Ken Watanabe: David james
Gary Susman
February 24, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Ken Watanabe’s title role in ”The Last Samurai” has not only earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, it’s also landed him another top role in a Hollywood studio movie. According to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the Japanese actor has been cast as the primary villain in the forthcoming Warner Bros. ”Batman” movie. He’ll play Ra’s al-Ghul, an immortal Bat-nemesis who runs a worldwide network of criminals and terrorists, opposite Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Internet rumors had Liam Neeson, who joined the cast two weeks ago, playing the role; actually, Neeson will be playing Henri Ducard, a mentor to Wayne, according to the Reporter. Other recent additions to the cast include Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox (a one-time board member of Wayne’s financial empire) and Cillian Murphy (”28 Days Later”), who’s rumored to be playing Bat-baddie Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. The Scarecrow. Rounding out the cast are Michael Caine as loyal butler Alfred and Katie Holmes as a childhood friend and possible love interest for the Caped Crusader. Christopher Nolan (”Memento”) will direct the film in London, starting early in March.

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