Ken Watanabe hasjoined the cast of Christopher Nolan's Batman project, which is due to begin shootingin London in March and will be released by Warner Bros in 2005.

Watanabe, who garnered a best supporting actor Oscarnomination for his role in The Last Samurai,will play the villainous Ra's Al Ghul opposite Christian Bale as BruceWayne/Batman.

The picture willexplore the origins of Batman and also stars Michael Caine as Wayne's butlerAlfred, Katie Holmes as Wayne's childhood friend, Liam Neeson as Wayne's mentorHenri Ducard, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a former board member andsidelined employee of Wayne Enterprises.

Nolan, whosecredits include Mementoand Insomnia, isdirecting from a screenplay by David Goyer. Emma Thomas, Charles Roven andLarry Franco are producing and executive producers are Ben Melniker and MichaelUslan.