With the news that Nightwing is coming to the DCEU, everyone has been asking, who’ll portray the former Boy Wonder on the big screen? Zac Efron is a popular name mooted in the forums and fan sites, but it’s likely the best possible candidate is right under our noses.
Meet Ben Barnes. He’s an English actor who’s been around for more than a few years carving out a decent career for himself; however, he’s only just recently staked his place under the Hollywood sun. At the age of 35, but with a far more youthful appearance, he might just be the right person to portray the established Dick Grayson in DC’s cinematic universe.
The necessary chops
Whether he’s played a prince (The Chronicles of Narnia series) or a smug douchebag (Westworld), Barnes has always commanded whatever time he has on the screen. Look at his portrayal as Logan in the latter as a good example: he became a character that you loved to hate. Yet, no matter what he did, his charisma was unwavering and you realised he was one of season one’s highlights.
Lest we forget, he’s also gone from portraying Dorian Gray to showing off his comedy skills in Killing Bono. He’s dabbled in a bit of everything and well versed in different genres, so this should bode well for whichever tone Nightwing ends up being.
Barnes is also a musical theatre-trained actor, which undoubtedly has prepared him for the more gruelling physical demands of performance. He may need to attend a few martial arts classes and acrobatic lessons to prepare for the crime-fighting vigilante role, but that shouldn’t be an issue unless he’s got a bad knee or an abhorrence towards exercise.
He’s got the look
At 1.85m, Barnes is no small man and will not look awkward standing next to Ben Affleck’s towering Batman. At the same time, his leaner frame suits the acrobatic stature of Dick. He doesn’t need to be as bulky as the Dark Knight; he just needs to look convincing as someone who’ll be able to wipe the floor with criminals. A bit more muscle and toning should do the trick.
Additionally, he possesses the dark flowing locks and classic good-looking features that we associate with Dick. He’s supposed to be a ladies’ man and pinup figure, and judging by Barnes’ performance in Westworld, he’s capable of satisfying both the ladies and gentlemen. Put a mask and suit on him and he’s ready to go.
The only issue is…
One tiny problem might prevent his casting as Nightwing: Barnes has already been cast as Billy Russo in The Punisher. Russo, more commonly known as the villain Jigsaw, will be a main role in the series; however, the show will reportedly take the character in a different direction.
While actors have crossed between Marvel and DC properties rather freely in the past, one has to question if the recent competitiveness between the two will prevent Barnes from playing for both sides. Nightwing will be a pretty big deal, so I doubt Warner Bros./DC will want someone who’s tied to another competitor and whose schedule might clash.
At the end of the day, it’ll be up to the studios to decide if he’s the right guy for the role—and this is not even taking into account if Barnes would even want the role. Nonetheless, this is one fan casting that we can get behind.