. Reserved, charming, dry, Caine is perfect. He's old enough that with minimal makeup I could buy him as an 80 year old Alfred, and nobody else fits the part for me. Some of my favorite moments in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy were just Michael Caine chewing scenery. Plus, he has a natural chemistry onscreen with almost everyone he's cast with, and that Alfred-Bruce chemistry is one of the more subtle parts of The Dark Knight Returns that I loved so much.
Steve? Should someone new get a chance to fill Mr. Pennyworth's shoes?
STEVE: I would be more than okay with bringing back Caine, but if we're gonna go a different route, might I suggest...
STEVE: Frank Langella
STEVE: Potentially the most underrated actor of his generation, Frank Langella is great in everything he does. Much like Jeremy Irons, he's made a name for himself playing some great villains, which makes the moral grey area in which Bruce and Alfred traffic much more in his wheelhouse than some sweet old man. At 78, I'd wager to say that Langella could still take any actor half his age in a fistfight, and that's the kind of Alfred I'd like to see in this adaptation. A dude with a dark past, looking to get rid of some red in his ledger before he dies. Plus, the addition of Frank Langella to any film adds 78% more respectability. It's science.
STEVE: Willem Dafoe
STEVE: I really don't think there's a more perfect casting choice for an aged Joker than Willem Dafoe. This effete take on the clown prince of comedy is right up Dafoe's alley, and he was in the running to play the character back in 89 when Burton made Batman, so this would be a nice full circle type deal for him. Dafoe's got a corner on the crazy villain market and they don't come much crazier than Frank Miller's Joker. What do you think, Brandy? Is there anyone else on planet earth you would allow to play this role?
BRANDY: Dafoe is the PERFECT, PERFECT choice. He looks the part, he moves the part, he can definitely act the part. I 100% back up this choice as perfect. But in the interest of picking someone else, I offer...
BRANDY: Tom Waits
BRANDY: I LOVE Tom Waits. Not just as a musician with that amazing raspy voice of his, but also as an actor. His turns in Wristcutters: A Love Story and Mystery Men were amazing, and I think he could have a lot of fun with the role. If you don't believe that Waits could do quirky and menacing, check out his video for God's Away On Business:
His face isn't perfect for the Joker the way Dafoe's is, but a little bit of makeup and he could channel the menace and offbeat eccentricity of Miller's Joker.
STEVE: I adore this choice, and not just because I love Tom Waits, but also because it would be a full circle tribute to Heath Ledger, who got his Joker voice from a bizarre 1979 Waits interview in which he adopted this strange affectation (the interview starts around the 1:40 mark)...
BRANDY: George Clooney
BRANDY: I know he's played Batman before, but I feel like Clooney would be great as Miller's Clark. I normally hate superman, and there was nothing on the surface to make me like him in TDKR, but somehow, despite he's the final antagonist in the story, he's weirdly charming. I feel like Clooney is one of the only people to be able to sell this charm with a heaping side of assholery.
Clooney also has this smugness to him that would be perfect for Supes, and he's handsome enough and young enough looking to be a perfect physical foil to whomever gets cast as Batman. Am I off base here, Steve?
STEVE: No, I can see it. Clooney's self satisfaction is basically his superpower, so I think it could work. I'm going full on fanboy with my pick, however...
STEVE: Bruce Campbell
STEVE: I've gotta be honest, Brandy, I thought for sure you'd beat me to this one. Bruce Campbell is the kind of actor who figured out early on in his career exactly where his sweet spot was, sarcastic yet charming assholes with braggadocio to spare. If that's not Frank Miller's Superman, I don't know what is. I also don't know how they managed to cock up this live action Beauty & the Beast movie by not casting Bruce Campbell as Gaston. I mean, he's basically who the character was modeled after. But yeah, Bruce Campbell is the Superman we need and god damned deserve. Hail to the king, baby!
BRANDY: UGH HOW DID I MISS THAT? MUCH better than Clooney. You win this one, Steve.
STEVE: Chloë Grace Moretz
STEVE: So at first I'm all like, that's a little on the nose, there's gotta be someone better. Nope. I looked. Boy did I look for anyone to put in this spot other than Hit Girl. Short of holding a casting call to find a slightly younger version of CGM, I can't see anyone else doing this. Maybe Kerri Strug, but I have no idea if she can act. Based on her SNL appearances, I think that's a "not really." I kind of painted you into a corner here, Brandy, I apologize. Do you have another Tom Waits-esque Ace up your sleeve?
BRANDY: Moretz was going to be mine, too. There's nobody more perfect for the role. I'm going to say...
BRANDY: Elle Fanning
BRANDY: Elle is great and all, but really, nobody fits this role like Hit Girl.
BRANDY: Ian McKellan
BRANDY: Okay, I'll admit, some of this is because I want to see Ian McKellan in a Batman film, but it's also a solid choice. McKellan has the gravitas to play the aged head of the Gotham police, and he's grizzled without being gritty. He's a solid actor who can sell world-weary without being dour, and nobody could sell Gordon's fall from grace after he kills that teenager more than Mckellan could. I'd wager that Gordon is probably the most kicked-around character in the entire book, and I'd like to see that played with grace instead of pathos. Steve?
STEVE: God I love Ian McKellan, but maybe I've been watching too much Vicious lately because I no longer think of him as gruff. No, my mind wandered to...
STEVE: Robert Duvall
STEVE: Duvall is the classic take no shit type. Don't give Robert Duvall no guff, his daddy taught him not to take none. I also think your use of the word grizzled made me think of my favorite SNL sketch of all time, centered around Robert Duvall's particular brand of grizzled. Duvall's a legend, and a guy that just brings instant gravitas to anything he does. Let's get him off the range and onto the streets of Gotham, asap!
STEVE: Catherine Keener
STEVE: Catherine Keener is the best. She just doesn't get as many good roles as she did in the 90s and early aughts, mainly because her unique brand of biting female character has kind of gone out of fashion. She would be great as the hard-scrabble, Batman-hating replacement Police Commissioner following Jim Gordon's retirement. Keener elevates everything she's in, and though this is a small role, it's also a pivotal one, and putting an actress of her caliber in it would ensure the character's immortality on the big screen. Brandy?
BRANDY: Carrie-Anne Moss
BRANDY: Moss was AMAZING in Jessica Jones, and the role of Yindel would be perfect for her. When I think "no-nonsense hard ass", I think Carrie-Anne Moss. She's tough, she's unlikeable and tough, and her role as Hogarth is a spiritual sister of Commissioner Yindel. Plus, I am absolutely delighted any time she's on screen- she's so much fun to watch, even when her character is detestable.
STEVE: Oooo, good call. I forgot all about Carrie-Anne on Jessica Jones!
STEVE: Michael Shannon
STEVE: No one in Hollywood right now can play damaged goods like Michael Shannon, and Harvey Dent in DKR is about as damaged as DC characters get. Shannon is able to be charming while always retaining an edge, something that Dent needs in spades to be successful. I know he's best known for playing General Zod, but give him a role like this and he could slyly steal the whole film in just a handful of scenes. What do you think, Brandy? Is Shannon too famous for playing Zod to successfully transition to a new DC role?
BRANDY: Good casting choice! I also really liked Aaron Eckhart in the role. But I think if I was to choose someone for Two-Face, it's...
BRANDY: Denzel Washington
BRANDY: I've always thought Washington would make a good Harvey Dent. He's charming, handsome, and he can do menacing well- his turn in Fallen was terrifying. For Dent's more unhinged, terrifying turn in Frank Miller's story, Denzel would do an incredible job. I'd love to see what Washington could do with the role, and an unhinged Denzel Washington would be a fantastic watch. Plus, Two-Face played by a man with one of the most perfectly symmetrical faces in the world is kind of awesome.
STEVE: Great choice. Denzel, when he's dialed in to a role, is second to none.
BRANDY: Jennifer Coolidge
BRANDY: I read The Dark Knight Returns shortly after I watched American Pie for the first time, and I've always had Jennifer Coolidge in my head as Selina. There's something about Coolidge's mannerisms and looks that really fits with Selina's Catwoman-turned-Madam role in TDK. Coolidge is a fantastic actress, and she does sleaze really well. Plus, Jennifer has the seductive older woman vibe going for her- I can picture her as an aged Catwoman perfectly. Steve?
STEVE: Love it! She would be fantastic, but for my choice, I'm giving another nod to Batman's silver screen past...
STEVE: Sean Young
STEVE: Sean Young brought new meaning to the phrase Bat-shit crazy when she lost the role of Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's Batman due to a broken leg. When casting began for Batman Returns, she stormed Burton's office dressed as Catwoman, demanding the role be hers. She got herself thrown off the lot. Her drunken antics have been a constant source of amusement for me, but honestly, when she was in her prime, she could just nail roles like this, and seeing her in this role would be another fantastic tribute to Batman's history on screen.
The Mutant Leader
STEVE: Mickey Rourke
STEVE: Last, but certainly not least in our casting session, let's take a stab at casting someone to play the Mutant Leader. Mickey Rourke has still got it, even if he's gone off the reservation a bit in the last few decades, but he always brings a manic energy to everything he does. It also doesn't hurt that he looks a bit like an inhuman monster in his old age, having let plastic surgery and steroids get the best of him, but this would be right in Rourke's sweet spot. I picture him as a threat to anyone he shares the screen with, and he would make for a hell of a Mutant Leader. What do you think, Brandy? Is Mickey a little on the nose?
BRANDY: Your casting decisions for this are ON FIRE. Damn.
STEVE: I've been thinking about this for years, so it's nice to feel vindicated :-)
BRANDY: Dolph Lundgren
BRANDY: It wouldn't be a Brandy casting battle without Dolph Lundgren.
Alright true believers, what do you think? Who would you cast in a live-action Dark Knight Returns? Let us know in the comments section below!