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Ewan McGregor joins Birds of Prey movie as mobster Black Mask

Roman Sionis is a Gotham City crime lord with a familiar origin story

The Batman villain Black Mask, aka Roman Sionis DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) has joined the cast of Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey movie, according to a report from Deadline. McGregor will take on the role of Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask; a deadly and devious crime lord from Gotham City.

As Birds of Prey’s main villain, McGregor will be up against Margot Robbie’s (Suicide Squad) Harley Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s (Fargo) Huntress, Jurnee Smollet-Bell’s (The Great Debators) Black Canary and Rosie Perez’s (Pineapple Express) Officer Renee Montoya. Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl, will also be appearing in the movie but is as yet uncast. The movie is written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs).

Created in 1985 by Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake, Roman Sionis is one in a hefty category of Batman villains whose origin story mirror’s Bruce Wayne’s but have an evil twist. Where Bruce idolized his kind parents, watched them die and inherited their business, Roman despised his cruel parents, murdered them and inherited their business.

He became the gang leader Black Mask after he rain that business into the ground, so named for the marble mask he wore that he’d carved from his own father’s coffin. He would eventually discard the mask, after sustaining such severe burns while trapped in a burning building that his actual face now resembles a blackened skull. (How he still forms bilabial sounds without lips has always been a mystery to this writer.)

Unlike many of Batman’s villains, Black Mask isn’t typically characterized as an irrational criminal. Over the years he has risen to threaten Gotham as a citywide crime lord, rivaling characters like the Penguin or old-school Gotham mobsters like Carmine Falcone. Among his most prominent moments as a villain is the 2004 Batman miniseries War Games, in which he seized control of every gang in Gotham and tortured a Bat-family member seemingly to death. (She came back later.)

Black Mask has also made numerous appearances in Batman adaptations, including prominent appearances in Rocksteady’s later Arkham games and on the TV series Gotham.

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