Once more stating that Leonardo DiCaprio was a top choice to play the Riddler in The Dark Knight Rises, David S. Goyer also explains why the actor and the villain were not chosen. Going back to 2012, Goyer claimed to Empire Magazine that Warner Bros. had informed them, “Obviously it’s gonna be The Riddler, and we want it to be Leonardo DiCaprio.” Nevertheless, Nolan chose Tom Hardy and Bane over Leonardo DiCaprio and the Riddler.
Goyer explains why they ultimately decided against adopting Riddler and DiCaprio, whom Nolan had cast in Inception at the same time, on a recent episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast. Goyer elaborated, “Chris is very process-driven. And one of the things I think is revolutionary in hindsight is, that we did in the process was— I had this sense with the Spider-Man movies, and when these superhero movies started getting made and you had sequels that the studios would say, ‘OK, who is our villain of the next movie going to be? And let’s build a movie around that.”
He further added, “Chris was staunchly against that [approach]. Because he said, ‘That’s not a bottom, ground-up way of telling a story. Let’s do it in a very naturalistic way. Let’s figure out what kind of story we want to tell and what we want to thematically explore with Bruce and then let’s figure out a villain that fits that story.” Goyer continues that the studio continued pushing their ideas after The Dark Knight became such a huge success, especially with Leonardo DiCaprio as the Riddler. He recounted, “We had all these pitches. I remember after The Dark Knight, the head of Warner Bros. at the time, at the premiere said, ‘You gotta do The Riddler. Leo as the Riddler. You gotta tell Chris! Leo as The Riddler.’ And I had to say, ‘Dude, that’s not the way we work.’”
Goyer cited Nolan’s desire for a fresh new innovative Batman, someone who could match Batman both emotionally and physically. “The dirty secret of The Dark Knight Rises is that it’s modeled after Rocky III, you gotta get knocked down to get back up,” Goyer said. “He’s getting old and you need someone who is just a brute.” Interestingly, Goyer claimed that when he then suggested using Bane to Nolan, his response was “Bane? Oh man, he’s so cheesy, I dunno.”