In 1989, actor Pat Hingle took to the big screen to play the role of Commissioner James Gordon for director Tim Burton’s big budget adventure movie, Batman. The role saw Hingle don a long coat, and adopt a no nonsense demeanour, to become the head of the police department in a rundown Gotham City.
Working alongside actors such as Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger, Hingle proved to be an integral member of the cast who helped to make the movie a success. Sure, Commissioner Gordon wasn’t a huge part of the movie, and his scenes were few and far between, but he was a fan-favourite character, which Hingle brought to life.
And because Hingle was so popular in the movie, he was brought back by director Tim Burton for the 1992 Bat-sequel, Batman Returns. Once again, this wasn’t a huge role, but Hingle made the most of it and continued to remain popular with audiences.
When it came time for the next Batman movie, 1995’s Batman Forever, Hingle returned to the role of Commissioner Gordon for a third time, now under the watchful eye of director Joel Schumacher. He then popped up again in 1997’s Batman & Robin, before bringing his turn as Gordon to an end.
In total, Hingle played the role of Commissioner Gordon four times. For an entire generation he was their go-to Gordon, and one of only two actors to appear in all four ‘80s/‘90s Bat-films (the other being actor Michael Gough).
In the fickle world of filmmaking, appearing four times as the same character was a fantastic achievement for the actor, and one which only came about because he agreed to take on the role of Gordon for that very first Batman movie. And as the actor once revealed, he only took on that role for two very specific reasons.
Speaking in Michael Singer’s 1997 book, The Making of Batman & Robin, Hingle said one of the reasons he took on the role was due to a scene which closely linked his character, James Gordon, to Bruce Wayne. And while that scene didn’t make it into the movie (it was scripted but never filmed), it did have an impact.
Speaking about the scene, Hingle said: “In the initial Batman, Gordon was just a cop on the beat and, after hearing the gunshots, was the first one at the scene of the murder of young Bruce Wayne’s parents. He finds this little boy, crying over his dead mother and father, and the next day the Gotham newspaper runs a photograph of this kid clinging on to Gordon, who is trying to console him.”
He added: “That’s why every time I look at Bruce Wayne, what I’m trying to say with my eyes is, ‘do you recognise me yet, guy?”
So, the Gordon/Wayne connection was the first reason that Hingle signed up to play Commissioner Gordon, but what about reason number two? Well, this one was less about the character and more about the shooting location of the movie.
According to Hingle, his wife Julie “had never been to London, where we shot the first Batman, and I wanted to spend some time with her there.” As Batman was going to be London-based for quite some time, Hingle saw the shoot as a great opportunity for the pair to do some brief relocating, and the rest is history.
Every actor joins a project because of one factor or another, and Hingle’s reasons were pretty straightforward. Luckily for him, his decision to play Commissioner Gordon paid off, and it provided him with a steady acting gig for eight years.
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