How Robert Pattinson Approached Batman’s Origins For His Take On The Character

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In The Batman, audiences are being introduced to a brand new big screen incarnation of the Caped Crusader – but the film isn’t an origin story. Described to be taking place in “year two” of Bruce Wayne’s fight against the scum of Gotham, the blockbuster is purposefully not retelling the story of how Batman became Batman so that it can tell its own original story with the beloved character at its center.

Of course, just because we aren’t seeing the origin tale on screen doesn’t mean that it wasn’t something that star Robert Pattinson and co-writer/director Matt Reeves had to think about in the making of the movie, and both recently revealed some fascinating thoughts about where this version of the hero comes from, and why he does what he does.

A special press event for The Batman was held last week on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles, and during a panel with Pattinson and Reeves I asked the two men about how they personally considered and approached the origin story for their new version of Bruce Wayne. The actor admitted that it was something that he not only thought about frequently on set, but that he actively infused into his performance. He explained,

We discussed it a lot. It's funny, because you want to avoid doing origin story, but then you invariably... it's a new version of the character, and you're so aware of the origins that you end up trying to sort of play it in the subtext and in little moments… Hopefully it kind of comes across, and it's kind of different to the traditional origin story as well. He doesn't go away and train and come back as a fully mastered Batman at all. And he's not the traditional kind of Playboy persona as well. Something has happened to him in his past. There's too much trauma for him to deal with.

At present we don’t know exactly what kind of path Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne took to become Batman, or the kind of training he received so that he can beat criminals to a pulp – but what the star did make clear is that this version of the hero is not a perfect warrior as a result of that training. Instead, he is using his secret identity to hide from persistent memories of the greatest trauma in his life: the death of his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Digging into the psychology of Bruce Wayne, Robert Pattinson says that the character in The Batman has failed to move past that pain, and he feels it constantly whenever he is going about his normal life. The only thing that puts the hurt on pause is putting on his cape and cowl:

[I]n all the other tellings of the story, as far as I can tell... Well, some do that... but the residue of the trauma is still there, but he's basically kind of mastered it and turned it into Batman. Whereas I think what I was interested in talking to you about was like, when he's Bruce, it's still the day his parents died. Like, he hasn't gotten over it at all, and he's become Batman almost in order to survive his present rather than think, 'Oh, I'm gonna make a new future.' It's to protect himself as much as anything else.

Once Batman is done with a night of crime fighting, however, he has to go back to his unmasked existence… and that’s when the pain flows back in. Robert Pattinson continued,

And as soon as he takes it off, then he just goes back to being a 10 year old boy again, and the pain is still very much real. And I think that's kind of what we were talking about, that he's sort of addicted to putting on the suit… And it's a relief as much as anything else. And it's a relief to be hurt and inflict that pain which is inside your head on others and kind of get it out of yourself when he is had it for his almost entire life, inside his own mind.

Expanding on Robert Pattinson describing Batman as an addiction for Bruce Wayne, Matt Reeves took the conversation one step further by suggesting that “hero” isn’t a properly fitting moniker because there is an key amount of selfishness that plays a part in his motives. It’s obviously a good thing that he is using his honed skills and resources to try and stop criminals, but he’s not really doing what he is doing because of a noble mission to save Gotham.

In Matt Reeves’ words, his actions as a vigilante all come down to Bruce Wayne dealing with his personal issues:

I think the idea of being Batman, honestly, it's not altruistic. It's a desperate attempt to make meaning. And that was the thing I think we always talked about, was this idea of like... I've heard you say it, that in some way, the faces of everyone you come up against, they're the faces of the killers of your family. And so that idea of personalizing everything, and the idea that as Bruce Wayne, he's totally lost.

The origins of Batman are some of the most well known in pop culture, and in approaching a new iteration of the character Matt Reeves had the challenge of finding a fresh angle. He found it in Bruce Wayne’s persistent trauma. Said the filmmaker,

I kept thinking, 'Well, there's another way to go,' which is this idea of thinking of him almost as a member of the Kennedy family or like one of the Royals, and in the wake of this death, he's never quite recovered.

Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, Paul Dano, and more, the epic three-hour long The Batman arrives in theaters on March 4 (tickets are on sale now at the movie’s official website). Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for a whole lot more coverage of the film as we get ever closer to its release, and check out our Upcoming DC Movies guide to learn about everything that is presently cooking when it comes to feature films based on DC Comics.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.