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EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Batman’ Stars Jeffrey Wright & John Turturro Talk Superhero Best Picture Snubs & More

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It’s been roughly 10 years since we have gotten a new Batman movie, with Christopher Nolan’s fantastic film adaptations, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises being the last time the caped crusader had to save Gotham on the big screen. Flash forward, after being pushed back and reworked due to Ben Affleck deciding to hang up his bat suit, allowing Robert Pattinson to don the cape and cowl, plus handing over directorial duties over to Matt Reeves, The Batman is here. Now the world is buzzing about the latest movie about one of DC Comic’s most popular superheroes.

Reeve’s The Batman removes itself from the DCEU, following a young Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) who is still coming into his own as Batman. The film, which draws inspiration from the “Year One” and “Ego” comic book series, will see the Dark Knight earn his world’s greatest detective moniker as he teams up with Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to stop a much more twisted and sadistic Riddler (Paul Dano). Reeves explicitly points out this film will not serve as an origin story for Batman, and thank goodness because we don’t want to see young Bruce’s parents get killed again. BUT, it does highlight the beginnings of characters like mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), and Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell).

The Batman

Source: Jonathan Olley™ & © DC Comics / The Batman

Cassius Life had the opportunity to speak with Jeffrey Wright and John Turturro about The Batman. During our Zoom interview, we touched on superhero films still not earning the Academy’s respect to earn a Best Picture nomination. Except for Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, superhero movies always fall short when being nominated for the premiere award, usually having to settle for nominations in the VFX, costume, and makeup department. Recently, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which literally saved the movie industry and was easily one of the best films of the year, didn’t get nominated for Best Picture despite a huge push for that to happen.

Nolan’s The Dark Knight earned 8 Academy Award nominations, its biggest a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor win for the late Heath Ledger for his brilliant performance as the Joker, but no Best Picture nomination. When asked if there is a bias towards superhero films regarding that particular award, both actors had different views.

“Well, I can’t speak to that. I guess there have been some that have been recognized. The awards are, it’s a complicated little can of worms, that those things are. I can’t speak as to why,” Wright begins. “I can tell you that we tried to make the best film we could possibly make. Yes, we were making a comic book film. We were making a Batman film, but we were really going after a story. We were going after a story and trying to make, in some ways, a film that co-ops the genre some way and uses the genre as a way to explore themes, psychological themes, emotional themes, social themes. In a way that maybe other comic book-based films don’t, or can’t simply because it’s the nature of the Batman as a character,” he further added.

The Batman

Source: Jonathan Olley™ & © DC Comics / The Batman

I can tell you that we tried to make the best film we could possibly make. Yes, we were making a comic book film. We were making a Batman film, but we were really going after a story. We were going after a story and trying to make, in some ways, a film that co-ops the genre some way and uses the genre as a way to explore themes, psychological themes, emotional themes, social themes. In a way that maybe other comic book-based films don’t, or can’t simply because it’s the nature of the Batman as a character.

Turturro took a more it’s a matter of opinion approach while breaking down the vision Reeves and the film’s cast got to bring to life. “He’s a human, doesn’t have superpowers. He lives in the city, and he’s in the middle of things. And this isn’t a movie about Batman and space. This is Batman in the heart of a decaying troubled Gotham.” Turturro beings. “And so that gives Matt Reeves as a director and all of us, rich territory to themes beyond just the comic book dazzle of it all. But gives us an opportunity to dive deeper into things that are relevant today.”

“It kind of reminds me of Greek mythology with all these things about the Greek gods and these big figures. And then there’s a story that’s told within it of morality or corruption or whatever. So yeah, the world is changing. And awards are awards. Believe me, I’ve been all over. I’ve been on both sides of those conversations. And it’s not really why you do something. Because I think why you do something is to hold someone’s attention and to tell a story. And plenty of films have won awards, and no one remembers them,” he continued.

“And then there are some films that weren’t even successful that people talk about, aw, that’s a great film, a classic film. And 20 years later, everyone has discovered it. So it’s kind of a strange thing because it’s not really sports. I’m a sports fan. There’s no score, you know what I mean? It’s subjective. Your opinion means as much as the other person’s opinion [on] how it resonates for you if it kept you interested. And so I find it, as I’m getting older, it’s so odd the whole thing sometimes.”

The Batman

Source: Jonathan Olley™ & © DC Comics / The Batman

There’s no score, you know what I mean? It’s subjective. Your opinion means as much as the other person’s opinion [on] how it resonates for you if it kept you interested. And so I find it, as I’m getting older, it’s so odd the whole thing sometimes.

Both are excellent points.

We also asked Wright if it’s time to see more traditionally white superheroes finally get some melanin during our interview. Wright’s Jim Gordon marks the first time the character will be Black. Wright explained that stories should evolve with the times.

Well, I can only speak for what we are doing here. I can’t speak for anybody else’s ideas about what they’d like to see. It’s a very simple explanation and justification for my being Jim Gordon in this film. And that is, The Batman, the original series, was written by two guys, Bob Kane and Bill Finger. I know Bill Finger lived in the Bronx. I believe Bob Kane as well. And they fashioned Gotham after New York City and what they saw in New York City and the population of New York City. The look and backgrounds of those in the halls of power in New York City. And at that time, in 1939, New York City was 95% white. New York City has come a long way since then. And the fact of the matter is that this is an incredibly diverse city, not only in terms of its population but also in terms of city leadership: our current Mayor, Eric Adams, former cop, black man. The Police Commissioner of the NYPD is black and a woman.

So times have changed. And the reality is that if you want to create a Gotham for the 21st century, it has to look like the Gotham of today. If you are going to do a film and you’re going to update the batmobile, you’re going to update Batman’s gadgets, but you’re not going to update the population of Gotham. I really don’t understand what your vision is trying to achieve. There’s not a major metropolis in the United States of America where you can walk down the street and not see any black folks. You have to work really hard to walk through Chicago and not see any black folks or through the streets of New York City. So, likewise, our Gotham is a reflection of those cities. And so it’s not for diversity’s sake. It’s for reality’s sake. This is the world we live in. And if we’re going to take these stories, which are so much beloved, and reinvent them anew in fresh ways, in ways that are relevant to our lives today, then this is really an obvious and necessary step.

The Batman

Source: Jonathan Olley™ & © DC Comics / The Batman

The Batman arrives in theaters on March 4.

Photos: Jonathan Olley™ & © DC Comics / The Batman

EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Batman’ Stars Jeffrey Wright & John Turturro Talk Superhero Best Picture Snubs & More  was originally published on cassiuslife.com

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