DC has released several movies since they reset the universe in the dramatic conclusion to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War and they have all been original stories until now. This summer Warner Bros. Animation, DC, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment delivers the first retelling of a classic DC story in the new universe, and it is one that has affected comics and movie scripts ever since. Leaping from the pages of the iconic mid-1990s DC story written by Jeph Loeb (Batman: Hush, Hulk: Gray) and Tim Sale (Batman: Dark Victory, Daredevil: Yellow), Batman: The Long Halloween is a cornerstone of Batman lore. At the center of our tale is the triumvirate of crime fighters – Batman/Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles), Police Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) – as they try to solve the mystery of the Holiday Killer. In anticipation of the Blu- Ray and Digital release on June 22 Calendar Man, David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man, The Dark Knight) joins Bleeding Cool’s Jimmy Leszczynski for a one on one chat.
At the end of a long beautiful week in Berlin, Dastmalchian, a lifelong comic collector, is waiting for The Suicide Squad‘s Polka Dot Man to hit the big screens as he sits down to share his thoughts on Batman: The Long Halloween, where villains get their henchmen, and how surreal it is for him to bring Julian Day/ Calendar Man to life.
Bleeding Cool: You are known for roles in comic book movies such as Joker’s henchman in The Dark Knight, Kurt in Ant-Man, Abra Kadabra on The Flash, Polka Dot Man in The Suicide Squad, and now the voice of Julian Day/Calendar Man. Do you seek out comic-related characters as a fan, or do they naturally find themselves to you?
David Dastmalchian: I think on a subconscious level, I have to. Because I can’t explain why I’ve been so blessed to be able to bring so many incredible comic book characters to life and why I have been able to be a part of so many incredible comic adaptations. It’s surreal to me that I’ve been able to do so many of these things professionally when I’ve spent my entire life dreaming about them… Do I spend most of my free time embroiled in the magic of reading comics and enjoying comic culture and animated films and films and live-action adaptations? Absolutely. Does that maybe guide or shape the way my inclination leads, undoubtedly, but at the same time, I just feel like I hit the lottery so many times that it’s incalculable, you know- these odds that I’ve gotten to be a part of so many fantastic adaptations of comic book world characters to these kinds of projects. And now, The Long Halloween. One of the greatest comic runs in the Batman canon, you know, and I get to be the fucking Calendar Man. Like, it’s mind-blowing that I get to do this.
You might have a little insight on this. Where do you think the Joker, and supervillains in general, hire their henchmen? Is there a temp service or a union?
DD: Yeah, It’s like central casting. No. I think it depends on the villain, the character, if you will. The Joker, you know people who would be enlisted to work with the Joker, everything is chaos. And the master manipulator that the Clown Prince is, he gets people to do his bidding. You don’t go work for the Joker because of the pension and health care. You know? You are not going to make it through that. No one survives being a henchman for the Joker. Why would anyone enlist in doing that and I think his hypnotic power over those who work under him is something that is terrifying. There are straight-up businessmen who rule with an iron fist, you know. You can think about Victor Von Doom or someone who has had to enlist soldiers and scientists to do his work (or) the King Pin and that kind of power. You think of the villains in this film that we are talking about today. Maroni’s men are just mobsters, right? A lot of time, the villain employs them with the allure of riches, wealth, power. But sometimes, it’s a much more nefarious thing. But not Julian; Julian works alone and sits alone in his little cell counting the days.
I know that you are a lifelong comic book fan; where would you rank The Long Halloween as far as Batman and or DC comic stories go?
DD: Oh, it’s absolutely at the top. I think that The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Returns, A Death in the Family, you know, Killing Joke. That’s like canon. That’s iconic. And the Long Halloween is so important the way in which Loeb and Sale did something that pulled back yet another layer in the twisted psychology of Bruce Wayne and Batman, but also what Gotham is. And all of the characters who inhabit this really sad and damaged place. And why it’s such a haven for individuals that- even on the right side of the law. As we find out as we go down this dark rabbit hole, that is the mystery that he is trying to unravel around The Long Halloween. Who’s good? Who’s bad? What is good? What is bad? What is this all about? … I don’t think there is a single writer or creator of Batman comics or films that doesn’t go ‘Oh yeah. The Long Halloween was a turning point.’ Even Christopher Nolan acknowledged the importance the long Halloween had on his creation of the Dark Knight.
There has been a lot of talk about that this version of The Long Halloween is “its own version. It lives in its own universe and its own story. Fans of the original story are anticipating some minor and major changes in the story. As a huge fan, do you think this version lands? Is it as effective as the original?
DD: Absolutely! It is so true to the spirit of the original and what Tim Sheridan (He-Man, Superman: Man of Tomorrow), who wrote and adapted the screenplay from the original story, has done is … the way that each of the characters’ lines and the way the dialogue, and then ultimately some of the action is portrayed in this it’s absolutely is true to that experience that I had the first time I read The Long Halloween… and then I saw the way the art comes to life, and I can hear all these incredible actors voices and this incredible music and soundscape that they created and produced for this thing. And I am terrified, of course, because I know what it feels like to love something so much and then to go see an adaptation of it. So I’m terrified, naturally, that the fans of The Long Halloween – what are they going to think of my calendar, Man? What are they going to think of the way that I interpret Julian? And I hope that they enjoy it, but I really truly believe they are going to love the film, and just what is captured here. I think it’s very special.
Your characters are known for their accents a lot of times, but Julian Day is very dry, very flat. Did you bring these ideas to the booth? Did voice director Wes Gleason (Superman: Red Son, Batman: Soul of the Dragon) help you find the voice at all?
DD: It was about acknowledging that his physical presence and strength and intimidation is one thing and the voice, and the way he conveys all the ideas and the – what’s going on psychologically with him. I came with the very strong idea that I wanted Julian to almost feel like a psychiatrist, or psychologists, talking to his patient when he is dealing with Batman. But in a way, that could really slip into his ear and start to fuck with him, for lack of a better verb. And Wes was so awesome. The whole team, everyone, was so fantastic. I got in there just the great direction I was given about the way in which exploring the tenor of the voice, and the softer, more quiet moments and allowing a lot of power to sort of slip through even in very softly uttered lines and phrases. I’m so grateful for Wes Gleason, man. I’ve dreamed about doing this kind of thing for ages.
What can you tease about Part 2 of Batman: The Long Halloween?
DD: You are going to finish this film dying to get to see the rest of the film and hear the rest of the story. Those of you, I’m sure most of the people who watch this are going to already have a familiarity with Batman The Long Halloween, I promise you – each of the different performances comes through, and you get to see the art and the way these scenes leap from the pages of the classic comic, now into this vibrant film. You’re going to be really thrilled.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, is currently available on Digital and Blu-ray.
The all-star cast includes Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Smallville) as Batman/ Bruce Wayne, Naya Rivera (Glee) as Catwoman Selina Kyle⁷, Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Las Vegas) as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke (Twilight, Revolution, Zoo) as James Gordon, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Deadwood, The Town) as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Ant-Man, Dune, The Dark Knight) as Calendar Man, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Knight) as Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor, Transparent) as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid (The Boys, The Hunger Games) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (American Dad!, Family Guy) as Solomon Grundy, Jim Pirri (World of Warcraft franchise) as Sal Maroni, and Alastair Duncan (The Batman, Batman Unlimited franchise) as Alfred. Additional voices were provided by Frances Callier, Greg Chun, and Gary Leroi Gray.
Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) directs Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One from a screenplay by Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen, Superman: Man of Tomorrow). Produced by Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Kimberly S. Moreau (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Supervising Producer Butch Lukic (Justice Society: World War II, Superman: Man of Tomorrow) and Executive Producers are Michael Uslan and Sam Register