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“Something wasn’t sitting right”: Not Liam Neeson, Harry Potter Star Gary Oldman Was Christopher Nolan’s First Choice For Iconic Batman Villain

Not Liam Neeson, Harry Potter Star Gary Oldman Was Christopher Nolan's First Choice For Iconic Batman Villain

Famous for his role as Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Gary Oldman was the first choice to play the villain Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. While Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon is one of the trilogy’s standout characters, Nolan originally had him in mind for the role of Ra’s al Ghul, which eventually went to Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson as Ra's al Ghul
Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul

In one of his media appearances on the Warner Brothers YouTube page, Nolan discussed his initial vision for Oldman.

READ MORE: “This has to feel dangerous”: Christopher Nolan Reveals ‘Beautiful and Terrifying’ Reason Why The Dark Knight Rises Nuke Explosion Was Nothing Like Oppenheimer Trinity Test

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Christopher Nolan revealed why Gary Oldman did not play the villain 

During the interview on Warner Bros YouTube channel, Christopher Nolan revealed that owing to his immense admiration for Gary Oldman, he initially wanted to cast him as Ra’s al Ghul. However, the Hannibal actor, who had often played villains in his previous roles was not exactly looking forward to taking on another villainous character. Explaining about why Oldman didn’t go ahead with the offer, Nolan said,

Gary Oldman has established a highly reputable position in the industry with his amazing acting skills
Gary Oldman has established a highly reputable position in the industry with his amazing acting skills

“I met with Gary for Raʼs al Ghul … originally because he’s an actor I admired tremendously, and I wanted to get him in the film. He had played a lot of villains and he wasn’t really interested in playing another villain in our film. I mean, he met with me, we got on very well. But something wasn’t sitting right with him about being the villain in a Batman film.” on Warner Bros.’ YouTube channel

Since things didn’t work out with Oldman, Nolan decided to shift gears, in search of an actor who could portray the supervillain he had envisioned.

READ MORE: Gary Oldman Revealed The Dark Knight Made Him More Popular Than Harry Potter: “No you’re not. You’re Commissioner Gordon!”

Christopher Nolan roped in Liam Neeson for the role

While Oldman eventually took on the role of Commissioner Gordon, a departure from his usual negative portrayals, Nolan roped in actor Liam Neeson to play Ra’s al Ghul. Although Neeson had never played a negative character in his previous projects, Nolan noticed that the Taken actor did portray some mentor-like roles that were in line with Ra’s al Ghul’s character.

Ra's Al Ghul and Batman
Ra’s Al Ghul and Batman

“Liam had never played a villain at the time, he played a lot of mentor-like characters. My view was that you wanted [Ra’s] to have familiarity as a mentor. You wanted him to be played by somebody who you would immediately gravitate towards, the way that Bruce is desperately gravitating towards. An answer, a father figure. Someone he can cling to.”  he shared on Warner Bros.’ YouTube channel

READ MORE: “He’s too handsome”: Not Christian Bale, Liam Neeson Had a Score to Settle With Another Batman Actor’s Oscar Nominated Movie

Eventually, Nolan’s choice proved to be a success. Proud of the actor’s portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul, the filmmaker said that Neeson wonderfully presented the seductive qualities in terms of the villain’s philosophical ideologies. Furthermore, it’s safe to say that The Dark Knight Trilogy‘s success and enduring legacy clearly reflect Nolan’s knack for making bold choices that resonate with audiences.

Source: Warner Bros YouTube

Written by Devyani Sharma

With a portfolio of over 600 articles, Devyani Sharma is a freelance writer working in the Entertainment and Sports niche. With a Master's Degree in English literature, Devyani places great importance on the power of words and their ability to connect with readers. When not busy watching sci-fi movies, action thrillers and comedies, Devyani indulges in her love for fiction novels and writing about NASCAR races.