Jonathan Nolan wanted the Riddler for The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman and Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
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If Jonathan Nolan had got his way, The Dark Knight Rises would have featured the Riddler, not Tom Hardy’s Bane.

Jonathan Nolan has been out and about, promoting his new TV show, Fallout. You can catch our review of that show here, but while chatting with various outlets, the younger Nolan has been offering up some choice recollections regarding past projects. One such story emerged whilst he was a guest on the HappySadConfused podcast and it reveals how 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises would have gone in a very different direction if Jonathan had got his way.

When discussing how to follow up the incredible success of 2008’s The Dark Knight (which featured a villainous performance for the ages from the late Heath Ledger as the Joker), Jonathan (who is co-credited on the third film for the screenplay) found himself wanting to go in a different direction from both his brother and David S Goyer (who penned the screenplay to 2005’s Batman Begins and earned a story credit on The Dark Knight).

As Nolan puts it: “We had these conversations,” Jonathan said. “Bane came out of a conversation with David [Goyer] and Chris. I was unsure about that at the story stage, but I [didn’t want it to be] back seat driving. Chris understood that what we had done and what Heath [Ledger] had done with [Joker] – you didn’t want to go anywhere near it.”

Read more: Jonathan Nolan talks the political response to The Dark Knight

“I started to play with the idea of the Riddler and what could be done with that character,” Nolan adds. “But it did feel like close enough to the space of what we had done with Heath, and you really needed to [change direction]. There’s another genre shift there. One of the things I was excited about for The Dark Knight Rises was that if you do a kind of urban crime genre for [The Dark Knight], the third one was a post-apocalyptic film. You sort of go: Batman always saves the day and the city survives. Why can’t we destroy Gotham and see what happens afterwards?”

Bane would certainly work well as the antagonist for a ‘post-apocalyptic’ film, but it’s interesting to think about what a Riddler film would have looked like, emerging from the minds of the Nolan brothers and Goyer. Jonathan also reveals that Warner Bros initially shared his opinion, pitching him the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio as The Riddler. In the end, the Riddler character would get a rather dark onscreen realisation in Matt Reeves’ 2022 film, The Batman, while Rises’ Bane would become another memorable addition to Batman’s onscreen rogues gallery.

Would Warner Bros have even been able to convince DiCaprio to don tights and play Edward Nigma? We’re not sure, although following Ledger’s searing performance in 2008’s The Dark Knight (and pre-MCU dominance), the superhero landscape was different and you never know. As it stands though, we can add DiCaprio as Riddler to that list of Batman villains that exist isolely in our imagination, such as Billy Dee Williams being set to play Two Face or Nic Cage almost being cast as the Scarecrow in Joel Schumacher’s planned third film in his Batman series. They never quite happened, but they certainly would have been a sight to behold.

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