The Nerdosphere nearly crashed today with the news that Joss Whedon has been announced as the director of a new standalone Batgirl movie. Variety broke the piece, so it seems credible enough. For those who don’t know why this is a huge deal. Quick Whedon Rundown 101:
- Wrote and Directed Buffy – an entertaining series with heart featuring a genuine badass who just happens to be a teenage girl. Joss’s work on the vampire-action fest flexed his command of comic-book-eqsue landscapes as well as delivering one of pop culture's most iconic Vampie universes (before Twilight fucked it all up) not too mention the series' titular nuanced and palpable female action lead who wasn’t conveniently reduced to another monster, damsel or mother trope.
- Wrote and Directed Avengers – One of the greatest and highest grossing comic-book movies of all time. And say what you will about Age of Ultron, Whedon is still the king of ensemble stories where each character gets their beats and moments to shine. So if he were given the chance to be able to focus on one character whilst still work his magic with DC's cast of supporting characters...
- Renown for writing strong female characters – It speaks to the sexism inherent in Hollywood that this is a feat, but whether or not you resent that this is an achievement, Whedon’s catalog of female heroes her aren’t just cliché masculine stand-ins speaks for itself. Whedon has proven an ability to deliver respected female leads with the likes of Buffy as mentioned above, as well as Summer Gau from Firefly, his treatment of Black Widow, and Echo from the criminally short-lived Doll House.
- He’s a comic-book writer – This is an incredibly invaluable trait a film-director can have, and believe it or not it is incredibly niche. Now, despite not having written for DC, with work on titles including Astonishing X-Men, Runaways and the comic book adaptations of his own properties Buffy and Angel, Whedon knows the medium from narrative world building to an eye for aesthetic flair.
- It’s a genuine f***ing surprise – Everybody knows Marvel and DC are two of the biggest rivalries in Western popular culture. And with Whedon’s iconic contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as having been published by them, news that he will be working over at Warner Brothers on the DCEU is the cause of collective simultaneous head-scratching and pant-wetting.
Once you’ve soaked all that up, you can now join everybody else who ever had a crush on Yvonne Craig or Alicia Silverstone, or who actually remembers the Birds of Prey TV series, in scouring IMDB and Google Image Results searching for a feisty and brainy redhead who could play Batgirl.
Now before I offer my suggestions, some obvious and some less so, for who should play Barbara or some other variation of Batgirl, I wanted to first pose some questions revolving around the DCEU and continuity etc. As established in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batfleck is a seasoned Batman, so it begs to pause what Batgirl will we be getting? Old and experienced? Or the classic young fresh into college iteration? And what version will we be seeing? Is this a New 52 era Batgirl, post The Killing Joke, who returns to crime-fighting after years as Oracle? Will Batfleck make a cameo? Or will it be a throwback story during Batfleck’s earlier years to a younger Barbara Gordon? Or none of the above and will we get a young Barbara who is a bubbly antithesis to Zack Snyder's Psycho Batman? Something else to consider when dream-casting is that as we already know our new James Gordon is JK Simmons, so both our new Barbara’s look and age may need to have at least some small resemblance to JK, if not in appearance than in mettle, so it makes the super young route a difficult one.
Whenever I dream-cast a role, I try to think both in and outside the box to cover all bases. That said. I’ll answer a question you’ll inevitably ask at the end of the article? “What? No Emma Stone or Anna Kendrick?” No. Not that I don’t think they’ll be good in the role, but that these are the two most obvious and, admittedly, most likely choices. Anna Kendrick has already expressed a wish to play Robin. Emma Stone has the look already. Neither are currently tied down with playing a DC or Marvel character. True, there have been reports of Anna wanting to play Squirrel Girl and Emma Stone was electric as Gwen Stacy – but seeing as the former are just rumors and the latter was as part of Sony, not Marvel Studios, the chances seem more likely that they could be snapped up. The one thing each of them lacks for me though, is the tenacity of Barbara Gordon. Which is where my list comes in. I’ve thought of actresses who either match Batgirl’s ferocity or her charm. And, seeing as we don’t know if they’ll go the young or old route, I’ve tried to consider both options. Enough yammer, here’s my top 10 choices for Batgirl.
Okay, sue me. First off the rank is a natural red-head. And admittedly, there are a few in this list. It would actually be quite appropriate for this role to go to someone who already has the look. But Rose Leslie doesn’t just have the charm and spunk of Barbara, courtesy of playing Ygritte on Game of Thrones, she also has the action and dramatic chops. Plus, there's an increased trend these days to pull from the silverscreen when casting Box Office leads.
Another fairly obvious choice, and her playing Jyn Erso in Rogue One does suggest she may have Disney and therefore Marrvel loyalties but SPOILER WARNING... seeing as Jyn’s fate means she won’t be returning to the Star Wars franchise any time soon, her schedule may mean she could be free to throw on the purple cowl. However another splotch on her record was her shortlived and subtle turn as Blackcat in Amazing Spiderman 2, but seeing as Sony will now go a new direction, and that Felicity has action credentials courtesy of acuiqiring the Death Star plans, she also has the box office draw as well as the abilitiy and look.
Chloë Grace Moretz
Now here’s one for the young route. At 20 years of age Chloë’s a shoe-in for consideration if Wehdon’s Batgirl is set decades before BvS. But she could also fit in to the current version of the character, however that would mean JK's Gordon would have had her quite late in life. But Chloe is actually a strong contender. Not only does she have the action chops courtesy of Kick Ass, but Chloë's Hitgirl from the mood and tone of Mark Millar’s film adaptation would fit the DCEU's brooding and morbid vibe, with just a twist of appropriate sass.
This one’s quite left of field and is mainly due to the massive crush I had on Scarlett the second I saw G.I Joe: Rise of the Cobra. These days Rachel is known for her TV work on Continuum, which would make her a good fit for the seasoned TV director in Joss Whedon. There is her age to be considered, at 37 she’d be an older version of Batgirl but still clearly younger than Batfleck. Alas, she doesn’t have the IT-girl or pop-icon factor, but a guy can dream...
Here’s one which is a bit of a prediction. You’ve definitely seen Alexandra in something, most likely True Detective, in that scene. She’s yet to score a headlining role, but I’m tipping her to be the next Megan Fox. She has the look and has worked on big budget action films such as San Andreas and the upcoming Baywatch – so perhaps Dwayne Johnson could use his Shazaam connections to put in a good word. She doesn’t have the box office draw just yet, but this could be the role that catapults an actress into super-stardom. But I'll actually also be happy to get this one wrong, cause with Birds of Prey on the DCEU slate, Alexandra would be an amazing fit for either Catwoman or Poison Ivy, but that's if they go the younger route there too... Damn you, DCEU, why must your timeline be complicated!
Bryce Dallas Howard
Another older choice based primarily on look and charm, but despite Bryce Dallas Howard being no stranger to roles in huge blockbusters from the Twilight saga to Terminator Salvation and most recently Jurassic World, she’s still yet to be A-list status. She’s Ron’s daughter, so she knows the craft, and she’s had a previous turn in a comic book property as Gwen Stacy in Spiderman 3, the one with emo Spidey. She’s no stranger to action scenes but this role may require her to be a little more experienced in that department.
Another tip where I’m adamant we’re looking at a future star. Her turn in Dope showed an attitude but also a street-wsie elegance to her which would perfectly sauit a bookworm by day and a rebellious roof-hoppper by night. And a bonus point is she hasn't yet done a blockbuster action title, and a completely fresh face may be a benefit to the franchise.
I’m kind of cheating here. Because while I think if DCEU do go with an older Batgirl that Rebecca Ferguson could work, I would much rather Rebecca play Katherine Kane aka Batwoman. Her work in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation displayed an ability to be alluring and devious which would suit the militant and no-mess New 52 era Batwoman. I know this is clearly a Batgirl standalone project, but just in case there's any room for Kane, Rebecca is perfect.
The bonus with Jamie Chung is that whether they go the older or younger route, she could pull it off. Honestly, she hasn’t aged for about a decade. And with action work on Once Upon a Time as Mulan and a turn in the high-concept high-budget Sucker Punch, directed by non-other than Zack Snyder, Jamie could be a perfect unexpected fit for Barbara Gordon.
I know, I know. She’s got her hands full with Game of Thrones and is now also Jean Grey in the X-Men universe, but I’ll be damnded if Sophie doesn’t look the part. However this one is quite unlikely due to her already being a Marvel character and Fox Studios being famous for not wanting to share.
So there we have it. The more I thought about each entry on this list, the more I thought of Emma Stone or Anna Kendrick as a sure bet. But, like Fantasy Football or Tipping, Dream casting is more about who you'd like to see as well as thinking of some unique choices which may be harder to think of but could absolutely kill the role. One thing's for sure, with Wonder Woman down the pike followed by Birds of Prey and now Batgirl, Marvel Studios need to up their roster of standalone movies for female heroes...