Does Tom Hardy's shaved head reveal The Dark Knight Rises villain?

British actor Tom Hardy has been seen in recent photos sporting what looks like a shaved head and the early stages of a beard, fueling speculation that he will play Dr. Hugo Strange in The Dark Knight Rises.

Photos displayed at Movieweb show Hardy clearly wearing some facial hair, while the back of his head peeking out from under a cap does indeed look shaved. Director Christopher Nolan has cast Hardy in his third Batman film after working with the actor on Inception, although neither Nolan nor Hardy has given any clues about what part he's playing, or indeed whether Strange appears in the movie at all.

Strange, one of Batman's oldest foes in the comic books, was the central villain of Prey, a five-issue story arc that appeared in the now-defunct Legends of the Dark Knight comic in 1990 and 1991. Rumors have been circulating for months that Nolan, his brother Jonathan and their writing partner David Goyer have used Prey as the basis for The Dark Knight Rises, just as Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween inspired Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, respectively.

In Prey, Strange is tasked by the mayor of Gotham City with building a psychological profile of Batman in order to help a reluctant Commissioner Gordon track him down. But Strange has warped plans of his own that lead him to learn the Caped Crusader's true identity and don the Batsuit himself.

While elements of Prey could fit neatly into the story that Nolan intends to complete with The Dark Knight Rises, the plot of the movie has been kept under wraps. A script that was supposedly leaked last week has largely been dismissed as a fake.

Hardy, meanwhile, has also been filming Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Wettest Country in the World, so it's just as likely that he's adjusted his hairstyle for one of those as well.

Do you think there's anything to this, or is everyone just starved for Dark Knight Rises news?

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