Following months of rumors, Warner Bros. finally confirmed today not only who will be the female lead in The Dark Knight Rises, but also which character she will play. The actress is Anne Hathaway and the role is Selina Kyle, better known to comic book fans as Catwoman. Also confirmed is the fact that Tom Hardy will portray Bane.Set to release on July 20, 2012, The Dark Knight Rises is to be the final chapter in writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan's hugely popular and much beloved Batman film saga, based on the legendary DC Comics superhero. Hathaway, whose campaigning for a role was rumored as far back as October, joins an impressive cast that includes Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon. Other ladies reportedly in talks for the role included Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts and Keira Knightly.

Christopher Nolan stated, "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Anne Hathaway, who will be a fantastic addition to our ensemble as we complete our story."

It is perhaps worth noting that Warner Bros.' press release identifies Hathaway's character as Selina Kyle and not as Catwoman, which may give some hint as to the character's nature in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan's Batman films are remarkable for their grounding in a vaguely plausible reality, and it may be that the filmmakers will pursue a less fantastic vision of Selina Kyle, something that doesn't involve an impossibly form-fitting catsuit. It may instead be the case that Nolan and Warner Bros. are unsure as to how distantly the stink of Halle Berry's Catwoman has drifted from public consciousness.

Although his casting has been known for some time, what's more surprising than Hathaway as Selina Kyle is Tom Hardy's role of Bane. The scene-stealer of Nolan's Inception has been rumored to play everyone from Dr. Hugo Strange to The Riddler to Killer Croc. In the comic books, Bane was a South American criminal who was inspired by stories of the Batman to perfect his mind and body (with the help of a steroid drug called Venom) so that he could one day escape to Gotham and "break" its hero -- which he famously did in the 1990s storyline Knightfall.

Nolan said, "I am delighted to be working with Tom again and excited to watch him bring to life our new interpretation of one of Batman's most formidable enemies."

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