Who Should Play Nightwing?

The Pop Break Staff Stunt Casts The Recently Announced DC Film

Late yesterday it was revealed that The Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay’s next project will be a Nightwing movie. Pretty much every other detail remains unknown, including the lucky actor who will portray the Boy Wonder so some of us at The Pop Break got together and gave our two cents as to who would make the best Dick Grayson. Our picks are based on nothing but personal preference so if anyone happens to be right, make sure to give them a TON of credit.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Josh Sarnecky)

Who’s ready for another DC-WB casting controversy?  After the backlash following previous casting decisions, every actor in the DC cinematic universe is susceptible to intense scrutiny.  And Nightwing/Robin/Dick Grayson is arguably the most beloved character in the DC universe that has yet to be cast.  So why not go with one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood who also has some comic book experience?

Aaron Taylor-Johnson already has two superhero roles under his (utility) belt, and recent history tells us that actors do better during their second or third outings.  Just look at Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, and Chris Evans.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson may not have stolen many scenes in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but he gave a solid performance and proved he can hold his own in a tent-pole comic book movie.  Now he’s coming off a Golden Globe-winning performance in Nocturnal Animals and on top of that, he’s also the right age (around 20 years younger than Ben Affleck’s Batman) and has the right physique.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson clearly has the experience and skills to play Batman’s greatest protégé.

Adam Driver (Anthony Toto)

Back in 1996, I read one of my favorite comic books of all-time: the first issue of Nightwing by Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel. Twenty-one years later, I type the following words with the highest levels of adrenaline pouring through my veins: WE FINALLY HAVE A LIVE ACTION NIGHTWING FILM ON THE WAY!!!!!

Director Chris McKay will absolutely knock this film out of the park. Regardless of the current state of DC Films, I have zero doubts in my mind after having seen The Lego Batman Movie. This man knows the Batman universe, most importantly, the Batman Family better than anyone who has approached this project beforehand. Yes! Yes! Yes! Christmas came early on February 23 in the form of a Nightwing movie.

Who will don the Black and Blue as he patrols the streets of Blüdhaven?  Going back to rumors in 2014, I believe Adam Driver would be the perfect choice to portray Dick Grayson. He is quickly becoming one of the most polarizing villains in cinema and reprising such an iconic hero feels like the perfect career yin and yang. He certainly has the stamina and pedigree to handle of a film of this magnitude. Based off his appearance on Saturday Night Live; he possesses the witty sarcasm and comedic timing to counteract whoever plays the serious Bruce Wayne.

So to my fellow Nightwing fanatics out there, let’s rejoice and vote for Adam Driver to portray Nightwing in 2020. For the record, I have long black hair and could be mistaken for Richard Grayson. If Adam is too busy with Star Wars, Warner Brothers could certainly call me. ; )

Daniel Radcliffe (Dan Cohen)

That’s right. Harry Potter. This is your Dick Grayson right here. Daniel Radcliffe is one hell of an actor. If you’re still typecasting this guy as Harry Potter, you need to get out more. Before we explore his career further, let’s quickly re-examine his run as the boy wizard. It’s fair to say Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter is comparable material. While the Lord of the Rings trilogy are better movies than the eight Potter flicks, one area they don’t win in is lead actor. I’m sorry, Elijah Wood is borderline Hayden Christensen in those films. I said it.  When you look at Potter though, in particular the later ones, Radcliffe is a fantastic quarterback for that series.He’s acting up to par with Alan Rickman in the last movie, carrying all the emotional weight that is required.

Outside of Potter land, he’s already shown a ton of versatility. His performances in Horns, What If and Swiss Army Man have been praised to the high heavens.This versatility is essential for a character like Dick Grayson. Grayson is often the smart ass with a glib remark, but in one brief moment he can shift to full-throttle intensity, taking out bad guys with precision and skill.  There’s no doubt in my mind Radcliffe can deliver all of this in spades.

The real clincher for me is Radcliffe’s first movie post-Potter, The Woman in Black. This was not a good film, but Radcliffe made it passable. We’re talking about a boring, period piece horror film, which is basically my worst nightmare. The fact that Radcliffe was still able to conjure up an engaging lead from absolutely nothing is impressive as hell. And this was fresh out of Harry Potter, so the typecasting was worse than ever.

Put this guy in the superhero spotlight, and he significantly ups the quality. This is your guy. Hands down!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Bill Bodkin)

While I may not be as fluent in the DC Comics world as my fellow contributors to this piece, I still have a few theories about movies.

With a Nightwing adaptation announced, the first person that popped into my mind was Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Why? Well, (spoilers) when The Dark Knight Rises ended we see his character (middle name Robin) discovering The Batcave. Wouldn’t it make sense that this actor, already established in the DC/Bat-verse, take up the mantle of a character we kinda already assumed he was (Robin/Nightwing)?

JGL can carry a movie from a popularity/charisma standpoint, is more than capable in the action world, and brings with him much-needed dramatic gravitas. He’s the perfect choice.

Michael B. Jordan (Matthew Nando Kelly)

When you think of Nightwing, the first traits that come to mind are probably “handsome,” “athletic,” and “really handsome” but a big part of the character that is often overlooked is the fact that Dick Grayson has some serious daddy issues. And can you blame him? His parents died in a circus accident and his adoptive father may be the most emotionally guarded/unapproachable/remote superhero in history. Because this trait is an essential part of the character, who would be a better star to don the domino than Adonis? Creed, that is.

Michael B Jordan is everything you want in a Nightwing. He’s handsome. He’s athletic. He’s really handsome. And on top of all of that, Jordan has played two characters in big budget movies whose inner struggle deals solely with an absent or distant father figure. Creed was all about the complicated relationship between Adonis and Rocky, and Michael B. Jordan blew that performance out of the water. Even in a garbage movie like Fant4stic, Jordan turns in a solid performance as a superhero who can’t get over the fact that he’s adopted.

Now I know what you’re saying. “This is a brilliant move. You are clearly a visionary and the voice of our generation BUT Michael B Jordan has not only been in the Fox Superhero Whateververse, but he is also slated to star opposite Chadwick Boseman in Marvel’s Black Panther. Actors almost never cross universes.” I hear ya. It would be unprecedented but remember that Marvel looooooves to kill their (usually underdeveloped) villains and there is no way on Galactus’ Green Earth we are getting a Fant5stic. That means in a year, Michael B. Jordan’s dance card will be emptier than a Fant4stic matinee and Nightwing is the perfect film to fill it.

Ryan Potter (Al Mannarino)

When Ryan Potter (the voice of Hiro in Disney’s Big Hero 6) found out there would be a solo Batman film starring Ben Affleck, he jumped at the chance to prove to Warner Bros., that not only should there be a Robin in the film, but also Potter should play Tim Drake. He even posted a video of himself in the Robin colors fighting off a few bad guys to prove to Ben that Batman needs a Robin and that he should portray him in the upcoming film. I think showing that much love for a character and proving that you have the skills to adapt that character correctly is a good enough reason to cast Potter as Nightwing. He’s the right age for the role and if you need any further evidence, watch the video yourself.

Zac Effron (Matt Gilbert)

I’ve been waiting for Zefron to join the superhero family for a long time. Frankly, it’s surprising Marvel still hasn’t scooped him up. Efron, to me, would be a perfect Dick Grayson. The 29 year old has had a superhero body for years (see: Neighbors) and the comedy chops worthy of a character played in the past by Neil Patrick Harris and Chris O’Donnell. It’s remarkably easy to picture Efron in the skin-tight black and blue (sure to bring in all the money shots for all kinds of fans), performing nimble acrobatics and kicking ass with the escrima sticks and speeding around Blüdhaven on the motorcycle. Ask any Zefron fan if they think he’s handsome enough. Just add the black mask to his already superhero-sculpted face and we’re in business.

But more than his physical attributes, of which there are many, Efron also fits the motivation of Nightwing, himself. The logic behind the character boils down to a simple idea: Dick telling Bruce, “I’m not a kid anymore. I can’t keep living in your shadow.” Efron is 29 but somehow still finds it difficult to escape the stigma of being attached to the High School Musical movies that began over a decade ago. Though his resumé has expanded since the series final installment, he has yet to be taken seriously as an actor. Possibly because critics and audiences can’t help seeing him as Troy Bolton. But like Grayson, Efron is not a kid anymore. He is more than capable and is ready to prove himself and becoming his own leading superhero would be the perfect chance to prove that. Roles in Efron’s recent past indicate to me that he could bring to Dick this determination and angst quite naturally. It’s time for him to come out of Troy Bolton’s shadow.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.