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The Dark Knight - Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan interview

The Dark Knight

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CHRISTOPHER Nolan and Christian Bale talk about reuniting for The Dark Knight and working with the late Heath Ledger (who plays The Joker).

British director Nolan also contemplates the success of the movie and what he was trying to achieve in terms of contemporary resonance, while Bale discusses the appeal of Nolan’s vision of Gotham City, as opposed to other comic book incarnations.

Q. Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, uses the word “terrorist” to describe The Joker at one point, how conscious are you that a film like this needs some contemporary resonance?
Christopher Nolan: Well, really my co-writers David Goyer and my brother, Jonah, and myself, try and be pretty rigidly not aware and not conscious of real world parallels in things we’re doing. We try and just write the most entertaining story possible within the terms of the storytelling that this genre of film demands, and to meet audience expectations in that way. But we try and do it in such a way that we’re really writing about the things that move us, excite us, frighten us and all the rest. And we just trust that, at the end of the day, when we sit here talking about what the film is, how the audience is receiving it and what they’re thinking of it, that there’ll be interesting resonance because of the fact that we all live in the same world and we try and write from a very sincere point of view.

Q. Bruce Wayne finds it difficult to leave the character of Batman behind. As an actor, how easy do you find it to escape your roles? And how easy will it be to leave Batman?
Christian Bale: At some point you’ve got to move on, but this particular portrayal and the world that Chris, Jonah and David have created for Gotham is the first time that I’ve found this world to be interesting myself. I was never a comic book fan as a kid and – with absolute respect for the other movies and the people who enjoyed them – I never particularly enjoyed those either. But it’s very enjoyable reprising this role and it’s up to Chris if he has the desire and interest to make any others. But I certainly will miss portraying him in the Gotham that Chris has created.

Q. Did the hype surrounding the film add a lot of pressure onto your shoulders?
Christopher Nolan: The hype question is paradoxical really. Certainly there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that and people’s expectations of what the film is going to be become very heightened by that. At the same time, it may be a necessary part of standing out in such a crowded field as every summer is with these huge movies, I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t know. But I’m certainly very relieved at how many people went to see the movie this weekend, because when you take on a film of this scale you’re certainly taking on the ambition to really have your film go out as wide as possible, to as many people as possible. So, it was very gratifying to see that people seem to be liking it.

Q. This is a very dark summer blockbuster. Was that part of the appeal, as well as the complexity of your character?
Christian Bale: I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that Bob Kane always planned on Batman being quite a dark character. We mainly knew him from the TV series… where he certainly didn’t look very scary, did he? And then the slightly more theatrical takes that we saw in the other movies. For me, personally, I [would have] just felt silly in a Batsuit, walking around like a regular guy just heading off to a Halloween party or something. So, I felt like I could only really believe it myself if I viewed him as another personality that Bruce Wayne created just to channel his demons. Batman is demonic looking… he’s created not to instil trust but to instil fear into criminals. So, there should be that shadow side to him.

Q. Heath’s portrayal of The Joker is pretty demonic, how was it working with him being your foil?
Christian Bale: Well yeah, you have two uncompromising characters who are clashing. You have The Joker who wishes to hold up a mirror to Gotham and to show it its own hypocrisy in its worship of heroes. He also wants to show people that everybody’s principles have a price and can be sold out at a certain point. He has that line of “you complete me” with Batman because he ultimately has a challenge that is really worthy of him, he’s a very intelligent individual, is The Joker. Batman has a weakness which The Joker can exploit because he has no limits whatsoever, whereas Batman does have a rule that he will not kill. And so The Joker, even if it means his own demise, wants to show that even Batman’s ethics can be broken.

Q. Tell us about the experience of acting opposite Heath?
Christian Bale: I think any good actor just throws himself in completely, and Heath’s certainly really enjoyed to do that. We had out first scene together during the scene in an interrogation room, so that was kind of a nice way to start. But there were a couple of moments where the camera was outside the room and we were left by ourselves in the interrogation room and all we could see were reflections of ourselves all the way around. We were sitting there and suddenly caught sight of ourselves and started cracking up. We both looked like absolute freaks across the table from each other. That was the first scene that we had together and it went from there. He was a great character, you know, and he was a great presence to have around. The more seriously I see any actor take their role, the more fun that I have. I don’t think I’m out of line in saying I felt that he probably felt the same thing.

Q. Chris, do you see IMAX as the future for this type of film, and will we see the next Batman in 3D perhaps?
Christopher Nolan: For me, the purpose of the technology, shooting with IMAX cameras specifically for that format, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. What it’s all about for me is creating the most technically advanced, immersive possible experience for the audience. As a filmmaker, I’m always trying to get back to the experience I had as a young boy of watching these larger than life creations on screen. As far as 3D goes, I find 3D to be a more intimate experience… the perspectives immediately shrink so it’s almost a more personal experience. So, for me, I enjoy this much larger than life image that you can pass through the screen if it has the clarity and depth of IMAX photography.

I do think, in some sense, that all of these kinds of technologies represent the future of theatrical distribution because I think as home viewing gets more advanced – with Blu Ray discs and things like that – I think it’s incumbent on the exhibitors, but also the filmmakers, to be providing the audience with a reason to come out of their homes and pay money to come and see the things we do. I also think the resources that we have to make these films are colossal, and so I don’t really hold with trying to strip down the technology. I think we should be using the resources to create the best possible image we can.

Read our review of The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger & The Joker: An appreciation