Can you feel that in the air? It’s the true start of Batman rumor season. Sure, there have been rumors before, but with the film’s official announcement and a concrete release date, the rumors have taken on a brand new sense of possibility, and I imagine we’ll spend a full year digging into the highly anticipated flick.

The news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt might be on the short list for the character of The Riddler is the first rumor that comes anywhere close to feeling like it could be true. He’s been lauded by fans as the only realistic replacement for Heath Ledger, he’s an up-and-coming actor, he appears in Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming Inception, and he’s one hell of an actor.

Still, I’ve been challenged to come up with a few other names that could fit the bill.

The Riddler is a complicated villain, and it seems like anyone tackling Batman is contractually obligated to feature him, the 59th Best Comic Book Villain, in the third film out. It’s unclear at this point whether he’ll actually be featured, but if he is, Nolan and company have work cut out for them.

In the comics, Edward Nygma is a manic presence, almost as psychologically disturbed as The Joker, terrible (mostly) at hand-to-hand combat, and incapable of killing his opponents if it doesn’t involve a life or death riddle. He’s already been done to the height of camp by Jim Carrey, but in the Nolan-verse, Riddler might end up somewhere between Jigsaw, Simon Gruber and John Doe – a serious killer who taunts police by telling them exactly who he’s going to kill and when in coded, enigmatic messages.

The filmmakers would do well to seek out “Batman: Dark Victory” and take a bit of the personality of The Hangman, who leaves bodies adorned with the children’s game of the same name.

My personal suggestions aside, here’s a bunch more of them in the form of what actor might be able to take on the role.

David Tennant

The Pitch: Not only have we seen him go manic in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he’s also swung from crazy to calm (but always charismatic with his role as The Doctor. He’s a fan favorite, but he also has acting chops and the ability to disappear into a character. Take his constant lick-lipping Barty Crouch, change that strange physical tic into leaving riddles, toss on a bowler hat, and you’ve got a distinguished, youthful maniac. There’s concern that it would be too much cross-over from one geek property to another, but the guy will need something to spend his time on post-Who and post-Fright Night.

Joe Anderson

The Pitch: I throw out Anderson’s name mostly because I think he can pretty much do anything. His slow departure into madness in The Crazies is fantastic to watch. Plus, he can either get scruffy or cleaned up for the part depending on which direction the character goes. From a logistical standpoint, he’s got more than a few films under his belt, but he hasn’t become a superstar yet, so he won’t overshadow the role. And did I mention that the guy can pretty much do anything acting-wise? With any luck, he won’t get the role only because it conflicts with him playing Kurt Cobain.

Sam Rockwell

The Pitch: I almost left Rockwell off this list after his appearance in Iron Man 2. For one, it’s tough to appear in two comic book properties in prominent roles (unless you’re Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans apparently). For two, his character in that is a bit over the top for the Nolan-verse. Then I remembered something crucial: Rockwell is a ridiculously talented actor. Justin Hammer is over the top because he’s supposed to be, but imagine the intensity of Sam Bell from Moon or Rockwell’s character in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind translated to Gotham City, and I’d bet you’d be just as sold as I was.

Matthew Goode

The Pitch: Goode certainly has a look that would work really well here. He may seem like the weakest actor on the list, but he’s shone in Brideshead Revisited and The Lookout (co-starring with Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and has the talent to stand up to Christian Bale. I honestly like some of the other choices better than Goode, but something tells me that he’d be a wild card that would end up paying off in massive dividends. Dividends that The Joker would then light on fire.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Pitch: The catalyst for this list, is there any question that his stock is the highest it’s ever been amongst all types of fans? It’s surprising to see the kid from “Third Rock” reach a point where he could do no wrong, but even in the heated, flame-wars over who might be able to replace Heath Ledger as The Joker (if such a thing were to happen, which it won’t according to Nolan), Gordon-Levitt came through the crucible unscathed – the most agreed-upon replacement named in the process. With the strength of talent and his connection to Nolan, it seems natural that he would take the role and knock it out of the park.

Bill Nighy

The Pitch: Some may think he’s too aged to take on Batman, but sometimes the interesting choice is the right one. Nighy is 60 years old, and I’m convinced he could take this character and make it his own. Nighy typically plays a level-headed character who manages to explode within the space of a few nanoseconds, scaring the crap out of all within earshot. His version might be more cerebral and less physical than the other choices, but that actually fits in line with the history of the villain. Plus, and I love the guy, but he’s really, really, truly creepy.

Paul Bettany

The Pitch: Combine Bettany’s mad monk killer in Da Vinci Code and his devil may care epic poet in A Knight’s Tale (co-starring with Heath Ledger), and you’ve got something incredibly close to The Riddler. Charm and flair that is crippled by an obsessive impulse. His, for lack of a better word, properness might be a welcome contrast to Ledger’s Joker – because if The Riddler is used, the biggest hurdle is going to be differentiating him from the man with the scars. The only thing lacking is an edge, but if anyone could pull it out of an actor, it’s Nolan.

James Purefoy

The Pitch: After seeing Solomon Kane, it’s clear that Purefoy can command a scene and carry a film as the lead. I can’t point to a specific role that I think would make him a good candidate, or something that seems close to what he’d have to do here, but he’s a strong presence and would be great as a serial killer. I guarantee that he’d be a strange entry into the world as it stands now, and as we’ve seen in the past, that’s where Nolan and company do their best work.

Who do you think would be best for the role? Besides Donald Glover.


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