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Batman Begins - Christopher Nolan interview



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Excerpts taken from the London press conference held at The Dorchester Hotel

Q. When was a decision reached to actually start again from scratch - to go back to the beginning?
A.
Well, I think, for the studio, I think they’d been thinking about it for sometime, thinking about ways to reintroduce the character into cinemas and… the point at which I got interested in becoming involved, they didn’t seem to have a specific idea of how to do that. They were looking for a fresh approach and it seemed to me that to tell the origin of the story would be pretty fascinating because it’s a story that’s never been told on-screen and hasn’t really even definitively been addressed in any of the comics. It’s a story that’s always been treated in kind of montage and flashback in the past. We wanted to flesh that out and tell the whole story.

Q. I think this is the first time that it hasn't felt as though Batman has been a guest star in his own movie. You know, the villains have always been more charismatic than Batman. That presumably was the attraction to you in doing this?
A.
Well, for me, Batman is the most interesting character in the film and I felt that it would be perfectly possible to have interesting and colourful villains who wouldn’t overshadow the focus of the film.
I think in my mind I was thinking about the best of the Bond films, where there have been some wonderful villains, criminal masterminds, but they’ve never got in the way of the focus of the story and I felt we could do something similar here.

Q. There are so many great characters in the film played by so many great actors. How was it, as a director, having to deal with all of those different personalities, be it Sir Michael Caine or Morgan Freeman or Gary Oldman etc. etc? Do you have to have some kind of a schizophrenic frame of mind to deal with all these people, or is it just part and parcel of being a director?
A.
Interesting. [Laughs]. No, for me, part of being a director is trying to figure out what an actor you’re working with requires from you because I think every actor is different and has unique requirements.
I think as far as this film goes, it was a very large film with a lot of things going on and the actors would come and go – other than Christian, who was sort of there the whole time and had to be in everything.
But other people would come and go, and do a few days here and there which was quite nice and refreshing for everybody.
You know, Sir Michael would turn up and raise everyone’s spirits a little bit and then Morgan would come and it sort of keeps everybody going to have a lot of different personalities coming and going.
The thing I’ve always noticed from great actors - and I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great actors - is how naturally and easily they accommodate one another’s needs. Even though their performing styles are maybe very different, and the way you would expect them to approach a scene might be very different, they seem effortlessly to be able to mesh with the other performers and I think that’s part of their talent.
So I found it very helpful to have so many great creative allies on the set because the other thing a great actor will do is they have an entire life for their character off-screen. They’ve worked out their character’s place in the world of the story as well, and they became very, very useful creative allies for me and made my job a lot easier.

Q. Why was the decision made to shoot in Britain as opposed to shooting in the States or Canada, as a lot of films do these days?
A.
Well, I think there are a lot of different reasons but from my point of view I’d always talked to the studio about achieving a degree of texture and reality to the film and doing a certain amount of location shooting in an American city and then studio work elsewhere.
The model I’d been looking at, that I first discussed with Warner Brothers, was the 1978 Superman that Richard Donner made. They did a certain amount of location shooting in New York for that film but everything else was done over here at Pinewood Studios.
So we created a model of the idea of shooting at Shepperton Studios and certain London locations and then going to an American city, which turned out to be Chicago, which is a city I knew from having lived there as a kid, and that was sort of it for me - the jumping-off point.
I was looking back to a great era of blockbuster filmmaking from the late 70s where, I think, Hollywood films were doing some really marvellous escapist entertainment on a grand scale. All of those films were done over here, you know, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Star Wars, Superman, etc.
So I think for me, it was a fairly natural thing to just look at that model of doing things.

Q. You’ve stated on several occasions that you wanted to ground this film in a more realistic look. But we’re talking about a guy who disguises himself as a bat to fight terrorism. Why did you feel that you had to give it a realistic look when the story is just a comic book?
A.
To say the story is just a comic book is to sort of miss the whole point really.
But accepting that point, when you talk about realism in films, you’re talking about issues of texture and look as much as anything more substantial. For me, really, the idea of grounding the film in reality is about making the audience believe in the events of the story more and I think that the more people are invested in the story, both in terms of character and in terms of the actual events and the physicality of what’s going on, if those things can be believed in, I think the narrative effects of the story are amplified. So, to me, it’s all really about creating the most involving experience possible.

Q. What made you choose Ms Holmes and Mr Bale?
A.
I chose Christian to play Batman based on the idea that in trying to create a realistic version of the story you need an actor like Christian who has sufficient intensity and focus in his eyes to make you believe in the idea that somebody without superpowers - and Bruce Wayne has no superpowers - could, through sheer force of will, change himself into a superhero.
It was very clear to me, from his other performances and from meeting him in person, that Christian has the ability to project that kind of intensity and that’s why I asked him to do the role.
What I was looking for in the character of Rachel was somebody who would be a constant reminder to Bruce Wayne of the life that has been denied him, so I needed somebody with tremendous warmth and great emotional appeal.
But Katie also has a maturity beyond her years that comes across in the film and is essential to the idea that Rachel is something of a moral conscience for Bruce.

Q. Have you had any feedback at all from Adam West or Val Kilmer or George Clooney? And in the sequel, will we get some love action at all between Bruce and Rachel?
A.
I haven’t actually had any feedback from any of the former Batmen, so I don’t really have anything to say on that score.
As far as sequels go, while the film certainly leaves things open-ended as far as possibilities for the characters and so forth, I think I’m just interested to know what people think of this one.
We really tried to put everything we can into this film and it has to stand alone.

Q. I believe Christian Bale said that he likes the idea of doing two different types of the same film, one perhaps a little bit grittier, R-rated. Is this something that there’s scope to do for a DVD release?
A.
The film you’ve seen up on screen is exactly the film that we made. There really isn’t anything that I was forced to take out.
As far as tonally, I always knew that in making a Batman film, I wanted it to appeal to a wide range of ages, not the youngest kids obviously.
I think what we’ve done is probably a bit intense for them but I certainly didn’t want to exclude the sort of ten to 12-year olds because as a kid I would have loved to have seen a movie like this.
So, we never really shot anything that would be alienating in that regard. So there isn’t anything to put in on the DVD.

Q. You mentioned the Donner version of Superman is a model in terms of your shooting plan. I wonder if that was also a model in terms of the casting, because like that film you’ve got great actors all the way down to the smallest part...
A.
Yeah, very much. I actually spoke specifically to the studio about coming up with what we talked about as an epic cast, because we wanted Batman to have an epic treatment, other than big sets and big explosions and all that kind of stuff.
What really makes a film have that marvellous scale is having a wonderful cast of the finest actors and recognisable faces playing even some of the smallest roles, so that there’s a life off screen for all of these characters and there’s a scope to the story.
In Superman, Donner had Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Glenn Ford and it was an extraordinary ensemble, so that was very much what we were aspiring to.
So we sort of dared to ask some of the finest actors to take on these roles and I was able to put together a dream cast. It's no less than Batman deserves, really.

Q. This installation of the Batman franchise represents a complete departure from your previous films, Following and Memento. What comes next for you? Might you be returning to smaller films, or can we anticipate more blockbusters?
A.
I really haven’t been able to focus on what I’ll be doing next yet because, frankly, the release of this film is very overwhelming.
It’s a much larger film than I’ve ever done before. So this is a very new process to me.
I think in the future I’ll be interested in doing all sorts of films. I mean, I’ve enjoyed making a film on this scale, so I would absolutely be open to it again but at the same time I have various projects with different sizes of story, if you like.

Q. In the last sequence of the film there’s a hint that there’ll be a next film with The Joker. Does that mean that you are really intending to do a remake of the film that was done 15 years ago with Jack Nicholson? Because, to me, it doesn’t feel logical that this film will have that other film as a logical sequel. It’s so different in tone, so over the top, that other one...
A.
Well, with respect, I think you’re probably over-thinking it a little bit. I mean, the truth is the ending of the film is intended to end this film and the appearance of that device is very much intended as a dramatic effect for Batman Begins and for the end of it.
As far as where sequels might go from here, I think that, as you pointed out, the tone of the film is very, very different to previous films and so it doesn’t stand as either a sequel or a prequel to any of the films that have come before.
I think it is a separate thing. What that means to me is that as far as what might be addressed in future films, they can all be reinterpreted in a fresh way because this film really is a different tone to the previous films.

Batman Begins review

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New Batman finds origins in original Superman movie

Christopher Nolan interview

Katie Holmes interview

Gary Oldman interview

Sir Michael Caine interview




 








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