Batman, both on the small and large screen, has seen several actors playing the same character. Three actors played Catwoman during the run of the Batman television series of the 1960s and that show’s subsequent theatrical release, and the first Warner Bros. series of four movies had the same number of actors playing Batman.
The Dark Knight, the second installment of the latest film series, has managed to bring back some of Hollywood’s busiest actors, including Batman Begins star Christian Bale and costars Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine.
The only name actor to decide to move on from the first film was Katie Holmes, who played Batman’s love interest, Rachel Dawes. Holmes formally turned down a second chance at playing Rachel because of “scheduling conflicts”, but rumours persist that her husband, Tom Cruise, felt that the comedy Mad Money (which flopped) would be a better vehicle for her.
That left the door open for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who won numerous critics’ awards and Golden Globe nominations for roles in the independent films Secretary and SherryBaby. In The Dark Knight, Rachel is still a friend and confidante to Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, but she is dating her boss, district attorney Harvey Dent. He wants to marry her, but she still has feelings for her first love.
In an L.A. hotel room, Gyllenhaal says that although she knew audiences might miss Holmes, she didn’t want to give them a character that seemed like a bad copy.
“I didn’t think I should imitate her [Holmes]. I wanted to make Rachel a new woman. I thought that was the best way to honour what Katie did. I think Rachel puts more on the line and sacrifices more for the things she believes in than the other characters.
“At the same time, there are some things in the narrative of the first film that have a big impact on our film. I paid attention to those, most importantly the end of the first film when Rachel tells Bruce Wayne, ‘I love you, but I can’t be with you as Batman.’ That happened, but I wanted her to start over in this film.”
Gyllenhaal admits that choosing to make the leap from indies to a film that is rumoured to have cost more than $200 million wasn’t particularly difficult. She says that although she still loves independent movies, she isn’t against finding new audiences for her work.
“I love indie films, although it [the independent scene] is not what it was when I first started making films. It is very hard to get an independent film made these days. And I don’t want to make a movie that 10 people see because I know they are the 10 people who believe what I believe in.
“I want to make movies that have an effect on people who don’t agree with me. I want to open their minds and hearts, and I think this is exactly the right way to do that.”