Batman To Battle An Oscar-Nominated Foe In Next Flick

Ken Watanabe lands role as nemesis Ra's Al Ghul.

Hollywood seems to think a hero (especially a costumed one) is only as good as his villain. Given that, director Christopher Nolan has to be at least a little psyched about his upcoming Batman project.

Nolan ("Memento," "Insomnia") has landed Academy Award nominee Ken Watanabe to play longtime Batman nemesis Ra's Al Ghul when production gets under way in London next month. Watanabe — up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in "The Last Samurai" opposite Tom Cruise — joins a cast that also boasts Christian Bale as Batman (and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne), Michael Caine as Alfred the butler, Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard (Wayne's mentor), Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Katie Holmes as a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne.

Little is known about the film's plot, save for the fact that it looks at the caped crusader's origin and his first forays into vigilantism. In Bat lore, Ra's Al Ghul is a mysterious figure of undetermined origin (claiming to be 700 years old will tend to give you a certain air of mystery) hellbent on using genocide to re-create Eden on earth.

The film should surface in 2005.