Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe got off to a critically rough albeit profitable start, but Wonder Woman’s box office and critical success have certainly leveled things off for the divisive superhero franchise. Princess Diana’s win is also a triumph for superhero fans everywhere, ensuring additional entries in the DCEU, and giving Warner Bros more confidence in their fledgling shared universe as they move forward with future projects, including the Wonder Woman sequel.
One of the newest bright spots on the DCEU’s extensive upcoming film slate is Batgirl. Recently announced, Bat-heroine Barbara Gordon and her alter-ego will get a proper introduction thanks to the directorial talent of genre superstar Joss Whedon. At this point, though, little more is known about the film, aside from the likelihood that it will not be an origin story and could follow a similar path to the New 52 storyline, where Barbara regains full mobility (after being shot and paralyzed by The Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke) and takes up the Batgirl mantle again.
Naturally, Barbara Gordon is a hotly anticipated and highly sought-out role. Some rumors suggest Batgirl has already been cast, but that hasn’t stopped speculators from fan-casting actresses like theoretical front-runner Lindsay Morgan, Anna Kendrick, and Emma Stone, among others, taking up the cape and cowl. Recently, in an interview with OK! Magazine, Priyanka Chopra (Baywatch) announced her interest in the part, saying:
“So I definitely want to play a superhero and I want to have an interesting super power. I don’t know…Batgirl would be so cool!”
While interest in a part and landing it is light years apart, Chopra has a number of qualities that would maker her an intriguing and viable selection for Batgirl – as well as another step in the right direction for the DCEU.
Bat-Girl was originally a character named Betty Kane, created by Bob Finger and Sheldon Moldoff in 1961, as the niece of Batwoman, Kathy Kane. Batwoman and Batgirl were eventually cut from the comics in the mid-‘60s, but the latter returned in the decade, with Barbara Gordon stepping into the cape and cowl. Since then, a number of DC heroines, such as Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Helena Bertinelli (Huntress), and Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe (who went on to become Misfit) filled out the tights and cape. With a solid variety of different Batgirls, the DCEU has a lot of possible options for their feminine caped crusader.
Although it’s generally assumed that Barbara Gordon will take up the mantle – seeing as her father’s role as Commissioner Gordon will be introduced in Justice League – that doesn’t necessarily mean Chopra can’t play his daughter. Classically, Batgirl was a younger character in the comics and animated series. However, Ben Affleck’s older Batman and J.K. Simmons’ middle-aged Commissioner Gordon would place his daughter at a reasonable 30-ish, much like Chopra, who’s 34 at present. Naturally, there will be inevitable complaints that, since Simmons' Gordon is white, his daughter must be as well. There’s no reason Gordon’s wife and daughter have to be Caucasian; his wife, ex-wife, or widow (if he has one) could easily be of South Asian descent. Until the New 52 retcon in 2011, Barbara was actually adopted by her uncle, Jim Gordon, after her parents were killed. Even if the rumors are correct, and Batgirl takes inspiration from Babs' post-paralysis days, her origin story is already fairly scrambled (hence easy to add to or alter).
In the long run, Batgirl’s source material isn’t as vital as casting the right actress. In Priyanka Chopra’s case, she exhibits a number of qualities which would make her a solid choice. Her character, Alex Parrish, on Quantico deals with some incredible and volatile situations that allow her to showcase her range of emotions and grim resolve: capable of shifting from busting a perp to dealing with duplicitous agents to handling her on-again-off-again love interest.
She may be a fresh face to most Americans, but Priyanka Chopra is already a star in her native India. Using her Quantico success as a leaping-off point, she made her Hollywood film debut in Baywatch, alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron. While the big-screen adaptation of the '90s show didn’t exactly hit a homerun with critics or at the box office, Chopra managed to shine in an otherwise two-dimensional role, as villain Victoria Leeds. And, while her star is clearly on the rise, she's recognizable but not overexposed, something which would greatly benefit Batgirl, since actresses like Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence – as talented as they are – often carry their celebrity status into a role by default.
Casting Chopra as Batgirl comes with another powerful incentive for Warner Bros and DC: in addition to her capabilities as an actress, she also has a built-in overseas audience. While superhero films already exhibit universal appeal on a global scale, midlevel characters like Batgirl – despite her Bat-affiliation – often require a minor visibility boost. Since Chopra has acted in roughly 60 films in India, and is a major celebrity in South Asia and other Bollywood-familiar countries, her starring role would give Warner a leg up in India and several other markets.
Most importantly, casting Priyanka Chopra as Barbara Gordon represents a fantastic opportunity to bring another strong, confident woman of color to the big screen. With Wonder Woman raking in serious box office, continuing to prove the commercial viability of female-led superheroes, Chopra's turn as a well-known DC heroine stands poised to become another role model to millions of young women around the world. DC’s Suicide Squad and possible Birds of Prey movie already have the DCEU poised to outdo their MCU competitors in the female leads and ethnically representative areas. Chopra embodies an opportunity to match an up-and-coming talent with a powerful character and a nuanced director – a similar winning combination to Wonder Woman.
Priyanka Chopra’s acting skill, burgeoning American career, and established international presence make her an ideal choice for Joss Whedon’s Batgirl. Despite rumors of early Babs Gordon favorites, Whedon himself seemed to deny any pre-filled roles in April, stating: “I don’t have my eye on anyone.” Given his disinterest in traditional movie stars and his penchant for lesser-known (at least nationally), empowered female characters (a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the Indian talent actually makes a lot of sense. Priyanka Chopra playing Batgirl represents both a wise casting choice and a reminder that superheroes come from all nations.
An added bonus: watching Chopra's Barbara Gordon tear up the big screen with Black Canary and Huntress in the Birds of Prey movie, while (hopefully) battling Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
Source: Ok! Magazine