by Matthew Eeles
While Hollywood struggles to get their own big screen adaptation of Batgirl off the ground, two Perth filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to start shooting their own fan film focusing on the adventures of the Darknight Damsel.
Written and directed by Chloe Brown (Red Dog True Blue, The Naked Wanderer) and Matthew W Reynolds (A Girl’s Best Friend), the Perth-shot Batgirl Returns is said to take its inspiration from fan-favourite comic books Batgirl Year One and The Killing Joke, with a heavy focus on Barbara Gordon.
We caught up with Brown, who will also don the cape and cowl as Batgirl herself, to discuss the project.
This is exciting! Tell us about the plot for Batgirl Returns?
Batgirl Returns is about the life of Barbara Gordon, known to the world as Batgirl. The film tells the story of her life and what drives her to help others. The audience will experience the journey of Barbara’s life from her past through to the present day. It’s a very exciting script with its fair share of ups and downs and we’ll get to see Batgirl as she becomes a different kind of hero for Gotham City.
Of all the comic book characters, why Batgirl?
Because Harley Quinn was taken. [Laughs]. I’ve always known of Batgirl, but never really knew her story. Especially the story of Barbara Gordon, if we look at the girl and not the superhero. Matthew W Reynolds, my co-creator, sent me a monologue to read over to see if I would be interested in using it for a voice reel piece. When I read the piece I immediately fell in love with the story and I was inspired so much, I saw the scenes and story come to life. I wanted to create it and share with Mathew my ideas for the script and now we’ve created it.
I’m a big fan myself of the DC Universe and Batgirl isn’t being utilised the way she should be. Matthew and I started working on the script before they announced there would be a possible Batgirl stand alone film in 2017 and we saw it as a sign to keep pushing forward and get this film made. What gave us an even bigger push was when we heard Joss Whedon at that point was on board to write the script. Joss is a major influence of mine, Matthew’s included and my biggest influence for the role of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in Joss’s Buffy Summers, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We were upset to hear Joss stood down from the Batgirl stand alone, but we hope with our fan film we will give Batgirl fans a film they love and the voice of Barbara’s is heard.
Batgirl made her first appearance in comic books in 1961 and since then there have been many different characters to don the cowl, from Barbara Gordon to Stephanie Brown. Why did you decide you wanted to focus on Barbara Gordon?
Barbara Gordon is the most iconic of the Batgirls. Matthew also just felt I had a resemblance to the character and that’s why he wrote the initial monologue with me in mind. Once I knew her full story, I was instantly connected. I am very lucky working along side Matthew on this project, he is the comic genius that has fueled me with the knowledge I have now. I feel so close to her now that we would even have discussions of what she would eat, where she would go, what electives she did at school.
Barbara experiences an incredible arc in her story, DC Comics not too long ago (2011) put Barbara back in the Batgirl costume after having her in a wheelchair for about 25 years as Oracle. Her story from Batgirl to Oracle to Batgirl again is such a powerful story of resilience. She isn’t beaten by her experiences but in a lot of ways becomes stronger by learning who she is and who she might become.
Where would you rate Batgirl in terms of the previous characters you’ve played?
Batgirl is a very strong and complex female character, she is extremely resilient and empowered. She is easily the most iconic character I’ve played. In the past I’ve played a multitude of characters ranging from the stereotypical damsel in distress type roles, to the leader and problem solver with a range of others in-between. As an actor, I like to look for roles that challenge me and excite me, but most of all engage me enough to want to explore and create something real. I prefer to choose roles that are strong and send a positive message to the audience, especially young girls and I believe Batgirl Returns will do just that. Playing Batgirl/Barbara Gordon is an incredible opportunity. I don’t think it can be compared to any other role. Plus playing a Super Hero is pretty cool.
Has the costume been designed yet?
The costume has been designed. I’ve been working alongside Sandra Bryans, our costume designer who I met when I was working on the concept trailer for Diedre Kitcher of Filmscope Entertainment’s project Star of the Guardians, based on Margret Weis’ New York Times best-selling series. I’ve had my first fitting and we have a bit to go, but its very exciting. We are creating something that has been inspired by a combination of iconic suits including, the Batgirl of Burnside comic suit, the 90’s Animated Series suit and Alicia Silverstone’s Batman and Robin suit. We hope the fans love it and they relate the suit to our Barbara and what she would chose to be her suit.
This is your first time in the director’s chair. How excited are you to call action on your first film?
Very excited! I’ve directed musicals and taught drama to students of my own so teaching and directing I feel comes very naturally to me. Being on set as an actor I’ve always admired the role of being a director and appreciated the ones that make me feel like I’m doing a good job at work. That help me to understand my character better emotionally or my movement choices then seeing that on screen is something incredible, that vision and understanding of a shot really intrigues me.
Was it important to have a female voice coordinating the shoot from behind the scenes?
Extremely. The majority of our crew for Batgirl Returns on and off set are actually female driven. After I worked with Matthew on the script to help give it a stronger female voice, I went into creating a whole world with him. Colour pallets are a softer touch then Batman’s grounded greys and chromes, we are taking a more earthy urban tone to the colours used during production and post production with pops of neon. The production design team have found beautiful locations around Perth, that represent Barbara’s Gotham City, finding a New York look here in our own backyard. Wardrobe and costume team are creating looks for the characters that are strong and empowering, yet practical and not sexualised. The production team are 100% on board in creating our vision and being true to our Barbara so she can be the people’s hero that watch our film when its released on line early 2019.
You’ve just completed filming WA-shot comedy The Naked Wanderer starring John Cleese. How was that experience?
It was such a great experience. An experience I nearly didn’t have, as I almost didn’t audition. My scenes were shot along side Angus McLaren (Packed to the Rafters, Hotel Mumbai) in Bunbury, Western Australia. My character Anastasia was a very fun character to play, which could’ve gone two ways. I took the risk and auditioned with the interpretation of the character I wanted to play and took that risk instead of going for the stereotypical choice. I’m very happy I took that risk. I booked the job, I worked along side amazing talent and the crew was great. I can’t wait for the film to come out and see the entire story unfold and of course the icon that is John Cleese.