Sure as he knows how to do anything else, Christopher Nolan knows how to put a cast together. He's made three comic book movies now filled with Academy Award-winning talent like Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard and more. Indeed, the late Heath Ledger even won a posthumous Oscar for his turn as Joker in "The Dark Knight."
But that doesn't even speak to the smaller roles that populate Nolan's Batman movies. No matter how seemingly unimportant the character, the groundbreaking filmmaker always selects faces that make you stop and say, "Wait, it's that guy!"
Make no mistake, "The Dark Knight Rises" is filled with plenty of "that guys." Here's a rundown on some of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearances from actors you know and love, even if you don't know that you know them. Spoilers ahead!
» "The Dark Knight Rises" begins with the explosive IMAX sequence that debuted months ago, so you've had plenty of time to connect who plays the CIA operative in that climactic scene. For the latecomers, that's Aiden Gillen, best known to HBO subscribers as the smirking Littlefinger on "Game of Thrones." Viewers with a longer memory of HBO also know Gillen as Mayor Carcetti from "The Wire," widely agreed upon as one of the very best television shows in history.
» Another actor from Gillen's "Wire" days has a brief turn in "Rises." Actor Robert Wisdom, who appears in Nolan's last Batman movie as a soldier on the outskirts of a besieged Gotham City, played a pivotal role on seasons three and four of the Baltimore-set crime drama as Bunny Colvin, a police officer presiding over the experimental safe zone known by inner city kids as Hamsterdam. Wisdom also had a role on the third season of Fox's breakout thriller "Prison Break" playing Lechero, the inmate overlord of a virtually lawless Panamanian prison.
» Two other "Prison Break" veterans show up in "Rises," both of them on the right side of the law this time. First is actor Wade Williams, who starred on the Fox drama as brutish correctional officer Brad Bellick; he gets a promotion in "Rises," serving as warden of Gotham City's premier prison. Keeping thugs behind those bars is Reggie Lee, who plays one of John Blake's most frequently seen GCPD allies. He played Bill Kim, an operative working for the shadowy organization The Company, during the show's second season.
» (Wisdom, Williams and Lee are not the first "Prison Break" alums to appear in a Nolan Batman movie, either. William Fichtner, who starred as antihero Alex Mahone on the con drama for three seasons, played the ill-fated banker in the Joker-heavy "Dark Knight" prologue. But if you consider Fichtner a "that guy," I hate you. He's awesome in everything. Let's move on.)
» There's another cop who has dealings with Blake in "Rises," but not as an ally. Towards the film's climax, an unnamed uniform blows up a section of a bridge right out from under Blake, preventing the hero from getting children to safety. That cop is played by Desmond Harrington, who plays another cop on Showtime's "Dexter." There, he's Joey Quinn, the smart-mouthed detective with an on-again off-again relationship with Deb Morgan, Dexter's sister.
» Outside of the Gotham police force, one of the characters Blake interacts with most is Reilly, the head of the orphanage where the cop spent much of his childhood. He's played by actor Chris Ellis, who has appeared in all sorts of films and television series from "That Thing You Do" to "Justified" and beyond.
» "Rises" also features two veterans of "24" season four. William Devane has a brief appearance in the movie as the President of the United States, a role that's not far off from his character on "24," secretary of defense James Heller. (You ought to know Devane from a whole lot of other films and shows, too, but that's a feature for another day.) Also from the fourth season is Tomas Arana as Dave Conlon, a security operative who makes the mistake of getting in the way of Jack Bauer's investigation into nuke-seeking terrorist Habib Marwan. In "Rises," Arana plays a lawyer trying to sort out the Wayne estate at the end of the film. You might also recognize the actor for his role in "Gladiator." Arana starred in the Oscar-winning epic as Quintus, one of Maximus' old allies who sells him out to Commodus. He redeems himself in the end by allowing Maximus to end Commodus' life in the arena.
» If you're a "Lost" fan, it's hard to miss actor Brett Cullen, who stars in "Rises" as a congressman who falls under Selina Kyle's spell; he was one of the dreaded Others, Goodwin, on the ABC island drama. And if you're a fan of "Reno 911," it's positively impossible to ignore the super-random Thomas Lennon sighting in "Rises." The occasional Jim Dangle (who rocks short-shorts better than anybody who isn't named Tobias Funke) plays a doctor who gives Bruce Wayne a much-needed reality check on his current physical condition. Wayne, as he's wont to do, completely ignores Lennon's advice.
#187; And that's not even mentioning some of the other actors who pop up in "Rises," like "Atonement" actress Juno Temple as Selina Kyle's barely-seen sidekick, or "Ramona and Beezus" star Joey King as young Talia. Like I said, Nolan knows how to cast his movies. No use trying to catalogue all of those familiar faces; let's just be happy that Nolan knows them well enough to make our moviegoing experiences that much richer.
Who else did you recognize in the "Dark Knight" cast? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!