Rumours that Tom Hardy has been cast as the new Batman have been going round for a while now, and the actor had even hinted as much himself when he arrived at the 76th Academy Awards wearing a Bat-mesh t-shirt. But when the dust settled, it became apparent that the internet’s favourite odd couple had in fact collaborated on one of the most iconic images of our time.

Hardy, who will play the titular role in the upcoming Justice League, had previously starred in Bane’s incarnation of the Batman franchise, which also featured JK Simmons as the voice of Batman’s nemesis. When you add in the fact that Hardy is a big fan of DC’s iconic Dark Knight, it’s enough for us to know that it’s no great leap of imagination to see how the two might collide on the big screen. Here we look at the evidence, and try to piece together the story of how this most iconic of image was made.

The Making Of The ‘Tombs Of Gotham’

While social media users had speculated that the two might encounter each other in the upcoming Batman film, it wasn’t until after the credits had rolled that many had revealed that their guesses had in fact been spot on. In fact, it was Hardy himself who had revealed that he and Gotham’s favourite scarlet-suited vigilante had indeed crossed paths, albeit briefly, in a series of cryptic teasers.

Set amid the decreed darkness of Gotham City’s infamous prisons, the first of these teasers saw Hardy’s character held at gunpoint by a silhouetted Batman as he was being interrogated by a masked individual wearing a utility belt. While it’s tempting to assume that this is the Caped Crusader, it would appear that the real star of this particular teaser is the fact that it was shot in a complete black-and-white style, which adds an atmospheric tension to the scene that isn’t present when the image is colourised.

Batman’s Finest Hour

While they might not always jibe with the rest of the comic books, the movies often do provide surprises when it comes to the characters’ interactions. One such example comes in the form of the 2006 remake of the 1960s classic, Batman Returns. In this version, the Joker is played by the immensely talented and versatile Danny DeVito, and his warped sense of humour sees him team up with the Dark Knight to defeat him.

In a brilliant twist, Batman’s arch-nemesis was revealed to be the Penguin, with Adam West reprising his famous portrayal of the character from the original 1960s series. One of the best things about this particular version of Batman is the fact that it turns conventional wisdom on its head by having the Joker and Penguin team up to torment Batman, who they think is too old for his job. But as it turns out, the Caped Crusader is actually the one who ends up saving the day. You know, the usual formula.’

A Bat-Mash To Remember

The trend of having famous people play famous fictional characters continues in the 2009 movie, The Soloist, which sees George Clooney bring his A-game as both the main character, and the talented composer of music ranging from classical to jazz. While on set, the Clooney and Hardy were shown to be fast friends, and when the cameras stopped rolling, the actor had gifted the director with an album of his music. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Hardy’s character is cornered by two thugs while escorting his friend, who is a soloist, at the Metropolitan Opera. In order to give his friends some privacy, the protagonist leaves the thugs for a moment to retrieve his cellphone from his pocket. When he returns, the two thugs have disappeared, and a quick survey of the area reveals nothing in their wake but an empty suit jacket.

An Unconventional Rivalry

While there’s no denying that the cinematic universe has been dominated by male characters for the better part of a century, it’s now starting to even the score with solo female characters who are changing the game as they go. One such example is Avengers: Age Of Ultron, in which the main villain, the Grandmaster, is played by the incredibly talented Michelle Yeoh. While there’s no love lost between the two, with Yeoh going so far as to call him a “disgusting animal”, they end up working together for the greater good. And when the dust had settled, it was revealed that their collaboration was indeed what saved the day. In the end, it was the fact that they were both capable of holding their own that allowed them to defeat the gigantic robot that had been controlled by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (played by Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo, respectively).

A Meeting Of The Minds

If you’re a big enough nerd and follow enough Twitter, you’ll no doubt have seen all of the GIFs that have been made in the past 24 hours of Tom Hardy and Batman meeting for the first time. But with all the joking and banter that goes on between the two characters, it’s quite clear that their professional relationship is more than just a façade. In fact, it’s one that’s built on respect and admiration, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve collaborated on a number of memorable images. So much so, that we have to wonder if this new film will even need a villain named Bane.

As for when we’ll next see Tom Hardy as Batman? Well, the actor has a busy year ahead of him, with not one, but two exciting projects on the horizon. One of these will see him team up with the Russo brothers, director of the upcoming Winter Soldier, to bring a fresh, exciting take on the Dark Knight to the big screen. The other will see Hardy take on the role of the eponymous character in an adaptation of Len Deighton’s 1977 novel, The Ipcress File. As with all things involving Tom Hardy, this will no doubt be an entertaining watch; but it won’t be hard to forget about Bane once you’ve seen him play the part of Batman once more.