Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Lil Ginge
The Riddler, played in the new movie The Batman by Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Prisoner ), is one of the main antagonists in the film. In essence, he is a serial killer who murders members of Gotham’s elite class he believes to be corrupt, liars, and hypocrites. Intended victims of The Riddler include Gotham City’s mayor, its district attorney, and Bruce Wayne, one of the richest and most secretive men in the city.
How Does The Riddler Fit Into The Batman’s Plot
At the beginning of The Batman, we see The Riddler hunt down and murder Gotham City’s Mayor Mitchell (played by Rupert Penry-Jones), who is running for re-election, as his wife and child leave the Mayoral Mansion to go Trick-or-Treating. The murder is creepy and gruesome, and Mitchell’s face is encased entirely in duct tape with the message “No More Lies” scrawled out in a blood-red color on it.
Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), a good cop and the only one The Batman trusts, asks The Batman to the crime scene to help the police – who are disgruntled by Batman’s presence – hunt for elusive clues to the murder. The Riddler also has left a message marked to The Batman with a riddle for him inside.
The Riddler continues on a terrifying murder spree against Gotham’s ruling elites and continues to taunt The Batman with more clues. But as The Batman gets closer to solving the mystery underlying the murders and riddles, he starts to discover not the villain’s identity but the answer to a mystery that involves his own family, the Waynes.
What Actor Plays The Riddler?
The Riddler is played by actor Paul Dano in The Batman. Dano, an American actor born on June 19, 1984, in New York, New York, started his acting career as a Broadway performer before shifting into film acting. His first film was The Newcomers (2000), about a family who moves into a new town where they are beset by financial difficulties and a bully. The movie also starred Kate Bosworth, Chris Evans, and Christopher McCoy.
Dano followed The Newcomers up with L.I.E., an award-winning film about a fifteen-year-old boy who experiences a family tragedy, falls into criminal activities with his best friend, Gary. Dano plays Howie, the lead role, and it earned him several Best Actor and Best Debut awards (including an Independent Spirit Award) for his performance in the crime drama.
Dano’s career blew up when he co-starred with Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2007 drama-thriller There Will Be Blood, a movie about the rise and fall of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview and the adopted son (played by Dano) Paul / Eli Sunday that challenges him and battles for Plainview’s soul. Dano, whose partner is film actor Zoe Kazan, has gone on to roles in the films 12 Years A Slave, Prisoners, Taking Woodstock, Cowboys and Aliens, and Looper before becoming The Riddler in The Batman this year.
Inspiration for The Batman’s Riddler
The Batman’s version of The Riddler was in part inspired by the Zodiac Killer, both the real-life version and the one portrayed on screen in the classic David Fincher serial killer film Zodiac. In fact, Dano has called the Zodiac killer “the real-life Riddler” as the real Zodiac killer also taunted the authorities with riddles, some in the form of ciphers.
Director Matt Reeves decided to make The Riddler his main antagonist for The Batman when he noticed the parallels between Riddler and the Zodiac killer. Reeves was already interested in doing a serial killer story after reading the Batman comic books The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, its sequel.
Casting The Batman’s Riddler
Before casting Paul Dano, there were significant talks held to hire actor Jonah Hill for The Riddler. Hill was also considered for the role of The Penguin, which ultimately went to Colin Farrell. However, it didn’t work out with Jonah Hill due to a dispute over the actor’s salary. While Robert Pattinson would be earning less than $5 million to play the starring role of Batman / Bruce Wayne, Hill wanted more than double that – $10 million – to play the villain. Plus, Hill had trouble deciding whether to play The Riddler or The Penguin.
Once Jonah Hill was out of the talks, Paul Dano was officially cast in the role of Edward Nashton / The Riddler. To play the role, Dano took inspiration from a number of different sources. For one, he spent time researching serial killers. However, because he found this study material deeply disturbing, Dano researched The Riddler in public spaces where he didn’t feel as alone and creeped out.
Additionally, Dano took inspiration from both Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, who Reeves also took some inspiration from, as well as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Cobain’s life and image also inspired Reeves, composer Michael Giacchino, and Robert Pattinson in the interpretation of the film’s Bruce Wayne.
The Riddler’s Costume
For The Batman’s version of The Riddler’s costume, Reeves drew on his Zodiac-inspired ideas. The costume was in essence based on actual sketches of the Zodiac killer’s outfits. You can also see Zodiac garb in David Fincher’s classic film about the Bay Area serial killer.
The Zodiac-inspired costume diverges quite a bit from the traditional Riddler costume. In the comics and in previous incarnations, The Riddler tends to be dressed in a green suit or spandex supervillain outfit with purple flourishes such as a tie. The suit is covered in question marks to represent his love of riddles and puzzles.
On the other hand, The Batman’s Riddler does have a green coat, but it’s more of an army surplus coat than a sports jacket. In addition, while traditional incarnations sport Riddler wearing a green or purple eye mask to partially cover his face (much like Robin, the Boy Wonder), Dano’s Riddler wears a combat mask that entirely covers his face and adds much menace to his appearance.
If you enjoyed this article on The Batman’s Riddler, check out my article on the production companies behind The Batman.