In the first not-an-obviously-fake-casting-rumor news since the confirmation of Tom Hardy last month, it appears that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is suffering an embarrassment of riches with respect to its potential female leads. Deadline reports at least one but possibly two of six actresses may star opposite Christian Bale in Warner Bros.' next Batman epic, and they are: Anne Hathaway, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz. What roles they may play remain unknown, but two are available: a love interest for Bruce Wayne and a villain for Batman.Given their involvement in two other high profile comic book movies, we can probably eliminate Thor's Natalie Portman and Green Lantern's Blake Lively right off the bat (ha ha ha ha ha).

Out of the remaining four, Rachel Weisz's strong dramatic repertoire (The Fountain, The Constant Gardener) would seem to be most compatible with the sophisticated work of Christopher Nolan, and her brilliantly quirky performance as a wannabe thief in 2009's The Brothers Bloom makes her easy to envision as the Catwoman. Of course, it doesn't take much imagination to progress Anne Hathaway from sultry Agent 99 in Get Smart to sexy cat burglar Selina Kyle. However, Pirates of the Caribbean star Keira Knightley has action film experience plus Academy Award-nominated pedigree. Also, her last name has "Knight" in it.

For the romantic lead, Naomi Watts has demonstrated true skill at portraying various women in trouble, as Bruce Wayne's love interest almost certainly would be. From Mullholland Drive to The Ring to King Kong, she's got the damsel in distress thing down, with talent to spare for whatever emotional ringer Nolan's Batman script will put her through.

For my money, it'd be a genuine treat to see uncommonly gifted (and not to mention beautiful) performers like Weisz and Watts, who are in their forties, appear in a film like The Dark Knight Rises over some of the younger actresses in the running. There's a trend in blockbuster filmmaking, particularly the superhero genre, to cast very young -- even distractingly young, as exemplified by Kate Bosworth, who filmed Superman Returns when she was about 21-22-years-old.The phenomenon is certainly not limited to women, but Christopher Nolan's Batman films are characterized by male actors who appear as, well, grown-ups, and it'd be nice to see that aspect extended to the female roles as well.

The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled to open July 20, 2012.

More From ComicsAlliance