Recasting The DARK KNIGHT

Several critics have called The Dark Knight more of a crime film or a modern noir thriller than a superhero movie, drawing comparisons to contemporary films like The Departed, Heat and L.A. Confidential. To be sure, The Dark Knight is very much a modern-day noir thriller. Released by Warner Brothers, the studio most closely associated with gangster and noir films of the 1930s and 40s, The Dark Knight has much in common with the films of that past era. Drenched in shadows and deftly exploring the nether regions of moral ambiguity, the crime films of Hollywood’s past often featured sociopath criminals going up against two-fisted champions of justice. These forces of good and evil often squared off against each other in the back alleys of cities crumbling under the decay of crime and corruption, while average citizens cowered in fear for their safety.

Thinking about The Dark Knight like a noir film raises the question of who would be the perfect actors to play the roles of Batman, Joker and Harvey Dent, if the film were made in 1939, the year Batman debuted or the early 1940s.

Portrayed by Christian Bale in The Dark Knight, the best choice of actor to play Bruce Wayne/Batman during the heyday of film noir would be George Raft. Known primarily for his roles as tough guys and gangsters, Raft had the pretty boy good looks to pull off playing Bruce Wayne, and the dangerous, asskicking personality to play Batman. During the 1930s, Raft was one of the most popular actors to portray gangsters, along with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Some of Raft’s more popular films include Each Dawn I Die, If I Had a Million and They Drive By Night.

The best actor to play the Joker (portrayed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight) is, without a doubt, James Cagney. Like George Raft, he was incredibly popular for his gangster roles in the 1930s, but his career is more well remembered, due in no small part to the diversity of his talent. While Raft’s career dwindled into the 1940s and 50s, Cagney’s flourished, as he made a name for himself in dramas, comedies and even musicals. Cagney and Raft starred together in Each Dawn I Die, but that was far from Cagney’s best gangster film. His performances in Public Enemy and White Heat remain two of the quintessential anti-hero performances in the history of cinema.

The role of Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who is tragically destined to become Two-Face, goes to none other than Humphrey Bogart. Although Bogart was never as popular as Raft, Cagney or Edward G. Robinson were in their anti-hero roles, he was incredibly popular, especially for his performances as morally conflicted characters. Bogart’s performance in The Enforcer is the closest to the morally upright Harvey Dent first introduced in The Dark Knight, and his work both in High Sierra and The Petrified Forest showcase his ability to play cold-blooded killers.

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3 Responses to “Recasting The DARK KNIGHT”

  1. raftfan Says:

    That is intriguing casting. Perhaps the movie you describe exists in the parallel universe. I’d like to think so. A missed classic!

  2. shawnlevy Says:

    This is frickin’ genius, mate!

  3. Jason Freeman Says:

    A lot to think about. Nice job! If for no other reason than giving me the excuse to go back and revisit some old movies. I owe you one! And you know I’ll go to sleep trying to think of the perfect Noir femme fatale to recast the Gyllenhaal role. Hmmmm….

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