THR today broke the news that Josh Pence - the actor who's face was digitally-replaced with Armie Hammer's for the "twinning" shots in "The Social Network" - has a role in "The Dark Knight Rises" as the younger version (for flashbacks) of an existing character. Said character's identity is confirmed in the story, and nudges VERY headily in the direction of confirming a lot of people's assumptions about what the new film's story might entail.
It's not technically a spoiler, since everyone has run the story and the name, but in case you'd rather not read anything about it I'll do the rest after the jump...
So, Pence is playing Young Ra's Al Ghul, in flashbacks apparently set 30 years in the past.
No other information is given, but any renewed presence for Ra's Al Ghul would seem to indicate what many people have been assuming/hoping/predicting for awhile now: that the League of Shadows - the anarchist-terrorist ninjas from "Batman Begins" - are coming back in some capacity. Right off the bat (no pun intended) I'm digging that idea because it suggests a turn back into "Begins's" more comic-esque level of unreality (ninjas, doomsday weapon, fear-toxin, etc) after"Knight" took the franchise as far into realism as you can get while still making a Batman movie.
It also lends credence to the rumor that, if true, represents the worst-kept secret since the "bonus ending" of "Iron Man" - that Marion Cotillard's as-yet-unidentified "key role" is some variation of Talia Al Ghul, Ra's daughter and likely successor as leader of the League. Let me toss in some more specualtion on that end - the LoS's previously-established "thing" for masks, long-term scheming and arcane chemistry would be a really handy way to explain Bane.
Here's what I want to know: What exactly does being a younger Ra's Al Ghul actually MEAN in this context? In the comics, Ra's is a literal thousand-years-old immortal; but Liam Neeson's dialogue in "Begins" - along with Christopher Nolan's consistent veto of the more "out there" aspects of Bat-mythology - indicated that in this universe it's more of a smoke-and-mirrors creating the illusion of immortality thing in this universe. But it was never made precisely clear how the ruse was actually set up, i.e. was Neeson the "real" Ra's and Ken Watanabe was a decoy, or is the idea that there's NO "real" guy and "Ra's Al Ghul" is just a title passed from leader-to-leader "Dread Pirate Roberts"-style?
The reason I wonder this? We still don't know who Joseph Gordon Levitt is playing, and if the idea is that "Ra's Al Ghul" IS just a title, well... do the math. I'll just say this: If the big third act "boo!" of this is a fully-alive Liam Neeson stepping out from the shadows, I'll be the happiest widdle boy in the whole wide world...