BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN Interview: Writer Tim Sheridan On Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Changing The Comics & More
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two writer Tim Sheridan talks to us about key scenes in the sequel featuring Poison Ivy and Two-Face, his favourite iteration of Bruce Wayne, Josh Duhamel's work, and more.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two chronicles the second half of the yearlong crime saga that began in Part One. As the mysterious Holiday Killer continues their deadly crime spree, District Attorney Harvey Dent is pushed to the brink in his quest to bring justice to Gotham City.
Making matters worse, Bruce Wayne has been captured by Poison Ivy, leaving Gotham undefended during its darkest hour. Even mob boss Carmine Falcone is becoming increasingly desperate, striking a Faustian bargain with Gotham's new generation of super-criminals. You'll get to see how it all ends when the movie is released on Digital on July 27 (that's today!) and Blu-ray on August 10.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow writer Tim Sheridan penned both this sequel and Part One, and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to discuss the second half of The Long Halloween.
As well as touching on what it was like to explore characters like Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Poison Ivy in the movie, Tim - who is currently working on a new Shazam! series for DC Comics - also delves into making changes to the source material and how he handled all those villains in the final act. The writer even weighs in on the possibility of a sequel adapting Dark Victory!
I loved everything with Batman and Poison Ivy at the start of the film, but for you as a writer, how much fun was it for you to explore that dynamic?
You know, if I could have written an entire movie about Poison Ivy and Bruce Wayne in the Green as we call it, I would have happily done that. When I saw the final product and what the animators were able to do, it’s really lush and beautiful. It really transports you. For me, the exciting thing about that is when you watch Part One, and certainly, when you get into Part Two, Gotham City is a dark and scary place in many ways. There’s a real visual language that has been created by Butch Lukic and the team for Gotham City, and when we’re in this magical, lush world that Poison Ivy has created for Bruce, it’s an exciting thing to see that difference and [to see] Wayne Manor in a very different context to how we typically see it. What’s great about it is that while it is beautiful, something that beautiful in a movie like this tells you right away that something is wrong. I think they nailed it. It’s a beautiful, beautiful sequel.
Was it challenging portraying Harvey Dent’s descent into madness given how many characters you’re dealing with in a set amount of time?
Yes and no. I think that with Harvey, we did have a couple of big moments in Part One where we began to seed the idea that there was more going on for Harvey than was on the surface. There’s one scene, in particular, that is a strange one but was something we added to the movie to help move the story along. It’s Harvey standing outside Falcone’s building and I say Harvey, but the truth is that we went into that scene saying, ‘Well, let’s write this as a scene between Two-Face and Jim Gordon.’ It’s sort of the first real appearance of Harvey’s other self trying things out and going for a walk as he emerges into the world. We did some of that work there, and I think that really helps to layer Harvey’s character so that when we get into Part Two - which is jam-packed with a lot of characters and a lot of things going on - there’s a limited amount of space. That’s why it was so important to do this as a Part One and Part Two. We’d done some of the work with Harvey and we get to see that pay off in Part Two so we know that when things go wrong for him, it doesn’t completely come out of left field. We know he’s dealing with bigger things beneath the surface.
I loved seeing all the villains come into play in that final act, but how difficult is it for you to be writing all these characters in the same sequence and knowing you need them to all get their moment? (even if it’s just something like what The Penguin says to Batman)
I wish that we could spend even more time with all of those guys in that moment. The thing is, in the book, it’s basically like one page [Laughs]. It’s a real quick hit, so we were able to expand on that a little more and make it a really exciting beat. Coming at it as a writer thinking about the characters...these are characters that everybody knows and loves. You want to make sure everybody gets some of the spotlight for at least a moment. It’s integral to the story because The Long Halloween has always been about Gotham City turning the page from the criminals of old that we understand; the guys in suits who don’t wear costumes. We’re turning that page to the wilder costumed villains and the rogues gallery.
That moment, in particular, is where you see it take over as Two-Face leads them into the new age and the Gotham City we all know. It sets up the challenge that Batman is now going to face, so it’s important for everybody to get the spotlight and for us to know, ‘These are the people Batman is going to be dealing with.’ That little moment with The Penguin, which is so beautifully sold by David Dastmalchian, tells you a lot about the kind of relationship these two will have going forward.
You get to write everything from playboy Bruce Wayne to rookie Batman to a more confident detective in these films, but which of those is most enjoyable to work with?
Well, this is just my personal opinion here, but I had a lot of fun writing the, I don’t want to say anguished, but the Bruce Wayne who is really working out what the legacy of his parents is and how he fits into it. I thought that for someone to go through the process of putting the pieces together without having the key players there to help him build the story of that legacy says everything about him. He’s put a life together without having his mother and father there to help put it together which is what mothers and fathers do. For me, those were the most interesting scenes to write as he grapples with the concept of their legacy. What did they do? Is what they did good or bad? The idea of good and bad and two sides of the coin is very interesting, and Alfred tells him that everything is more complicated and there are, in fact, two ways to look at everything. For me, not only do I love Bruce Wayne offered Mai Tais at 8am to Gordon and Harvey [Laughs] but I love him dealing with the consequences of the life his parents left him.
Comic book fans will know that Dark Victory served as a sequel to The Long Halloween; would you be interested in coming back and adapting that do you think?
Well, let me tell you: no one has said anything to me about it! [Laughs] If people buy these movies, maybe it's a possibility someday, and if that is the case, then boy, I would love to revisit these characters. I wish we could have the entire cast back. Sadly, we lost Naya [Rivera], but she's so stellar in both of these movies and we really get to see her shine even brighter in Part 2, so I'm very excited for people to be able to see that.
The movie does feature an insanely talented voice cast, but having seen this first Part 2, were there any other performances, in particular, that really jumped out at you in terms of how they brought your dialogue to life?
I was absolutely bowled over by the work of Josh Duhamel who is, you know, pulling double duty appropriately enough as Harvey Dent and Two-Face. I thought the distinct voices of those characters, and I don’t just mean the way they sound, but the different nuances of them and how they go about pursuing their wants. It was remarkable to watch him work and I think we’re very fortunate because so much of the story hinges on that transition and the actor who can really invite you in and sell you on how that happens and what that means for the character. I can’t say enough good things about Josh’s work.
I thought it was really interesting how Part 2 manages to put a fresh spin on certain events so that fans of the comic books will be surprised, but were you intimidated having to make those changes or was it a necessary part of making this story work as a movie?
There’s always a level of intimidation when you’re taking a great work of art that’s so beloved and saying, ‘Okay, let’s interpret that in a new medium.’ There’s always apprehension and nerves surrounding that, but it was very clear we were going to need to refine and streamline a little bit of stuff so that the mystery really landed in the cinematic format. There’s always nerves, but you get past them because you know it’s the right thing to do and you have to do it.