As previously reported, casting for the upcoming Batgirl film had been in a very close competition between actresses Haley Lu Richardson (Unpregnant) and Leslie Grace (In the Heights).
However, it appears the choice has now been made. Leslie Grace is officially cast as the new Batgirl for the HBO Max exclusive film and the young actress has shared her excitement for the part on her social media. Check out the details below.
The Batgirl film has been in the planning stages since 2017, but did not progress much until 2019. At the time, the film was intended as a theatrical release and would be part of the DC Extended Universe of films along with the Justice League, Birds of Prey, Suicide Squad, and the rest.
However, due to various circumstances, including mixed reactions to recent entries such as Wonder Woman 84 and Birds of Prey, as well as the Coronavirus pandemic, changes had to be made. Now the Batgirl film would be an HBO Max exclusive. It is also unclear whether it will still be part of the DCEU or in a separate universe (as in the case of The Batman with Robert Pattinson).
After it was confirmed that the film will be directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Badboys For Life) and scripted by Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey and the upcoming The Flash film), anticipation for who would be cast in the leading role ran high. Warner Bros. initially expressed interest in casting Kirsten Stewart (Twilight). It was later decided to cast a fresh face for the title role.
Early this year, four actresses’ names emerged as the leading contenders. Aside from Leslie Grace and Haley Lu Richardson, Isabela Merced (Dora and the Lost City of Gold) and Zoey Dutch (Zombieland: Double Tap) were also in the running.
On her official Twitter account, Leslie Grace confirmed that she had bagged the role of Barbara Gordon and Batgirl. The actress stated she is "beyond excited" and thanked the filmmakers handling the DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. production for HBO Max, committing to give the role all she has:
I am BEYOND EXCITED to embody Barbara Gordon, your #Batgirl ! I cannot believeeee what I’m writing rn… THANK YOU DC for welcoming to the family! I’m ready to give her all I’ve got! 🦇💜✨ https://t.co/muq9GuVVk6
— Leslie Grace (@lesliegrace) July 21, 2021
Created in 1967, Batgirl first appeared in Detective Comics #359. Although technically the second Batgirl (the original being Bette Kane created in 1961), the Barbara Gordon version became the most popular thanks to her appearance in the extremely popular Batman TV series. Portrayed then by the late Yvonne Craig, Batgirl became a fixture in the Batman mythos as an important ally in the Caped Crusader’s war against crime and corruption in the city of Gotham.
Over the years, Batgirl had evolved from being a part-time adventurer to a full-fledged crimefighter on her own. However, she chose to retire her cape and cowl and to live a civilian life. But Barbara would then become a victim of the Joker’s insanity. Unaware of Barbara’s dual identity, the Joker attacked her in her apartment. Shot point blank, Barbara’s spine was damaged, causing her to lose the use of her legs.
Barbara would later choose to continue to fight against crime in her own way, as the premier computer hacker in the world, named Oracle. It was in the guise of Oracle that Barbara assembled the all-female team of heroes and anti-heroes called the Birds of Prey, recruiting the likes of Black Canary, the Huntress, Catwoman, and her successors to the Batgirl mantle, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.
Much later, during the reboot of the DC Comics multiverse in Flashpoint and the New 52, Barbara would regain the use of her legs through experimental surgery. She has since operated as both Batgirl and Oracle, serving as a mentor to the younger heroes who took up the Batgirl moniker.
Although Yvonne Craig is the most well-known Batgirl actress, there have been others who have played the role. Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) played a version of Batgirl, though instead of being Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, she played Barbara Wilson, the niece of Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Another prominent live action portrayal was in 2002’s short-lived TV series, Birds of Prey. Here, the role was portrayed by actress Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers). Meyer played the older Barbara Gordon paralyzed by the Joker and operating as Oracle. She did appear as Batgirl in flashbacks and in one episode against the assassin Lady Shiva.
Batgirl has also appeared in most of the animated Batman series, such as 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series (voiced by Melissa Gilbert), The New Batman Adventures (Tara Strong, 1997), and most recently in Harley Quinn (Briana Cuoco, 2019). Batgirl has also appeared in video games such as Batman: Arkham Knight and the upcoming Gotham Knights (2022).
Controversy and criticisms
A couple of controversial opinions have emerged about Leslie Grace’s casting. Some fans have expressed their displeasure that the role has been race swapped, as another example of casting an actor of color for a traditionally Caucasian role instead of developing existing diverse characters (who are less prominent). However, this has become a common practice in genre projects. In fact, prior DC properties such as Man of Steel and Birds of Prey have taken a similar approach with Perry White (played by Lawrence Fishburne) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett), respectively.
Another criticism is that Leslie Grace is known more as a singer with only one prior acting role. This was particularly raised as a comparison to the other actresses that were vying for the Batgirl role. But to her credit, Grace’s portrayal of Nina Rosario in the Warner Bros. Pictures musical film "In the Heights" was critically acclaimed. Regardless of the criticism, the singer-actress is looking forward to portraying the fan-favorite superhero.
Batgirl will be an HBO Max exclusive film with the release date to be announced.