Scott Jardany Lewis debates Nolan’s choice of Catwoman actor and suggests an alternative.
Despite the release of an official teaser trailer; the Nolan fan base is still wary of what Anne Hathaway will bring to the role of Catwoman. Her previous roles have shown her to be someone who can evoke the audience’s emotions (Rachel Getting Married) and she has shown she has comic timing (Get Smart) but despite a turn in the sex rom-com Love And Other Drugs I am not convinced she can pull off sexy. Some talented actresses just cannot do sexy; think Julia Roberts. The way The Dark Knight Rises frames Hathaway as Catwoman is as a class avenger who sees Bruce Wayne and his ilk as a drain on society who has their time coming. But the way she whispers her warning to him at what looks like a masked ball is in the catty manner we’ve come to assume of a Catwoman. Does she pull it off? It is too early to really tell.
What worries me as that when those first images of Heath Ledger donned in Joker makeup appeared on the internet we collectively knew that we were in for something good. With Anne Hathaway as Catwoman we are caught in a place of unease and excitement; it could go either good or bad and not knowing is maybe more thrilling than knowing. But still the choice of Anne Hathaway is both daring and uninspired; Michelle Pfeiffer played the role so well. You could say the same thing for Jack Nicholson as the Joker but Heath Ledger’s portrayal worked because he inverted Nicholson’s suited kookster into a scarred wandering nihilist. It was brilliant, inspired. Anne Hathaway’s portrayal is being pitched by the teaser as an inversion as well, instead of simply being a thief she is a Robin Hood style figure. But is that enough? Again it is too early to tell.
But in my mind there is another actor who could really bring something to the role; who could double down on the daring of Heath Ledger’s Joker. That actor is James Franco. He is already a sort of villain in real life; an art house phony reviled by the intelligentsia he tries to infiltrate; rumours have it that he uses his fame to manipulate his NYU professors to give him good grades for little work. His little projects are dull and shallow; it’s like he’s punking the intellectual elite by showing anyone without talent can climb though their ranks born on the wings of Hollywood fame. Where Franco does have talent is in acting; he can play seductress and enchantress as shown by his characters in Milk and Howl. Armond White in his review of Howl writes that Franco has a “tiresome androgyny”. The Dark Knight Rises could have been the opportunity to take his androgyny; his ability to enrapture both man and woman with his face and personality to the next level.
Nolan’s films are devoid of queer characters. To be fair they are fairly devoid of sexuality; maybe Nolan has no interest in it. The Dark Knight Rises would have been the ultimate opportunity to shake this up; to have the languid Catwoman played by the equally languid Franco. It would be a challenge to the established characters of the series; a foe so enticing and so dangerous in the vein of classical Catwoman but on an entirely new level. The established 20th century view of homosexuals is as venus fly traps that entice their prey only to destroy them. Catwoman straths the line between a good and bad character; she is a villain who is in actuality good. She wants to help Batman while breaking the rules. With Franco as Catwoman Nolan could Trojan horse the evil homosexual and shatter that stereotype through Franco being not only the class avenger but the avenger of the sex roles society forces us into. Franco would be the ultimate weapon against the Right who crush the poor under one shoe and queers with the other. It would be quite a finish for quite a series; instead I worry that Nolan is finishing with a whimper rather than the bang we’ve come to expect from him.
Scott Jardany Lewis can also be found at Poison Deviny where he dissembles Miranda Devine’s oft-touted wisdom.