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Our return to Gotham City is a little less than three months away, but while the names and locations may sound familiar, they're anything but. In an effort to achieve the bleakest and scariest Batman film ever produced for the silver screen, writer-director Matt Reeves is putting new twists on old favorites — and that includes a lineup of classic baddies: Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Riddler (Paul Dano). All three actors spoke with Empire for the magazine's February 2022 issue, offering up juicy insights into how these rebooted villains are like nothing we've ever seen in the DC Universe before.
For example, Selina Kyle isn't just called "Catwoman" because she's a nimble cat burglar who dresses a bit like a cat; she also has an affinity for taking in stray felines (a suggestion that Kravitz brought to the role).
"I really wanted to dive into who she is as a human being," the actress explained. "There's a great moment where you see she has all these tons of cats, and I really wanted to dive into the psychology of that. Why does she have all these cats? And when you see the film, you'll see it's completely connected to who she is as a human being. Oftentimes, when an actor wants a part, we tend to just nod and smile and say yes to everything. But I tried to do something a little different, for me anyway, which was to treat it as though I already had the part and give notes, so Matt could really get a sense of what it's like to work with me."
Over in the seedier parts of town, Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot is clawing his way to the top of Gotham's criminal underworld. Both Reeves and Farrell compared the beak-nosed hooligan to John Cazale's Fredo in The Godfather movies. "There is a fracture at the core of Oz, which fuels his desire and ambition to rise within this criminal cabal," Farrell said. "Where that rise goes... I would love to get to explore that in the second film, if that was ever to happen."
This interview may have taken place awhile back because it was only recently confirmed that the actor would reprise the role of Cobblepot in his very own HBO Max spinoff series. So don't expect him to go full Birdman of Gotham just yet.
"There's no top hat [in the movie]," Farrell revealed. "There is one scene where I have an umbrella in my hand, but it doesn't have a trigger on the handle. He does have a limping gait, so there is somewhat of a waddle there. But Oz is not yet fully inhabiting the mythology of the Penguin and doesn't take too kindly to the monicker."
Finally we come to the man (or should we say monster?) of the hour: Riddler, a sadistic serial killer who would probably scare the tight green leotards off of Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey. Inspired by the Zodiac Killer who terrorized California's Bay Area in the 1960s and '70s, the remorseless and homicidal villain leaves behind cryptic notes at every grisly crime scene. Dano did look at the Zodiac's history while preparing for the role, but also felt the entire production was "much bigger, so it was important to let my imagination react to the script, rather than strictly basing it on a serial killer."
There's nothing funny, whimsical, or conventional about this interpretation — right down to his name. Instead of the rather on-the-nose title of Edward Nygma, this Riddler's true name is Edward Ashton. "I was surprised by it and frankly thought it was better than it had any right to be," Dano admitted. "As well as making contact with the universe, the archetype, the world, the fans, Matt's delivering something that comes from a real place of gut and heart and psychology."
The actor hinted that Nashton's killing spree comes from a place of "trauma," implying that his coping mechanism is very different from that of Bruce Wayne's. "Some can use that fire for good, and some can use it for something else."
The Batman swoops into theaters everywhere March 4, 2022.