There has been a lot of speculation regarding the future of Batman on the big-screen in recent months. This year the world was introduced to an older, more world-weary crime fighterin Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than has ever been seen on-screen. Ben Affleck stepped into the cape and cowl under the direction of Zack Snyder, who together created one of the more memorable interpretations of the Caped Crusader ever committed to film.
While the movie didn’t primarily take place in Gotham City, the foundation of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s world was established within the new continuity of the DC Extended Universe in BvS. Audiences got a glimpse of Martha and Thomas Wayne, the decayed state of the Wayne Manor, the Batcave, and his skilled butler, Alfred Pennyworth played by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.
Irons will be making a return in next year’s Justice League, to once again provide support for Batman’s mission, which will have grown significantly from disrupting organized crime to saving the entire planet. Wayne is tasked with assembling a literal super team and will be assisted once again by Alfred. In a recent interview with CinemaBlend, Irons explained his involvement in Justice League, as well as the upcoming solo Batman film – tentatively titled The Batman – to be directed by Affleck.
“I have spoken to Ben. In Justice League, we have seven superheroes, and that means Alfred’s not that busy in the movie, and I said to Ben, ‘I hope I’m busier in yours.’ And he said to me, ‘You will be.’ He knows my proclivities.”
Whether he was repairing damage to the Batmobile, adjusting audio devices, or remotely piloting the Batwing, Irons’ incarnation of Alfred is the most physically able – aside from perhaps Sean Pertwee’s performance on TV’s Gotham – that has been seen in live-action. Alfred has always played a complex role in Wayne’s life alternating his responsibilities as butler, surrogate parent, former intelligence agent, and his right-hand man in Bat-crime.
The role of Alfred has a surprisingly established lineage of actors who have played the famed butler including Michael Gough and the legendary Michael Caine. However, Irons has the new opportunity to portray a more hands-on and able version of the character, which mirrors the more skillful Alfred that was found in the comic book pages of DC’s New 52 run.
It makes sense that Affleck would want to utilize the world-class acting abilities of Irons in a more prominent supporting role in his much anticipated movie. The Batman is expected to be a more intimate and grounded film than what we can expect from Justice League. Alfred is one of the rare characters that can actually get behind the cowl and help to humanize the Dark Knight, which should lead to more dramatic moments and reveals.
The last and perhaps most interesting part of Irons’ quote is that Justice League will feature “seven superheroes.” As far as what has been officially announced, the film will feature Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, the Flash, and inevitably a returning Superman, a total of six heroes. Who is the mysterious seventh? Perhaps, it was a simple miscalculation. Or perhaps Batman’s trusted confidant knows more than he is letting on. Could this be the clue that Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern fans have been waiting to hear? Or was Irons counting Queen of Atlantis, Mera, in his tally? We will find out soon.