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This Is The Role That Landed Paul Dano The Part Of The Riddler In The Batman

The Riddler has been an iconic member of Batman's rogues gallery for over 70 years and remains one of the most popular supervillains that DC Comics has ever created — despite just how hard it is to take him seriously. Edward Nigma (whose name is literally a pun on the word "enigma") uses a variety of puzzles, tricks, and riddles throughout his criminal schemes, often with a grandiose sense of theatricality. Most of the time, he only ever commits crimes to test his wits against Batman and seems to have no other purpose than perpetually tormenting the world's greatest detective with series after series of pointless mind games. If you hadn't already figured out just how much Nigma likes riddles, he also frequently dons an absurd question-mark-speckled unitard to drive the point home.

The version of the Riddler in 1995's "Batman Forever" was famously portrayed by Jim Carrey, whose campy take on the character was about as absurd and nonthreatening as any supervillain could be. Perhaps that's why director Matt Reeves decided to take the character in an entirely different direction in "The Batman," turning one of Batman's most ridiculous villains into a genuinely terrifying serial killer. This version of the Riddler is played by Paul Dano, who manages to bring an entirely new perspective to a character that has remained stagnant for so long.

Dano's Riddler is unlike anything we've ever seen

Paul Dano's Riddler is first and foremost a serial killer. He targets Gotham's elite and upper-class citizens, leaving behind a series of grisly riddles and clues to taunt Batman. During an interview for last year's DC FanDome, Matt Reeves explained that the character was inspired by the Zodiac Killer, whom he views as the "real-life" version of the Riddler. Indeed, the crime scenes we see in the trailer would look more at home in a psychological thriller like "Se7en" than a superhero film, and perhaps that's the point. Dano's take on the Riddler is meant to be frightening and dangerous and fits in perfectly with the dismal, noir-inspired version of Gotham that Reeves' new film is set in.

Unlike previous iterations of the character, Dano's Riddler also has a political agenda. He plans to "unmask the truth" of Gotham City, a truth that he hints could be related to the Wayne family. The Riddler's gruesome murders are committed for what he believes is a just cause, and as such, he becomes a sort of parallel to Batman himself: a vigilante using his incredible intellect to destroy the people he views as the enemy. To take such an iconic character and turn him into something so unique is a daunting task for any actor, but it seems like Matt Reeves had faith in Dano's performance long before they ever started filming. In fact, Reeves actually wrote the part specifically for Dano after seeing his performance in 2014's "Love & Mercy."

Dano's tortured performance in Love & Mercy won him the role of the Riddler

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Dano was written into the film based on his role as Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy," which chronicles Wilson's real-life struggles with mental illness and loneliness. Dano's stunning performance helped show just how tormented the iconic singer really was.

"That character, he's caught up in his artistry and he struggles to communicate with those around him," Matt Reeves explained. "That was spiritually connected to the idea of this isolation that the Riddler felt." Reeves claimed that Dano's Riddler uses his elaborate murders as an escape from his own isolation and that Dano was able to perfectly capture the tormented nature of the character as he had first imagined it. "Paul is just off[-]center in a way that makes him very relatable. I didn't want this character to be a villain. Even in his darkness, I wanted to see that humanity." Dano (who had avoided comic book movies up until this point) said he connected instantly with Reeves about the character's role as a mirror image of Batman. As Reeves says, "There's just a thin line that separates them," something Dano embodies flawlessly throughout his performance.

It's odd to consider that a biopic about the Beach Boys inspired this murderous depiction of the Riddler, though it would seem that Reeves' casting choice paid off in the end. Dano's Riddler fits in perfectly with the dismal world that Reeves has constructed and appears to be the perfect villain to kick off the newest reboot of the "Batman" franchise.