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The One Alfred Actor That Offered The Template For Bruno Heller And John Stephens' Pennyworth Series - Exclusive

When it comes to Batman character origin stories, no team is better suited for the job than Bruno Heller and John Stephens. They first brought fans a Batman origin story in 2014 with the series "Gotham." They didn't miss a beat after it ended, either, immediately going on to create "Pennyworth." 

While "Gotham" focuses on the origin story of Batman, James Gordon, and Batman's many nemeses, "Pennyworth" centers on everyone's favorite butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and Batman's parents before their fateful demise. But which Alfred of Batmen past were Stephens and Heller most inspired by when they were in the throes of creating this epic origin story? And what were the beats they wanted to hit that differ from the many, many Batman projects that have graced our screens in the past?

Looper spoke to John Stephens and Bruno Heller during an exclusive interview where they discussed the Alfred Pennyworth actor that helped provide the template for "Pennyworth." They also covered how they wanted to set the show apart from content that came before. 

The Alfreds of days past

On some of the biggest ways that they wanted to set "Pennyworth" apart from previous Batman content, Bruno Heller said, "[We] didn't have to try to keep it separate from the larger 'Batman' movies, because mostly, you're doing something different. [With those], you're making a big superhero movie, whereas this is a character drama, a comedic character drama. We don't want to go to spandex and leaping off roofs, because other people can do that much better."

The great thing about "Pennyworth" is how character-driven it is — and the showrunners admitted that a previous Alfred helped them determine what they wanted in their series. John Stephens explained, "A lot of the inspiration was from those movies from the early '70s, the Michael Caine movies."

Heller agreed, noting, "Absolutely. Michael Caine was the natural template — not [a] direct template, but he was the natural portrayal of Alfie to come through. Apart from anything else, he's the only one ... All the other ones were cast by Americans. Jeremy Irons is not a butler. Jeremy Irons is posh." 

As is often the case, Stephens and Heller were on the same page. Stephens mused, "He doesn't really sell 'butler,' does he? Great actor. Not a butler." 

Caine's portrayal hit the right spot that the showrunners wanted to emulate, though. "Michael Caine brought the right action and the right demeanor to it, and he also brought the SAS business," Heller said.

New episodes of "Pennyworth" stream Thursdays on HBO Max.