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Will actor Tom Hardy be playing a psychotic shrink for his Inception director Christopher Nolan in the third Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises? And will the film be based on a well-regarded Batman comic storyline entitled Prey? Those are the popular speculations among hardcore fans of the acclaimed and popular superhero franchise — and just this past Friday, both speculations were reported as proverbial done deals by a couple different websites. In fact, on Friday Nov. 19, the website reported that an unnamed “P.R. contact” working on behalf of The Dark Knight Rises confirmed the Prey plot. We weren’t as lucky: Representatives for both Warner Bros. and Nolan declined to comment on casting or creative details. So officially, the Hardy-as-Strange casting and Prey plot rumors are still only rumors to us.

What’s fascinating about the evolution of these rumors — and it is indeed an evolution — is that it resembles something of an Internet iteration of the “telephone” whisper game. So let’s figure out how the game started. This is about to get confusing, folks. Are you ready? Here we go: As far as we can tell, it began on Nov. 18 at Digital Spy, a British entertainment website. This is how their definitive-sounding report began: “Tom Hardy is rumored to have been cast as Dr. Hugo Strange in director Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight Rises. Total Film reports that the upcoming sequel will be based on the graphic novel Prey and feature Batman being pursued by Hardy’s deranged police psychiatrist.”

For the Batman ignorant, some explanation. Dr. Hugo Strange: A greedy crook and crooked psychiatrist fixated on turning people into monsters. In one memorable appearance during a classic stretch of Batman stories in the mid-’70s, Strange discovered Batman’s Bruce Wayne secret identity, impersonated him for awhile, then tried to auction off the ID to other villains. In the aforementioned Prey, Batman’s police ally Jim Gordon is pressured to assemble an elite team of cops to hunt and capture the vigilante superhero; Strange assists them and becomes psychotically fixated with the task. Provocative stuff. Hugo Strange is a cool, classic Bat-villain, even if he lacks the name brand recognition of, say The Riddler or Catwoman (although I might argue that casting Hardy in the role would be a tragic misuse of the actor’s good looks). And as many others have noted even before all these rumors hit the web, Prey would seem to be appropriate fodder for Nolan’s third Dark Knight movie, as his second one left off with the hero playing the scapegoat for Two-Face’s homicidal sins and becoming a wanted murderer in the process.

That said, Digital Spy’s report made me curious. Their first paragraph calls the Hardy-as-Strange news a “rumor.” In the second paragraph, the site acknowledges that it was merely repeating information posted by the British film magazine Total Film. So I decided to click over to Total Film to read how they were reporting their news. What I discovered was that Total Film wasn’t really reporting any “news” at all. Their post actually begins with a question (“Tom Hardy to play Dr Hugo Strange in Dark Knight Rises?” ) and goes on to note the following: “OK, so you know that Tom Hardy is already confirmed for Dark Knight Rises, but now the rumor mill has him attached to the role of Dr Hugo Strange. The rumor, started at Batman News (guess what they report on…) is that Hardy will play the Batman-obsessed police psychiatrist, and not Sgt. Max Cort, as we predicted. However, we did predict that the Dark Knight Rises would be based on a graphic novel called Prey, and if true, this rumor confirms that we made the right call.”

Digital Spy made it seem like Total Film had scored a scoop, but Total Film was only riffing on a rumor posted at another website, and more, using it to make a pretty bold claim: That if the was Hardy-as-Strange casting can be proven to be true, then it will also, somehow, automatically confirm as true a previously posted prediction that The Dark Knight Rises will be based on Prey. Kinda crazy, but in fairness, let us note that Total Film wasn’t reporting what Digital Spy said they were reporting, i.e. that the movie will be based on Prey. Sounds like Total Film was merely acting like an exuberant Batman fansite, and that’s fine by me. I do it all the time.

Hoping to get to the very bottom of all this, I clicked over to Batman News, a real honest-to-goodness exuberant Batman fansite filled with fun bits and bobs posted by Batman lovers. Some of them claim to have in-the-know Hollywood friends, and one of them is a guy named “Chris.” Apparently, “Chris” has a “source” that knows a lot about The Dark Knight Rises. In his Nov. 16 post, which was categorized as an “Exclusive” and sports the ALL-CAPS headline “RUMOR: IS TOM HARDY PLAYING HUGO STRANGE IN ‘THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’”, Chris wrote: “I’ve heard that Tom Hardy is in fact going to play the villain. My source strongly believes that Hardy is going to be playing Hugo Strange. This is the first bit of information from this person that I’m publishing, however they have been accurate in the past. For example, this person told me weeks before the recent Christopher Nolan interview that The Riddler would not be appearing in the film. They also mentioned that Rachel Weisz and Anne Hathaway were in the running for the lead female role a couple of weeks before Deadline posted their list. Given their track record so far, I wanted to post this Hardy news that I received via email.”

All of this leaves me kinda confused as to what exactly “Chris’” source does or doesn’t really know. Why does the “Chris” source only “strongly believe” in his information? Why doesn’t he know this for a fact? You think he would: “Chris” would have us believe that his source is really plugged in, as the source had told him other key pieces of information about the movie before they were reported by other outlets. Then again, making that claim does beg another question: If “Chris” knew about The Riddler and the actresses before anyone, why didn’t he post that info first?

To be clear, I don’t want to be too harsh on “Chris.” He plays honorably. Unlike the folks at Digital Spy or Total Film, “Chris” himself does go out of his way to suggest that he could be wrong about all this. As he tells his readers at the end of his post: “Again, this should just be taken as rumor. I’m posting this for the sake of discussion since we’ve hit a dry spell with The Dark Knight Rises news. What do you guys think? Would you like to see Hugo Strange as the villain?”

Anyway, the irony of all this is… it’ll all probably end up being true. Which really only leaves us with two questions:

What do you think, PopWatchers? Would you like to see Hugo Strange as the villain?

[Corrected at 1:17 PST to clarify details about Prey.]

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The Dark Knight

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 152 minutes
  • Christopher Nolan