Joshua Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal Line Up For 'Batman' Role

Also on the short list are Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy.

Have all of those years battling Dawson over Joey prepared Joshua Jackson to face off against someone like the Joker or Killer Croc? Well, that's just one of the questions Warner Bros. hopes to answer in the quest to cast the next Batman.

Producers and "Memento" director Christopher Nolan are meeting with a short list of would-be Dark Knights who are all hoping to put on the cape and cowl last worn by George Clooney in 1997's critically panned "Batman & Robin." Christian Bale ("American Psycho"), Cillian Murphy ("28 Days Later"), Henry Cavill ("I Capture the Castle"), Eion Bailey ("Fight Club") and former "Dawson's Creek" star Jackson are all in the running for the title role, according to various sources, including a report in Wednesday's Hollywood Reporter.

The list of actors lining up to test for the role also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, star of the cult indie flick "Donnie Darko" and Jennifer Aniston's love interest in last year's acclaimed "The Good Girl" (see "Aniston, Gyllenhaal Get Half Naked In 'Good Girl' "). Gyllenhaal nearly put a superhero suit on once before, when "Spider-Man" sequel negotiations with Tobey Maguire briefly went sour.

Whether any of these actors ultimately lands the role is anyone's guess, as superhero movie watchers will recall that the same studio has also met with a wide range of actors (including Josh Hartnett, Paul Walker and Ashton Kutcher) for a similarly minded "Superman" relaunch but has yet to cast anyone (see " 'Superman' Movie Still Has No Superman, And Now Has No Director").

Despite then being more known as a comedic actor, Michael Keaton headlined Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989 to the delight of fans and critics. The pair reenlisted for the successful "Batman Returns," though Val Kilmer ("Top Gun") took over the role in 1995's "Batman Forever," which, like "Batman & Robin," was directed by Joel Schumacher ("Phone Booth").

The lambasting levied on "Batman & Robin," which also included Alicia Silverstone ("Clueless") as Batgirl and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, stalled the series. Since then, Warner Bros., which controls the rights to all of the characters in the DC Comics universe, has tried a variety of approaches to getting Gotham's caped crusader back on his feet.

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream") teamed with comic scribe Frank Miller, whose gritty take on Batman is widely loved, to adapt Miller's "Batman: Year One" story into a film (see "Sequel Mania — The Other Attack Of The Clones"), though nothing has materialized. Wolfgang Petersen ("The Perfect Storm") wanted to pit Batman against Superman but moved on to a Trojan War project when the studio seemed more interested in making separate superhero projects happen first (see "Batman and Superman Have To Wait In Line Behind Greek, Trojan Warriors").

Christopher Nolan took over the project earlier this year (see "Next Batman Movie In Hands Of 'Memento' Director"). Warner Bros. is eyeing a 2005 release for the next "Batman," and plot details — such as which villain from his extensive rogue's gallery the Dark Knight may face — are being tightly guarded.

Meanwhile, Batman-related heroine Catwoman is getting the spinoff treatment, with Halle Berry in the lead role. That movie is scheduled for release next year (see "Halle Berry Eager To Dig Her Claws Into 'Catwoman' ").