It’s safe to say that 2021 is a monumental year for actor David Dastmalchian. Not only is he starring in James Gunn‘s upcoming film The Suicide Squad as Polka-Dot Man but also Peter De Vries in Dune. Before all that though, he voices Julian Day, better known as Calendar Man in Batman: The Long Halloween. It’s dream come true for Dastmalchian, not only as a diehard comics fan but especially since one of his earliest roles was the part of Thomas Schiff in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight.
Taimur Dar: It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a HUGE year for you but with Long Halloween it seems like you’re coming full circle because I completely forgot until recently that you were in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which of course was inspired by Long Halloween. I already know you’re a comic fan and had read the source material, so was that helpful for this project?
David Dastmalchian: Absolutely! You nailed it. It is a very full circle summer for me right now. I began my film career standing on a street in Chicago shooting my scenes for The Dark Knight in awe that I was going to be a part of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic trilogy. At the same time knowing that Long Halloween was the inspiration for the incredible film The Dark Night was something that I always thought was so very cool. And now here we are. That movie was shot in 2007 and came out in 2008. Almost thirteen years ago this summer that film came out and it changed my life.
I always dreamed of getting to be a part of voicing characters for animation but in particular, the DC Universe movies that have been a part of so many of us fans over the years. I’m now getting my first opportunity at a character in a film and it’s The Long Halloween. It’s really an amazing moment for me.
Dar: Anybody who has read the graphic novel is already familiar with how creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reinvented Calendar Man from a silly villain into a Hannibal Lecter pastiche. To what extent did the Anthony Hopkins Lecter performance guide how you portrayed the character or how did you avoid comparisons or imitations in your voice performance?
Dastmalchian: There is obviously a connectivity between the nature of quid pro quo/tit for tat information sharing that Hannibal Lecter had with Clarice that Julian gets to have with Batman. But that is a narrative device that has been used many times actually throughout different stories especially when it comes to mysteries and thrillers. Beyond that, the thing that really helped me to shape the tone, the voice, and the style of the performance was as you said my fandom of the Loeb and Sale comic which had a big impact on me and millions of other readers. The tone of that was so dark and psychologically twisted and wonderfully macabre. Then going into the booth to actually perform the lines, which were beautifully adapted by Tim Sheridan, being there with our director, voice director, and producers for this film was such a collaborative special experience. It was really, really wonderful.
I had a strong sense that I wanted him to speak in a soft, icy tone that would just slip through the glass and go into Batman’s ear and flip through his brain like some antique calendar with bloodstains to send him into a bit of madness. I [as Calendar Man], as much as I enjoy knowing that I’ve got all this information and insight into the way that the Holiday Killer could operate, think it’s just as fun to toy with this self-righteous superhero [like] Batman and getting an opportunity to feel like I have an upper hand. It’s a really wonderful opportunity for an actor to go to some dark and gnarly places.
Dar: I came across an interview you did with THR where you discussed playing Thomas Schiff, that small role in The Dark Knight I mentioned earlier. You talked about how you conveyed your character through the eyes in your performance and it just struck me that Calendar Man never blinks at all. It’s a small but brilliant detail in the animation. People don’t always consider the physicality involved in voice acting, but how did you prepare physically for voicing Calendar Man?
Dastmalchian: It was very important. The performance of Julian physically, and even in the space if you think about it, it was really neat to perform this work standing in a voice booth because it feels like a cell. There’s this big glass wall between myself and the engineer and director. In a sense, it was kind of the perfect setting for me to deliver this performance. I just stood there with my hands at my side and took some breaths before we began. Then I slowly went into it and it was a magnificent experience. It reminded me of being in the theater where I started my career in Chicago. It gave me a chance to use just intonation, musicality, and the resonance of my voice solely because I couldn’t rely on what my eyes or my body were doing. Now, I did all the things that I would be doing if we were filming it because that helps me affect my voice but there’s a lot of pressure to know that you have to make everything crystal clear to your audience just with your voice.
Dar: Calendar Man has been featured in other media before this project, but I think the first time he was ever depicted the closest as he was in The Long Halloween was in the Arkham Asylum video games where he was voiced by legendary voice performer Maurice LaMarche. Some actors like to research other portrayals as part of their process while others prefer to go in with a blank slate. Were you aware of LaMarche’s take on the character and did you look it up to help guide you or did you want to avoid that influence?
Dastmalchian: I was already familiar with it. One of the wonderful things about comic book characters that have been brought to life and manifested by so many different artists in both page and animation, live-action, and video games, is that there’s always information to be gathered from the work that other artists have done bringing the characters to life. It’s like when you’re an actor engaged in a production of a Shakespeare play. Let’s say you’re going to take on a character like Edgar. You know thousands of people have portrayed Edgar before. Thousands of people have directed Edgar before. You can absorb and shift through all that and see anything that’s useful. One of the things that’s wonderful, as you pointed out, is Julian and the way he is manifested in The Long Halloween and it’s quite different than other people have brought him to life. I felt a lot of freedom in my interpretation while at the same time had a great bunch of resources for inspiration.
Batman: The Long Halloween is available today on Digital and on Blu-ray.