'Playing Batman Villains Drove Actors Mad' (Is A Lie That Needs To Stop)
For over 80 years, Batman has evolved and changed while still being one of the biggest forces in pop culture. This week, Cracked is doing a deep dive into the Dark Knight.
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As we all know by now, the primary villain of the much-anticipated The Batman is the infamous Riddler – who is seemingly less of a puzzle-loving scamp and more of a hipster Zodiac Killer on St. Paddy’s Day. This past weekend, IndieWire published an interview with Riddler actor Paul Dano, and apparently, inhabiting the twisted mind of the “terrifying” Edward Nygma gave the poor guy insomnia.
Folks on Twitter mass-dunked on Dano for taking a role once played by a spandex-clad Jim Carrey so seriously, while a ton of other media outlets ran with the whole “playing a Batman villain drives you to the very brink of madness from which you shant return” angle.
The only problem is, that’s a wild misrepresentation of what Dano actually said. In the original interview, he merely stated that: ”There were some nights … that I probably didn’t sleep as well as I would’ve wanted to just because it was a little hard to come down from this character.” In other words, playing the Riddler is exactly as disruptive as a late night burrito.
And the reason why Dano had a wee bit of trouble dozing a few times had nothing to do with the reservoir of evil he had tapped into, it was simply that playing the character took “a lot of energy” – which is entirely fair. Most egregiously, Entertainment Tonight conflated that sleep quote with another part of the same interview in which Dano confessed that he was “scared of what was happening in my head.”
But he was talking about his literal head, specifically how it was “throbbing” from the “sweat and the heat and the lack of oxygen” since his costume basically consisted of wearing a leather handbag with eye holes at all times.
Clearly, people are bending over backward to try and construct a false narrative about Dano’s process, presumably in order to fit some ill-conceived mythology concerning the Batman villain acting process. And, sure, Jared Leto took the (occasionally revolting) method approach to playing the Joker – but to be honest, that seems to be more of a Jared Leto thing than a Batman thing. The primordial source of this angle seems to be the death of Heath Ledger. People still claim that he “died due to depression after playing Joker” citing, as evidence, interviews as innocuous as Dano’s, in which Ledger said that filming The Dark Knight was “physically and mentally draining.”
As we’ve mentioned before, rumors that playing the Joker in any way affected Ledger’s mental health are fundamentally untrue; Ledger was excited by his work as the Joker, anxious for the film to come out. Remember all those reports about how he “locked himself in a motel room for 43 days” to get into the Joker’s headspace? In reality, according to Ledger himself, he just hung around a London hotel meditating and reading “relevant” comic books. And stories that Jack Nicholson apparently “warned” Ledger about the dangers of the Joker role seem especially ridiculous considering that Nicholson spent most of the Batman shoot obsessing over the scores of Lakers games which he had taped and shipped to England. None of these actors were negatively impacted by the evils of fictional villains from the 1940s – and it’s both ghoulish and irresponsible to imply otherwise.
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Top Image: Warner Bros.