Matt Reeves’ The Batman, expected to come out on March 4, 2022, isn’t connected to the rest of the DC Extended Universe. That wasn’t always the plan: the movie was initially a vehicle for Ben Affleck to star, write, and direct. But the youngest-ever Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay grew dissatisfied — first with his own script, and then with the concept of playing Batman.
When Reeves — the director of Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — took over, the movie began slowly, surely, moving away from the DCEU. Now, separate from the constrictions of celebrity cameos and the pressures of a greater universe, Reeves and the cast are starting to discuss their own influences on the DC characters in a Batman-filled issue of Empire.
For starters, there’s Nirvana frontman and alternative icon Kurt Cobain. Cobain, who struggled with the concept of masculinity his whole life, might not strike some as the first thought for a character as associated with manliness as Batman. But Reeves listens to music as he writes, and “as I was writing the first act, I put on Nirvana’s ‘Something In The Way,’” off of Nirvana’s Nevermind, he tells Empire.
“That’s when it came to me that, rather than make Bruce Wayne the playboy version we’ve seen before, there’s another version who had gone through a great tragedy and become a recluse. So I started making this connection to Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, and the idea of this fictionalized version of Kurt Cobain being in this kind of decaying manor,” Reeves says, referencing Van Sant’s 2005 movie loosely based around Cobain.
That vision eventually led Reeves to Robert Pattinson, who first caught his eye in the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, a movie where “ you could really feel his vulnerability and desperation, but you could also feel his power...He’s also got that Kurt Cobain thing, where he looks like a rock star, but you also feel like he could be a recluse.”
It’s unlikely that Patz-man will be wearing flannel, but this Bruce Wayne has “been out every single night for two years, getting beaten up and shot and stabbed and burnt, and it shows,” Reeves says.
Of course, what makes Batman stand out among comic heroes is his truly fantastic rouges gallery. The Batman will feature (as far as we know) Paul Dano as The Riddler, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman.
Farrell reportedly found inspiration for his Penguin from another loner who shied away from celebrity and died too soon: John Cazale, best known today as Fredo Corleone from The Godfather. Lacking the intelligence or the viciousness of his younger brothers, Fredo grows isolated and vindictive. For The Penguin, Reeves says “he’s a mid-level mobster guy and he’s got a bit of showmanship to him, but you can see that he wants more and that he’s been underestimated. He’s ready to make his move.”
There aren’t any specific movie characters mentioned as inspiration for Catwoman. Rather, when working with stuntman Rob Alonzo, Kravitz “watched cats and lions and how they fight,” she tells Empire, with an emphasis on “what is actually possible when you’re my size, and Batman’s so much stronger than me. What is my skill? It’s being fast and tricky. So we did some really interesting floor work that incorporated different kinds of martial arts and capoeira and a kind of feline, dance-like movement.”
Interestingly enough, Halle Berry took a similar approach for her infamous take on the character. Before her 2004 role which earned her a Razzie, Berry watched hours of cat footage. But it’s unlikely that Kravitz will share much in common with Berry’s depiction.
“This is an origin story for Selina,” Kravitz says. “So, it’s the beginning of her figuring out who she is, beyond just someone trying to survive. I think there’s a lot of space to grow and I think we are watching her become what I’m sure will be the femme fatale.”