Unto every generation, a Batman is born.
Your grandparents had Adam West's campy take in the 1960s TV series. Your parents had Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney all suited up in the '80s and '90s to varying degrees of success. We millennials were treated to Christian Bale's iconic voice in Christopher Nolan's genre-resetting Dark Knight trilogy, only to then be tortured by the promise of a Ben Affleck standalone movie that never materialized after the promise he showed in Zack Snyder's films.
But from the first teaser trailer that revealed Matthew Reeves' grungier take on the iconic character in The Batman—including long, greasy hair and more black eyeliner than Taylor Momsen wore on Gossip Girl—it was clear that Robert Pattinson was going to play a superhero for a new era.
Instead of the debonair playboy version of Bruce Wayne seen in prior films, this billionaire orphan was even more in his feelings than Drake. With Reeves sharing that he was inspired by Kurt Cobain while writing the movie and Pattinson referring to his character as freak, naturally, the Internet was quick to dub him "Emo Batman."
To achieve the star's much-discussed mane in The Batman, Reeves trusted Zoe Tahir, a veteran hair stylist who has spent more time with the character than Pattinson has, thanks to her previous work on Batman Begins and Justice League. And in an interview with E! News, Tahir opened up about how she achieved the "perfect mess" of hair, how the break in production due to COVID-19 ended up helping her and why Pattinson was such "a great help" during the process.
E! News: First of all, I wanted to say congratulations on the success of the movie. How has the response been for you?
Zoe Tahir: It's been amazing. To see that in the press and I know through my own Instagram, the reaction I've had from the fans has just been incredible. It's been really nice to see that firsthand through people. I mean I wasn't the only one who had a part to play in it, but I know Robert's hair has caused quite a stir and I've seen mixed reviews, but mostly people kind of love it.
E!: As a Batman fan, I really appreciated just how different this Bruce Wayne looked and acted from any other version we have seen before. What was your thought process was going into this project once you heard Matt Reeves' take on the character?
ZT: Funny enough, when I went to meet Matt Reeves for an interview, I walked into that cold. I hadn't read a script, I didn't know anything about his version of what it was going to be like. But I brought my own mood board along to present something and it was very grungy and raw and street and dirty and dark. And Matt had presumed I had read the story and I think my take on it was that we all have these preconceived notions of Gotham, but I really wanted to run with that and make it really real. And he really loved that and that is what his thinking was for the Drifter, his character before he became Batman.
E!: Did you have a specific inspiration for the look?
ZT: Matt Reeves was kind of obsessed with Kurt Cobain and that was very much the look he wanted to drive forward for Robert as the Drifter. So we played around with that idea and when Robert came to us, his hair was short and blonde from his previous movie. I knew we had some time to grow his hair out and explore what would suit him. We actually began shooting and it worked, it was long. But then we had the lockdown and we were able to grow it out a few more inches. I remember coming back after that and I said, 'I'm going to leave it, it's going to work.' The stuff we shot prior was the funeral, where he had to be a bit neater as Bruce Wayne, so it all worked out really well and have his hair a lot longer for the stuff we hadn't shot yet, which was great.
E!: Can you talk about finding the right hair color, since he came in pretty blonde after filming Tenant?
ZT: We needed something that matched his skin tone and it had to work for him. A lot of the reactions I've had was, 'Why wasn't it darker? Why wasn't his hair black?' So I mean the shade we ended up with was something that just worked with his skin tone and worked for the character.
E!: Were there specific products you used to achieve Robert's look?
ZT: I never use just one product. I am always mixing and concocting my own versions of things. The main thing, after Robert's hair was loaded up with a concoction of different things depending on what we were trying to achieve that day, Rob was given a hot head towel massage and just really bake it and soak it all in to achieve the look we wanted for the Drifter.
E!: After the first teaser trailer dropped in August 2020, the Internet dubbed Robert "Emo Batman." And I feel like it coincided nicely with the emo-punk revival we are seeing in music and fashion. What did you think of that initial reaction to his look?
ZT: It was a surprising reaction and it wasn't planned. I guess that's just the movement of fashion and the way things go. Everything just all happens together if you got your finger on the pulse, subconsciously, you're always creating, thinking about the way things are moving forward. And combined with the character we were trying to create, it coincidentally is the way it turned out, which was kind of freaky. But it's all very timely, with everything else going on in the music and punk world. It fit perfectly and it's great, we will run with that!
E!: You actually have a long history with the character, beginning with Batman Begins in 2005 (Tahir styled Katie Holmes) and then Justice League and now the upcoming Flash movie, in which Michael Keaton is reprising the role. Can you talk about how you've seen Batman evolve through the different actors?
ZT: It's funny, I actually thought the other day this is my first outing with Batman and then I went through everything I've done and I went, hang on a minute! Batman Begins was long time ago now and I think he was technically the most similar in his journey that he was going on in that movie. I did reshoots with Ben Affleck as well on the Justice League, so that was another Batman and then, yes, Michael Keaton, but I'm not sure I can talk much about that. But I think this is a very new take on Batman. This is a standalone version, if you like. I am not sure we can compare Robert's Batman to any of the others.
E!: Which is something I was really into, that this Bruce Wayne almost felt uncomfortable in his own skin as opposed to the usual playboy perona we see. Did you enjoy having that freedom to take this established character into such a new direction?
ZT: It's always lovely to do something new and to try and find a new avenue for this kind of film that everybody knows so well. Robert Pattinson was a great help with all of that as well. He was very willing and open to the ideas and loved the way that it was going. It wasn't difficult to push it to that extreme with him because it came from within. It was all part of his character. Once we established where we were going with it, it was just very easy to run with it. And getting his hair to look like that every day, he was up for it. He wasn't having a tantrum every day, he would take a wet towel and rub it around his head and really muck it up and try to get texture and grunge. He was very happy to help me along with that process. I sent him home with a very wonderful bottle of shampoo and conditioner every night!
E!: I was going to ask what it was like working with Robert for the first time and how involved he was in establishing the look.
ZT: Totally. I was day-to-day with him trying to get it to look right for each moment. I was so pleased when I saw the first time we see him take his bike helmet off in the bat cave. I sat in the movie theater and I was just crossing my fingers when that helmet came off because I knew what I wanted it to look like. Every moment the helmet goes back on, I'm fudging it and moving it and manipulating it in the hopes, because part of it is out of your control, that when it comes off it does what I needed it to do. I was so thrilled and it was the most perfect mess, but in a great movie-beautiful way. I couldn't have been happier. Rob was very helpful with all of that and giving me time to make it right.
E!: Another shot like that was when he removes his cowl while watching the Riddler's video about his parents and his hair is a mess and his eye makeup is dripping down. It is such an arresting image and a perfect encapsulation of this character in this moment in this journey.
ZT: Phenomenal. Doone Forsyth looked after his make up on a day-to-day basis after Naomi Donne had designed it. They did an incredible job. Frankly, it would've been nice to see more of the Drifter, I think, because it was such a great look for a Batman. Maybe there will be more of that to come, I don't know.
E!: Fingers crossed because we need to see more! On your Instagram, you posted about returning to the set after the coronavirus shutdown and the challenges that presented. I feel like hair and makeup is such a unique place on set, where people really connect. So how was that experience impacted by the protocols?
ZT: When we came back, we followed all of the protocols that were put into place and the mask and the visor does put a barrier up between you and the person that is close to you in the chair, but we all did what we had to do and make the best of it. I love filming for the relationships and friendships you make, everyone gets so close. It is a wonderful experience and it did take away from that, but it made everybody stronger as well and it made everybody closer in a way.
The Batman is now playing in theaters.