Bryan Cranston Talks Lt. Jim Gordon in Batman: Year One
Three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston flips to the other side of the law as the voice of Lt. James Gordon for the animated retelling of Frank Miller’s landmark comic in Batman: Year One, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies.
Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated Batman: Year One arrives today – October 18, 2011 – from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download.
Cranston earned Emmy Award nominations in three of his seven years as the lovable, goofy father on Malcolm in the Middle. It took a shift toward the dark side as chemistry teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad to start a record-tying run as only the second actor in history to score three consecutive Emmy wins.
As Lt. Gordon, Cranston gets to find a middle ground between his two best known roles – providing a moral center for the gritty tale of two men striving to bring their own idea of justice to an unjust world.
Cranston is joined in the stellar voice cast by Ben McKenzie (Southland, The O.C.) as Batman, Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) as Detective Sarah Essen. Alex Rocco (The Godfather) is the voice of crime lord Carmine Falcone.
Following his initial recording session for Batman: Year One, Cranston had the chance to discuss his thoughts on initially turning down the role of Jim Gordon, his love of the inner monologue, the inward journey afforded by comic books, his chances of one-day playing a certain Edwrd Nigma opposite a live-action Dark Knight, and much more. The man has won three Emmys – he obviously has important things to say. Read on …
You were Warner Bros. first choice for the role of Jim Gordon, but the feeling wasn’t mutual – you initially declined. What made you change your mind?
I always talk about the writing – I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I don’t want to just take a job, I want to be part of great storytelling. I always say that I don’t care if it’s a children’s play, I’ll do it so long as it’s great writing. I’ve done some animation work and, quite frankly, I haven’t loved all of it. So when they first offered this to me, I turned it down. I didn’t want to do something that I just assumed was goofy or cartoony.
Fortunately, my representatives convinced me that I needed to give this material a fair shake – and I’m so glad they did. I had no idea that animation could have such depth and sophistication. This is adult storytelling, handled in intrinsically adult ways. It’s interesting and thoughtful and dark and nothing that I thought I’d find in an animated script.
Jim Gordon is trying to find his moral center. He keeps getting shot down. He doesn’t want to work in this hellhole of a city, hated by his fellow cops, hated by his superiors. His wife is pregnant and he’s conflicted about bringing a child into this troubled world. He’s on an island. I was really surprised – in a good way. This script was well-written, unpredictable, good storytelling. And so I happily ate my hat because I’m so glad they forced me to read it.
The name in the film's title is Batman, but this is just as much Jim Gordon's story, isn't it?
What I was first attracted to in reading Batman: Year One was that James Gordon actually is the star. That's the way I look at it, anyway. That was really unexpected, especially the way he’s portrayed. My first experience with Batman was through the comics, but the Batman television series really had an impact. So I thought, “Oh, Gordon’s an old Irishman with that big, thick over-the-top brogue.” But there was no comic book silliness – there were twists and turns, darkness and light, and truly human mistakes that I’d never anticipated. And it’s as much Jim Gordon’s story as it is a story about Batman’s origins.
So is this your chance to finally put that education in police work to use?
(laughs) In thinking about James Gordon, basically I used my own background. I went to college to become a police officer. There's a certain similar decorum that all police officers have – it’s a skepticism and a curiosity and a bit of cynicism, too. And what I found in reading the script was that all those elements seem to be in place for the character. So all I wanted to do is to bring out that sensibility and make him real. He has to be a real guy, someone you believe could be this police officer, in order for you to accept the plight and the dismay that he's going through, and trying to do the right thing in a city that is surrounded by corruption.