David Dastmalchian on Voicing Calendar Man in Batman: The Long Halloween

(Photo by JB Lacroix/Getty Images)

Batman: The Long Halloween Part One releases on Blu-ray and digital tomorrow, June 22. An adaptation of the classic comic of the same name, the film features Batman (voiced by Jensen Ackles) finding himself at a loss in capturing the mysterious Holiday, a killer that strikes on holidays. The cast is rounded out by Billy Burke, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera, and David Dastmalchian.

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with actor David Dastmalchian about playing Calendar Man in Batman: The Long Halloween, how he also got the gig to play Penguin in Part Two, and what it means for him to star in an adaptation of the beloved Batman comic arc.

Tyler Treese: It’s interesting how Batman has kind of been this recurring part of your career. You started by being in The Dark Knight, you had a role in Gotham, and now The Long Halloween. How cool is it the continue to go into this universe? And does it kind of feel like your career is kind of wrapping around, just coming back and playing a big villain rather than a minor grunt?

David Dastmalchian: It’s really a full-circle moment for me. I will never forget as a kid walking into Clint’s Comics and going through the shelves there in discovering at that time, some of the really cool, darker, more twisted Batman comics that were available. Starting to really explore my love of comic books, but especially through the Gotham universe. And then by the time I got into college and The Long Halloween came out, I was really a dedicated reader and collector of comics. So then to go and have my very first film experience, being a part of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and getting to be in legion with the Joker. Here we are now, that’s been almost 13 years ago to get to life Julian, the Calendar Man, who was such a central character in The Long Halloween, which was a story that inspired Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

It’s really a powerful experience. As an actor, I just can’t believe the good fortune I’ve had, and as a geek and as a collector and as a reader and lover of comic books, sometimes it’s hard to believe the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given by so many people to bring these characters to life. It’s just a joy and it’s terrifying. It’s really scary for me every time that I get the chance to bring something to life like this because I know what it feels like to love these stories and to care about these characters. I just don’t want to ever disappoint the people who read it like I did at some point in their life, and we’re changed by a particular comic or character or comic arc or story. There are a few things that had as big of an impact on comic book readers as Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, and The Long Halloween.

What I love about Calendar Man is the Hannibal Lecter-type element. He’s really playing with Batman. He’s one step ahead. How fun is it to be ahead of Batman and to play this role?

I have always been drawn to the DC villains. So as much as I love Batman, I more than anything loved the characters that we’re able to really get inside of his head and eff with him. Therefore being Julian and getting to bring this character to life, who is trapped for all intents and purposes within a glass cage at Arkham, and will probably spend the rest of his life there, which is a very powerless place to live your life. Yet because Julian has this deep, really twisted insight into this understanding of the world and the passage of time and the origin of tracking time and why calendars and why minutes and hours and days, and months, and years, and holidays, in particular, are so important. Beginnings and endings of life and his desire to understand and explore that he had this magnificent mental advantage to understanding what’s happening in Gotham at this moment. Batman is just at a loss. So it was so awesome to get to feel like a cat playing with a bit of string and Batman felt like the mouse at points. Knowing that I really do have the kind of insights that would help crack this case and the tracking of Holiday, whether or not I choose to give them to Batman is all the fun of it.

You’re so experienced with live-action films. Does your approach change any when it’s doing voiceover?

Interestingly, I have been dreaming of doing this type of work for years. As I’m sure you are, I’m a huge fan of animation, and I’m a massive fan of the DC Universe movies. I mean, it’s so cool. How many of these stories they brought to life over the years and they’re all done so beautifully. I wanted to be a part of this for years, but the truth is back in probably 2014, I got dropped by the last voiceover agent I ever had because I just wasn’t booking any jobs. They let me go and I couldn’t book a job to save my life. So now after all these years of hoping and wishing that it would happen and Wes Gleason contacted me and offered me the opportunity to bring Julian to life. I was so thrilled and I was so excited, but the only way I knew how to approach it with the same way that I approach live-action acting.

So I showed up to the recording sessions the same way that I would to any other performance. It felt like I was performing in a theater, like a very small intimate theater in the booth. And they were just on the other side of the glass to both give me inspiration and guidance and coaching. Also to just be my audience because from the story and from the film, Julian loves having Batman as his audience. So I would just pretend that they were that man on the other side of the glass in the sound engineering booth and deliver my performance for them.

In Part Two, you’re also going to be voicing the Penguin. Can you tell me how that came about? What an honor it is do that role that’s been so iconically played in the past.

I can’t believe it, man. I really can’t believe I got to become Oswald Cobblepot, and I can’t believe I could be any of the things that I’ve gotten to be, but that was truly special. We were working and recording and I was doing some things in between takes with my voice, just some vocal exercises, and warmups. I was demonstrating some different characters for Wes and the rest of the team. Whatever I did, they said, “You know what we’d like to hear your take on the Penguin for this scene here. What do you think, do you want to give a try?” I had such a blast doing it and luckily they liked and kept it. Now I am a part of two amazing characters in Batman: The Long Halloween Part Two. So my goodness, it’s like Christmas every day for me in the comic shop that I can’t believe I’m getting to do these.

Yeah. That’s an incredible story. Just for people that may have not read the comic book, why would you recommend that they do check out The Long Halloween,

Oh, this, this story is so foundational and important to the Batman mythos in so many ways. But beyond that, what Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did in The Long Halloween changed the way that comic book storytelling happens in a lot of ways. They took the characters and the story to a much more heightened, psychologically twisted place than we had seen. They elevated the way that narrative was constructed in such a beautiful way, that it really had a major impact on comic book storytelling. I think that anybody who loves great stories, whether you’re a comic book collector or not, you should order Batman: The Long Halloween and just own it. I think everyone should have that book on their bookshelf. It’s like one of those iconic pieces of lit that you should just own and then read it, enjoy it, and ingest it and find the things about it that you love, and the characters that you’re excited about. The way that Batman gets through this level of evolution that he has to go to them to be able to solve this really intense mystery, and then go watch our film because you’re going to be so pleased with how incredibly, lovingly, masterfully the team brought both the animation, the sound environment, and the world of the comic to this film. I think it’s going to really blow people away.