One of Batman’s most iconic villains is Oswald Cobblepot AKA “The Penguin.” Unlike the Dark Knight’s arch-nemesis The Joker, Penguin’s breed of evil stems not from insanity, but from his embitterment at being rejected by not only the upscale aristocracy he was born into, but by Gotham society as a whole – including his own parents.
In most incarnations, Oswald Cobblepot suffers from profound physical birth defects that make him literally resemble a penguin, and while’s he’s very intelligent, he lacks any superpowers or supernatural abilities.
Cobblepot’s crimes usually involve heists or other forms of theft, and he is known as the “Gentleman of Crime” because he performs his crimes in impeccable attire, usually a tuxedo and top hat.
The Penguin also often sports a monocle, and his weapon of choice is a trick umbrella that usually contains either a hidden blade or a disguised machine gun.
Alongside The Joker, The Penguin is one of Batman’s most famous villains, so he would be a natural choice for an adversary in DC’s new cinematic universe. The question remains though; of the Penguin were to appear in the DCU, perhaps in the rumored film The Batman (2018), who should play him?
Here are our top three choices:
Choice #3 Kelsey Grammer
In Batman Returns (1992), we saw a version of Oswald Cobblepot with political ambitions, albeit they were more of a theatrical distraction for his master plan. Nevertheless, Penguin is a figure who craves power, and Kelsey Grammer recently demonstrated his ability to portray a crooked and power-hungry mayor during his two-season tenure as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane in Boss (2011-2012).
Grammer’s Penguin would be a character similar to the version seen in Batman: Earth One, in which Cobblepot became Gotham’s corrupt Mayor.
Grammer might have a harder time pulling off the quirkier side of the character though, which brings us to our second candidate.
Choice #2 Toby Jones
The Penguin is known for being one of Batman’s quirkier foes. He waddles around, has flipper-like hands, and eats raw fish; not the most menacing combination of traits. What makes him fearsome is that despite his irregular appearance and strange behavior, he is extremely capable and dangerous. In some ways, he can be a little bit of a wolf disguised as a lamb… or in this case, a chubby flightless bird. This personality is somewhat similar to the character Jones played in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dr. Zola.
No one fears Dr. Zola because of his looks; he’s a quirky little man with a big head and a funny German accent. Zola becomes a credible threat though when we see what kind of devices his mind can create. This is not to say that the Penguin could ever be a mad scientist, but rather that Jones could bring a sense of menace to a villain who, on the outside, might appear too awkward to pose a real threat. Toby Jones is of course tied to the MCU, so his involvement would likely be near impossible, but his take on the character would be interesting to say the least.
Choice #1 Tom Wilkenson
In most incarnations, Penguin is associated with the mob. Whether he was trained by them, negotiated his way into their ranks, or launched a hostile takeover of their assets, Penguin is strongly linked to organized crime. This is an aspect of the character that Tom Wilkinson would be familiar with given his renowned portrayal of mafia boss Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins (2005).
With Wilkinson, we’d probably be getting a Penguin that is less… odd than Danny DeVito’s character. If played by Wilkinson, we’d probably see an incarnation resembling the Penguin we see in the Arkham series.
Ben Afleck’s Bruce Wayne is in his mid 50’s, so it would be appropriate to have Wilkinson, who’s 67, playing this older villain since Penguin is supposed to be significantly older than Bruce Wayne. This would also mean that Wilkinson’s Penguin would have already gained complete control of the underworld and would be ready to hurl the full might of his criminal Empire at Affleck’s grizzled and experienced Batman.
So those are our thoughts, what do you think? Do you have another actor in mind to play the Gentleman of Crime? Let us know in the comments!