The Batman made the infamous choice to sort of include The Joker in its new vision of Batman's world and mythology. Director Matt Reeves had originally conceived of a scenario in which Joker serves as the Hannibal Lecter to Batman's Clarice Starling – an imprisoned serial killer advising a more inexperienced investigator on how to catch a killer who is still at large. The Batman's version of Joker was played by Marvel's Eternals star Barry Keoghan, who originally went in to audition for the role of The Riddler (which ultimately went to actor Paul Dano).
DC fans got a treat soon after The Batman's release: Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. expanded on Joker's small (largely unseen) cameo at the end of The Batman by releasing the full deleted scene of Barry Keoghan as Joker, in his Silence of the Lambs-style interrogation of Batman. Well now we are getting a second treat from The Batman, in the form of a video of Barry Keoghan auditioning to play Riddler!
As you can see in the video above, Barry Keoghan clearly went with a more A Clockwork Orange vibe for his take on The Riddler. He definitely evokes the spirit of Malcolm McDowell's "Alex" from Stanley Kubrick's 1971 dystopian crime drama film – an homage that is all but hammered home by the Kubrickian orchestral score. The twist in the video is the seemingly harmless and even giddy "Riddler" coming back from around the corner with blood streaked across his right cheek.
There are two things that Barry Keoghan's Riddler audition makes very clear:
- Why Matt Reeves didn't choose Keoghan as Riddler. The dark Noir version of Batman that Matt Reeves want to make definitely needed a Riddler that was more Se7en than A Clockwork Orange.
- Why Matt Reeves chose to keep Barry Keoghan on as Joker. The maniacal smile he flashes at the end of the audition video, with the blood smeared on his face, definitely made him look like a classic depiction of Joker from Batman comics, more so than the Riddler.
The Batman's version of Joker has been dubbed "Proto-Joker," an early form of the sadistic villain before he truly embraced the theatricality that Batman's presence created in Gotham City. It doesn't seem as though Warner Bros. is committing to Barry Keoghan keeping the role after The Batman – but that's not stopping the actor from shooting his shot to return as Joker in The Batman 2, The Arkham Asylum TV series, or whatever else the studio has planned.
The Batman is now streaming on HBO Max.