LATEST: THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS star Lachy Hulme and Paul Bettany have beaten off competition to head the list of actors in the running to play Batman's arch enemy THE JOKER in the sequel to prequel blockbuster BATMAN BEGINS.

Sources behind the sequel have confirmed to fansite Batman-on-film.com that the Aussie actor and Brit Bettany are the only ones in contention for the role that Jack Nicholson made famous.

The report suggests rumours linking Crispin Glover, Mark Hamill and Sean Penn to the role are untrue.

The source claims screen tests for Hulme and Bettany will take place later this year (05): "Lachy Hulme and Paul Bettany are the only actors that Batman producers are considering for the role of The Joker - at the moment."

In an online poll on the same site earlier this year, Hulme became the fan's favourite with 21 per cent of the votes, while Johnny Depp beat Bettany and Glover.