Making the Dark Knight Even Darker in Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: The Long Halloween is a pivotal story for the Dark Knight. The 13-issue series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, a must-have on every Bat-fan’s bookshelf, is typically summed up as Two-Face’s origin story. But it’s so much more. It’s a glimpse into Batman’s early years as he learns the ropes. It’s the suspenseful mystery of a merciless murderer nicknamed the Holiday Killer. It’s the saga of Gotham City’s descent into a strange, even darker place. And it’s the terrible tragedy of Harvey and Gilda Dent.
The classic book has now been adapted in two stunning feature-length animated films. Part One hit stores earlier this summer, prompting much discussion of its nuanced take on a young Bruce Wayne and plenty of fans to declare it as one of DC’s best animated movies. With Part Two releasing digitally today, the creators and cast sat down with DCComics.com to talk about getting into character, embracing the darkness and the heart of The Long Halloween.
“This is a crime film, rather than just being a superhero movie,” says Butch Lukic, supervising producer. “Batman is in a situation that’s causing him to up his ante as a detective. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, taking Batman back to his original character and the way he started out, and the dark, noir feel of the style.”
Writer Tim Sheridan agrees. “It’s an important story,” he says. “It led the way for a lot of future Batman stories. A lot of the Batman mythology that we know and love today is at the least inspired by The Long Halloween.”
That mythology includes Batman’s rogues’ gallery of villains, almost all of whom make an appearance in the two-part film. The Joker, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy and Calendar Man each get their time in the spotlight.
“In the book, there’s a beautiful splash of all the villains coming together in a fight,” Sheridan says. “We were able to bring that to life even more and give everyone their moment and let them shine. That moment is key to what The Long Halloween represents, which is a transition from the Gotham City of old, corrupt and run by the gangsters, to the new Gotham City plagued by costumed villains.”
While Catwoman is typically counted among their ranks, in Batman: The Long Halloween she acts more as an anti-hero and ally to the Dark Knight.
“(The story) is about the two sides of the coin, the good side and the bad side,” Sheridan says. “Selina in the movie, like a cat, walks that line in a way that lets you feel like she could break either way. This is early days for Batman, and early days for Selina as well. Who knows what lies in store for her?”
Lukic recalls the casting process for Selina Kyle and the other major characters. “Naya Rivera was really a stand-out—we knew she’d be Catwoman,” he says. “Billy Burke playing Gordon was another no-brainer, he just had that Gordon voice. Troy Baker can really do the Joker justice.
“Josh Duhamel was another big choice. He’s definitely Harvey Dent. You know the guy right off the bat.”
Harvey and Gilda
While The Long Halloween is an iconic Batman book, it’s also the essential story of Harvey and Gilda Dent. “The relationships between people who love each other and the relationships between family are at the core at what The Long Halloween is,” Sheridan says.
Julie Nathanson, who plays Gilda Dent, knew only that the book was beloved when she accepted the role. She waited to read the graphic novel until after the film was completed.
“I really wanted to make her as real as possible to me without getting mired in any other iterations, or even the source material itself,” she explains. “I wanted to rely on Tim Sheridan’s writing, which is so wonderful. Really what attracted me to Gilda is, she’s complex. She’s so deeply inner. Her inner world, her emotional world, is complicated, and she’s in so much pain.”
Nathanson notes that a lot of what the audience learns about Gilda is through her troubled relationship with Harvey.
“You start to get a sense of her emotional disconnectedness and her desire for greater connection,” she says. “You can tell she very much wants to connect with her husband and loves him, but she’s guarding herself against her own pain. I just found her to be such a rich and emotional character, such a beautifully drawn character.”
Actor Josh Duhamel agrees that their life at home reveals a lot about Harvey Dent as well. “You get more of an insight of who he was and how he came to be,” Duhamel says. “You can see this guy who has some psychological issues at first, and then it becomes more apparent that this guy’s not well. When he becomes Two-Face it’s because of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Birth of a Super-Villain
For Duhamel, Two-Face was part of Harvey from the beginning.
“The beauty of it is that you can see he was Two-Face even before he was Harvey Dent,” he says. “He was a man just keeping it under the surface, and it was bubbling up at certain points. There are moments when he snaps a little bit, but is able to pull it back.
“He is the same person, a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in some ways. He has a persona at work and at home. But there’s something dark and sort of dangerous about him that he’s able to keep at bay until it’s unleashed and he becomes Two-Face.”
The different personas are distinct not just in their actions, but in their voices. Duhamel considered the evolution from Harvey to Two-Face as physical as it was psychological.
“I approached him as if the acid had actually damaged his vocal cords,” he explains. “I wanted it to feel like he was physically affected by that. It was funny because once we found it, we knew that was the voice. I tried to do it where I didn’t damage my own vocal cords.”
Duhamel believes the darkness of the character and the story itself make Batman: The Long Halloween stand out among Batman films.
“There’s something really cool about the tone of these movies,” he says. “There’s something film noir-ish, something adult about it that I like. They got to make it a little darker. It’s scary at times, it’s real, it’s graphic, it’s violent.
“It’s a subversive Batman you don’t often get to see. I love LEGO Batman. This is not LEGO Batman.”
Part One and Part Two of Batman: The Long Halloween are now available on digital platforms. Look for Part Two on Blu-ray on August 10, 2021.