In recent years, there has been an influx of takes being made for and against color-blind or non-traditional casting. But for franchises like Batman that has shown varied live-action portrayals of its characters over decades, one might assume that its films are less likely to be complicit in discrimination during casting.
However, “The Batman” star Zoë Kravitz revealed in a March 6 interview with The Observer that she got turned down from auditioning for Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” because she was deemed too “urban”—an industry euphemism meaning Black.
Kravitz recalled that when she attempted to audition for “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012, she was told that she was too “urban” for the role that she was eyeing. “I don’t know if it came directly from Chris Nolan,” she said. “I think it was probably a casting director of some kind, or a casting director’s assistant… Being a woman of color and being an actor and being told at that time that I wasn’t able to read because of the color of my skin, and the word urban being thrown around like that, that was what was really hard about that moment.”
While Kravitz didn’t explicitly mention which part she tried auditioning for, there’s a high chance that it’s Gotham’s Catwoman Selina Kyle. Anne Hathaway made her appearance in Nolan’s trilogy as the character in “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s a bit of a head-scratcher considering how Catwoman had been portrayed by iconic Black actresses Eartha Kitt and Halle Berry years prior.
On top of that, there are only two notable female roles in Nolan’s trilogy. Aside from Catwoman, there was Talia al Ghul—a character with mixed Chinese and Arab ancestry that was played by Marion Cotillard. Did the casting director feel differently when it came to whitewashing?
Lucky for us, Kravitz eventually got the last laugh. Fans and critics have been raving about her layered and “definitely” bisexual take on Catwoman in “The Batman” since its March 4 theatrical release.
Wary of getting pigeonholed, Kravitz said that she doesn’t go for roles that are explicitly about race. “At one point, all the scripts that were being sent were about the first Black woman to make a muffin or something. Even though those stories are important to tell, I also want to open things up for myself as an artist,” she said.
Kravitz added that her parents, Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, “both dealt with being artists who didn’t act or dress or look or sound the way a Black person was supposed to act in terms of what white people specifically were comfortable with.”
“It took me a long time to not only accept it but to love it and want to scream it from the rooftops,” Kravitz admits.
While we’re glad that Hollywood is slowly embracing diversity and honoring the BIPOC community, change shouldn’t stop at performative representation. Besides casting, there are still systemic issues it needs to confront, like the pay gap that continues to undervalue women of color.
But let’s circle back to Kravitz’s strong and thoughtful performance. In “The Batman,” Kravitz proves that she’s the right woman for the job. Christy Lemire of Roger Ebert writes in a review, “She is his match, physically and emotionally, every step of the way. This is no flirty, purring Catwoman: She’s a fighter and a survivor with a loyal heart and a strong sense of what’s right.”
To borrow the words of Taylor Swift, “Zoë Isabella Kravitz is the Catwoman of dreams.”