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Tom Hardy as Harvey Bullock in The Dark Knight Rises?

Tom Hardy Detective Harvey Bullock

Ever since Tom Hardy was announced as a lead in the next Batman film, now officially named The Dark Knight Rises , rumours have been circulating as to which character he'd be playing.

Our own theory had Hardy portraying psychologically fractured supercop Max Cort - but now the IMDb are rumouring that he will be playing another, more famous member of the Gotham PD; Detective Harvey Bullock.

Bullock and the Bat have a long history, with the Detective first appearing in the comic in the 1970s as a crooked cop.

After the reboot of the Batman timeline in the 1980s, Bullock became a more heroic figure, albeit one who is well known for his dislike of The Bat, and for his aggresive temper.

Most importantly, Bullock is known for getting results the old fashioned way; bringing criminals to justice with good solid policework rather than a cowl and cape.

For this reason the IMDb's listing carries weight - Detective Bullock fits very neatly into Christopher Nolan's Gotham, a cop who is fiercely loyal to Commissioner Gordon, and to the badge - a real, complex character without masks or make-up.

An early storyline from this era has Bullock and Gordon working together to prevent an attack by The Joker, without Batman's assistance.

Is this the character who will allow Batman to retire, a man who could help inspire Gotham, as Bruce Wayne hoped Harvey Dent was in The Dark Knight ?

We already know the police will be hunting Bats in the next film. The fact that Bullock and Batman can't stand each other - despite a largely reluctant mutual respect - makes for potentially dynamite scenes between Bale and Hardy, neither man willing to back down, both aware they need the other in order to clean up Gotham.

In the Animated Series, Bullock was sometimes portrayed as an oafish half-wit, little more than comic relief. With Nolan and Hardy behind him though, he could become much closer to his comicbook incarnation - imagine Colin Farrell's detective in Minority Report crossed with Hardy in Inception . Wow.

And if Hardy is Bullock, and we stress 'if', does this also mean that the 'female lead' that Nolan is currently looking for is Detective Renee Montoya, Bullock's partner?

So many questions, so many awesome possibilities. 2012 can not arrive soon enough!

The Dark Knight Rises is released July 20 2012.