Date: 9th September 2003

Batman turns back the clock

Batman's of the past have arguably never been obvious choices, and the search for a new face to play the Gotham City vigilante has thrown up a similarly curious list of names.

But this time around, producers at Warner Bros look set to inject a full syringe of youth into the ailing franchise of movies based on the comic book hero. Former Dawson's Creek star Joshua Jackson is among the names testing for the role, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Henry Cavill, and Eion Bailey.

And compared to their predecessors - namely George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton - they'll have a youthful spring in their steps.

Clooney, the most recent Batman, was 36 when he played the role in the 1997 Batman And Robin, while Kilmer was the same age in 1995 for Batman Forever.

Keaton, the first Batman and the only one to receive critical acclaim, was 38 and 41 respectively when he starred in Tim Burton's Batman in 1989 and the 1992 reprisal Batman Returns.

After Keaton's performances, Clooney, Kilmer and a variety of Hollywood heavyweights from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Carrey to Uma Thurman and Nicole Kidman sent the series plummeting into a hole as dark as Gotham City itself.

The task now is to drag it up from the depths and re-launch a spectacular, fresher Batman.

As Tobey Maguire proved in Spiderman, innocence combined with superheroism can be a potent mix, which could put Gyllenhaal in prime position to win over casting directors' hearts and minds.

In fact he was pencilled in to play Spiderman when back pain was causing Maguire problems in during filming recently.

Whether Gyllenhaal, who romanced Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl, is a favourite with director Christopher Nolan, though, remains to be seen.

Nolan has already told the likes of Josh Hartnett - who sent female hearts fluttering in Pearl Harbour - "thanks, but no thanks", and the Memento director appears to be taking a tough line in the name of integrity.

Gyllanhaal, who also starred in Donnie Darko, is a frontrunner with outside observers, though, and has already been working on the physical side of the character.

A source at Hollywood's Easton's gym told Teen Hollywood: "He's become quite a regular over the past few weeks - and you can already see the results. He's pretty bulky compared to how he was before.

I'm sure he'd be really disappointed if they gave the role to one of the other guys after all his hard preparation. He's really determined to land this one."

The new movie is scheduled for a 2005 release, but next year Batman's most attractive nemesis, Catwoman, will release her own spin-off.

The leather-clad feline will be played by the lady whose walk from beach to the bar in the James Bond flick Die Another Day was just "
purrfect" - Halle Berry.

Source: Press Release