The planned Nightwing movie would have been a gripping family drama, says director Chris McKay in an exclusive interview with Variety on Saturday. The live-action spectacle, which Warner Bros. green-lit in 2017, would have charted the Boy Wonder’s emphatic transition from campy sidekick to hard-nosed superhero, punctuated by an extended fallout with Batman, Dick Grayson’s mentor and adoptive father. Their father-son dynamic would have served as the film’s centerpiece, as Grayson senselessly plots revenge against Bruce Wayne for keeping him on the sidelines a stretch too long. McKay elaborates: “I love the character of Dick Grayson as a young adult, becoming his own kind of superhero character. That was gonna be a father and son story and also a revenge movie, which I was really excited about because there’s a lot going on in that script. It was gonna be really primal and pared down and like a real red meat movie in the best way.”
This is the first time McKay addressed the public about the Nightwing movie since the project (presumably) went under shortly after he was hired. The film has cycled through its own development hell after Warner Bros. bigwigs decided to shake things up and diverge significantly from Zack Snyder’s vision for the franchise. Until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Chris McKay’s live-action Nightwing would have taken viewers on a thrill ride into the murkier backwaters of Dick Grayson’s psyche, the man he could have been if Jared Leto’s Joker hadn’t murdered him pre-Batman v Superman.
Chris McKay has spoken to Cinemablend and Variety in recent weeks to promote his newest film, The Tomorrow War, and describes his past DC project almost like a breakup gone wrong. A will-they-won’t-they relationship forever left up to the stars. He asserts it’s still a movie he “really wants” to do. “I don’t have a firm commitment yet, but I hope that it’s something that we can still make,” he explains. “It has not been a priority these days; I’m hoping that it will become the priority soon. That’d be my favorite thing to come out of all of this stuff.” Had production gone according to plan, the Nightwing movie would have been McKay’s live-action directorial debut, not Amazon Prime’s The Tomorrow War.
The SnyderVerse’s polarizing audience reactions have since emboldened executives to retcon Dick Grayson’s origins to survive long enough as Robin to one day become Nightwing, in a standalone movie similar to Robert Pattinson’s The Batman. Rumored castings have since devolved from the Zac Efron slash Jared Padalecki archetype of a brooding young acrobat in his late twenties, to a much younger renegade fresh out of being Robin. Timothée Chalamet is the latest name tied to Chris McKay’s Nightwing movie. McKay alluded to Warner Bros.’s recent corporate restructuring as the reason behind Nightwing’s production issues.
“I hope it’s still a reality. I hope that we still get to make that movie,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not lost yet. It is obviously something that… they’ve had other priorities, they’ve had other challenges. They’d had things that they needed to do, and I think that they found their way, with their recent successes, and the stuff that they are planning on doing now. I think it opens the door for us to still be able to do a Nightwing movie. Whether you call it ‘in an alternate universe’ or you pick in their multiverse universe which universe it’s part of, there are different ways into it. But Nightwing is a big, action-packed, emotional movie. It may not, budgetarily, be similar to what we do with The Tomorrow War. But from a scope and scale standpoint, as far as the kind of action and the kind of heart, that’s what Nightwing is going to be all about.”
Batman: The Animated Series already explored Grayson’s Nightwing origins in the episode “Old Wounds,” which aired all the way back in 1998. Robin finds himself resenting Batman for withholding Batgirl’s secret identity from him, accusing his mentor of resorting to emotional manipulation and Machiavellian tactics to further his objectives. Batman attempts to explain himself but is sucke-punched before he could elaborate. Robin then ditches his mask and cape, diving back into the night. Dick Grayson is depicted in the tail end of the show as a troubled teenager aching to forge his own path, disillusioned by Batman’s expedient methods against crime and the system that inadvertently forced him down this path. Chris McKay may have been referring to this Batman episode when he conceptualized a Nightwing movie rooted in Dick Grayson’s desire to vacate the nest, so to speak. Brenton Thwaites’s Robin also evoked the same rebellious streak in the first two seasons of Titans.