Interview: Actor Holt McCallany on Getting Beat up by Batman in ‘Justice League,’ and Season 2 of ‘Mindhunter’

Holt McCallany and Batman Ben Affleck in Justice League
L: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images, R: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Actor Holt McCallany is finishing 2017 with a bang. After appearing as a musclebound gang leader nicknamed “The Beast” in the prison-thriller Shot Caller, and as the scene-stealing FBI agent Bill Tench in the Netflix crime series Mindhunter, McCallany made a surprising appearance in the DC superhero team-up Justice League.

Feature: Holt McCallany Is Having a Career Moment With Netflix's 'Mindhunter.' It's About Damn Time.

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McCallany’s role is a small one—he plays an unnamed burglar in the opening scene of the film who fights with Batman (Ben Affleck) on a Gotham City roof—but the tussle helps kick off the main storyline of the movie. Batman ties up and dangles McCallany’s criminal high above the street, using his fear to lure one of the villainous Steppenwolf’s (Ciaran Hinds) zombie-like Parademons to Gotham City. The creature’s appearance leads Batman to start gathering heroes like Jason Momoa’s Aquaman to take on the oncoming threat.

McCallany got to show off some of the fighting skills he learned while working out with legendary boxing trainer Teddy Atlas for his roles in Tyson (1995) and the FX series Lights Out (2011).

“It was fun to fight Batman, even if I lost,” McCallany tells Men’s Journal. “In some of the takes, my character fights back a little more but with no success. I have my own fight style based on techniques I’ve learned over many years of boxing and working in films, and I got to use that here. In this case, it’s fighting a superhero, so it’s tougher—Batman can do a lot of things other guys can’t do.”

Like many of the supporting roles in his career, including his memorable turn in David Fincher’s Fight Club (1998), McCallany makes the most of his screen time, throwing some funny quips and pretty good punches at the Dark Knight during their brawl.

The fate of McCallany’s criminal is left up in the air, leaving the chance for a potential return for the sequel: “Maybe I’ll be back,” McCallany hinted. But if he doesn’t return to the world of Justice League, there’s a good chance the actor will have his hands full with Mindhunter.

“We’re not officially picked up yet,” McCallany says. “But I promise all our Mindhunter fans it’ll be worth the wait.”

Well, McCallany was right. On November 30, Netflix made it official: Mindhunter will be back for Season 2.

McCallany spoke with Men’s Journal about fighting with an iconic superhero, working with Joss Whedon, and the future of his critically acclaimed Netflix series Mindhunter.

MEN’S Journal: What was it like to fight with—and get beat up—by Batman?

Holt McCallany: It was a great experience, and a fun scene to shoot. Ben [Affleck] was very easygoing, we got it in just a few takes. My favorite fight scenes are usually ones that are choreographed with some style to them, and ones that are choreographed around a particular actor’s individual strengths. The old adage in the fight game is “styles make fights”. I like to design my own fight choreography in conjunction with my director and stunt coordinator whenever possible, and here it was a great way to be a part of the film—even though I got beat by Batman.

What was it like working on such a big-budget film like Justice League and being on the set?

I was just happy to be asked. I had been in consideration for a very good role in the Marvel universe that eventually went to another actor, so it was nice to be involved with Justice League. It was also my first time working with so much green screen—a lot of reacting to Parademons I can’t actually see.

Although your role in Justice League is a small one, it kind of kicks off the whole story. How did it feel to have a significant part in setting things in motion?

It was an honor for me. These are iconic characters we all grew up with, and the film is hugely popular with audiences all over the world. It was a great honor for me to be a part of it.

What was it like working with Joss Whedon on the film?

I love Joss Whedon. My scene with Batman was originally conceived as a comedic scene. That’s how Joss wrote it, and that’s how we shot it. I thought it came out great, but the studio felt it would be a mistake to open the film with a completely comedic scene, so it was re-edited a little bit. I was disappointed, but when I got home to New York I found a bottle of my favorite Champagne and a note from Joss that said “To Battles Lost. Gratefully, Joss.” I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that he took the time to write to me. Joss Whedon is a class act. I had the letter framed.

Batman lets your character live. Is there a chance he could return in another DC film—maybe ending up in Arkham Asylum, alongside some iconic villains?

It was a small part, but you never what can happen in these films. My character doesn’t die, so who knows? He had some good rapport with Batman, so it could be laying some groundwork for another appearance down the line, that would be exciting.

2017 has been a big year for you—you’re starring in Mindhunter, and appeared in two films, Shot Caller and Justice League. What has it meant to you to be in these projects and playing memorable roles in all of them?

They say that when success comes a little later in life it’s sweeter, because you feel like you worked for it, struggled for it. I think that’s true. Acting is a very competitive field. There are a lot of very talented guys. So for me to be enjoying a moment of success at this stage of my life, at this stage of my career, it’s exciting.

Mindhunter is officially picked up for Season 2 and, David Fincher has spoken what it might cover and a potential five-season plan. What are you most excited about with the future of the show?

Right now I’m prepping for Mindhunter Season 2, reading, doing lots of research. The scripts are great and I think fans will be happy with how it’s developing. To potentially work with someone like David [Fincher] over the course of multiple seasons is an honor, and I’m excited to do more with the character of Bill Tench. I can take my time, and I can really explore this guy over a long period of time. I think it’s gonna be just an amazing adventure.

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