New Batman is Bateman

The long search for a new actor to play Batman in the next feature film about the caped crusader is finally over.

English director Christopher Nolan has spent a long time deciding but has chosen 29-year old Welshman Christian Bale to portray the dark knight.

Bale beat a number of other young hopefuls to the role including Donnie Darko star Jake Gyllenhall, Irish actor Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later and Dawson’s Creek regular Joshua Jackson.

Nolan said: "What I see in Christian is the ultimate embodiment of Bruce Wayne. He has exactly the balance of light and dark that we were looking for."

Readers of Empire, Britain’s biggest selling film magazine, recently voted Bale as the actor they would most like to see play Batman.

Chris Hewitt, deputy news editor at Empire, said: "I think it’s perfect casting. He’a great actor who has proven in the past that he can provide the darkness of the character, he’s very athletic and he’s great at accents. They are going for a much younger Batman so it’s basically a clean slate.
They are taking Batman back to his detective roots and some of the film may be set in London. It'll be interesting to see whether it is a realistic depiction of London or a Gotham-esque London."

Bale first came to prominence as the child star of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of The Sun.

Since then he has gone on to critical acclaim in films including American Psycho, where he masterfully played the infamous Patrick Bateman from Brett Easton-Ellis' book of the same name; Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Shaft.

Dan Jolin, features editor at Total Film magazine, said: "I’ve only just heard but he does seem like a good choice. He has the physique and facially he has that very chiselled look.

"I suppose the fact that he’s British is a little surprising as he’s going to be playing an iconic American superhero but Bale has shown he can play bad guys, good guys, action heroes and he can do a really good American accent."

Harry Knowles, the internet film critic, said: "[Bale is] as perfect as humanly possible to play a young Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In a further boost to the British film industry the production is being shot at Shepperton Studios in Middlesex.

Previous actors to play Batman on the big screen include Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Adam West and Val Kilmer.

The film series stalled after director Joel Schumacher’s 1997 Batman and Robin did poorly at the box office.

The new film, provisionally titled Batman:Intimidation, is due to begin filming in early 2004 and is expected to be released in 2005. Other casting is unconfirmed though it is expected that The Scarecrow will be the main villain.