The Batman director Matt Reeves on Paul Dano’s Riddler: "He's not just a serial killer"

Paul Dano's Riddler in The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Batman is not an origin story – not for Robert Pattinson's version of the Caped Crusader, anyway. Director Matt Reeves, though, saw the movie as an opportunity to dig into the origins of those characters around Batman. 

"Early on, this idea of doing a serial-killer story popped into my head, and I started thinking about superheroes; the idea of wearing costumes," Reeves tells Total Film over Zoom for the new issue of the magazine, available this Thursday (opens in new tab)

"I read Mindhunter. It made me think of the Zodiac killer, and how he actually wore this primitive costume that really is a primitive superhero costume... a rogues’ gallery costume. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really scary, the idea of people really wearing masks, and withholding their identities, and terrorizing people, and how scary that is.’ And so I started thinking, 'Well, it could be an origin tale for the Riddler, and it could be an origin tale for some of these other characters.'"

Specifically of the Riddler, who will be played by Paul Dano, Reeves says, "He’s not just a serial killer. He definitely has a political agenda. There’s a terrorist aspect to him. He’s indicting the city for what it is. And one of the things he’s doing with each of these crimes is, he’s attacking the so-called legitimate pillars of the city. The whole point of it was to put [Batman] on the path of trying to solve a mystery that was not only going to reveal the history of the city, and why it’s so corrupt, but that also is going to turn at a point, and become actually quite personal."

Fittingly, with details on the character sparse, Dano’s something of an enigma when talking to Total Film. "I was sort of schoolboy-excited," Dano beams of joining the project. "It’s one of the few times when there’s a really kind of shocking [feeling of], ‘I can’t believe that I get to do this.'" 

Like Pattinson and much of the rest of the cast, Dano is better known for smaller, idiosyncratic indies as opposed to towering tentpoles. While he’s not giving much away, he promises that the film offers “a different take” on the material, "especially for the Riddler". He also says he wants to preserve the "shockingly powerful" thrill he had when reading the script for the first time, for the audience.

The Batman hits cinemas on March 4. For much more from Reeves, Dano, and the rest of the star-studded cast, check out the brand new issue of Total Film (opens in new tab) when it hits shelves this Thursday, February 3.

Check out the new covers, as revealed by Matt Reeves:

See more

If you’re a fan of Total Film, (opens in new tab) why not subscribe so you never miss an issue. Sign up via MagazinesDirect (opens in new tab) and you’ll save money on the cover price, as well getting exclusive subscriber covers like the one you can see about.

Matt Maytum
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.

With contributions from