Josh Pence joins ‘Dark Knight Rises’ cast, raises questions

Okay, now see… this is the sort of casting news I like because it’s suggestive and intriguing, but it doesn’t really give away any of the potential secrets of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”.  All it does is raise possibilities and give fans of Batman something to argue about for the next year.

Josh Pence, who was the Winklevoss you didn’t see in “The Social Network,” has been signed now to play a young Ra’s Al Ghul for the film.  In the story by Borys Kit, it is suggested that Pence will appear in flashback scenes set 30 years before the events of Nolan’s Batman series.  Pence will be joining previously announced cast members like Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.  Some of the cast, like Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard, have not had their roles announced yet, which has led to all sorts of speculation about who they’re playing and how they fit into the story Nolan is telling, which seems to be designed to bring the entire trilogy full-circle.

Certainly using Ra’s Al Ghul again helps do that, and I’m curious to see how that plays out.  According to Devin Faraci over at Badass Digest, The League of Shadows has a major presence in the film, headed by Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s.  She’s always been played as a sort of quasi-villain, dedicated to her own agenda, but also a love interest for Bruce Wayne.  In the comics, she’s actually the mother of his son, Damian, but it sounds like they’re playing things differently in the film. 

Is that the role Cotillard is going to play?  If so, and if Bane really is her right-hand-man in the film, it’ll be nice to see her and Hardy together.  They’re both such strong personalities that it could make for a really intriguing team.

When I was discussing this with our own Greg Ellwood, I mentioned how crazy it’s going to be if the Josh Pence material is all a set-up for an eventual resurrection of Liam Neeson as Ra’s, and he initially dismissed the idea, saying it was too fantastical for Nolan.  While I agree that his Batman films so far haven’t really seemed like the sort of world where you’re going to get a Man-Bat or a Killer Croc, I’d also like to point out that “The Prestige” was grounded in the same sort of realism, but that world had room for a cloning device that worked, which doesn’t sound too far off from the Resurrection Pit.  Could that happen in the movie?  Sure.  I have no idea if it will or not, but the casting of Pence certainly opens the conversation.

And on a personal level for Pence, this is great.  While he got a lot of publicity and credit for his work as the physical double for the second Winklevoss in “The Social Network,” this is an onscreen role.  There is some strange cosmic bond between him and Armie Hammer, though, considering Hammer was cast as Batman in George Miller’s scuttled “Justice League: Mortal” movie.  This should be a really nice next step for Pence, and a nice payoff to all the publicity he’s gotten for the last few months.

“The Dark Knight Rises” will be in theaters July 20, 2012.