Michael Caine & Morgan Freeman Interview For ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
Following the events of ‘The Dark Knight,’ it has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Caped Crusader sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. The epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Tom Hardy as Bane, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Jim Gordon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. The film arrives in cinemas and IMAX on July 20th.
In Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, Alfred, the person closest to Bruce Wayne, he’s seen Bruce become a man and he’s also seen the pain he has gone through….
Michael Caine: Alfred has gotten more and more intense as the three movies have gone on. But I loved that, I love doing intense. What it is for me, this is a blockbuster, stunts, special-effects movie, and usually the people in those type of movies are ciphers, you know? You get to see some people wondering about, but you’re waiting for the next stunt (laughs). Here, with the writer/director Christopher Nolan, he’s brilliant because he wrote real characters with really great dialogue and great scenes – which is why I did it in the first place. I remember, when Chris came to my door one Sunday morning and he had this ‘Batman Begins’ script, he said to me, “I’m doing Batman, I want you to play the butler, Alfred.” I said, “I want to read it first.” I didn’t want to come in the movie every so often, every 20 minutes saying, “Dinner is served, would you like coffee?” (Laughs) I wanted something a bit more meaty than that, and I really got it! Especially in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
Morgan, how was it returning to this world? Lucius Fox, like Alfred, has become a mentor and father-figure to Bruce Wayne.
Morgan Freeman: Oh yeah. Although Lucius works for Bruce Wayne, he has been a mentor to him, a sort of father-figure. Compared to Lucius and Alfred, Bruce is still a relatively young man, so between the two of them, they try to keep his moral compass pointed in the right direction. Returning to this for the third film, for ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ when you go back onto a set that you’ve worked on before, you just go back into a comfort zone. There’s the same director, the same cinematographer, the same first assistant, same crew, same actors. From then on it’s like, “OK, here we are, home again….let’s have fun!”
For me, these movies have just got better and better. How was it for you working with Christopher Nolan, with him stepping it up each time?
Morgan Freeman: It became like short hand, you know? It just got better and better working on them as well.
Michael Caine: I remember I was working with John Huston, and I said, “You never give me any direction.” And he said, “You get paid a great deal of money to do this Michael, you don’t need me to tell you what to do.” (Laughs) And this is exactly how Christopher Nolan is, he reminds me of Huston. And another way he reminds me of John Huston is that I remember asking, “What’s the art of direction?” And John said, “Casting.” And Christopher casts like a dream, if you look at everyone, right through, even the most recent additions: Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, it just fits so perfectly. He’s an amazing director, and if you need to alter something, he will tell you very quietly. Chris, he’s like a computer, he’s knows everything what he wants to do. And he’s so quiet. You ask him the most minuscule little thing and he has an answer for it. And the thing about Chris, he always has this coat, with a flask of tea in it, and he drinks this tea all day long.
Morgan Freeman: It’s a raggedy old coat (laughs), I think that’s a good luck thing. He takes a sip of this tea every 10 or 15 minutes. He’s like quiet authority.
Michael Caine: And I actually found out what the tea was, it’s Earl Grey tea. That’s what he drinks, all day long.
He doesn’t use much CGI either, so much of what he shoots is practical….
Michael Caine: Oh yeah, the great thing about Christopher Nolan, one of the things that he does that is so clever as a director, for me, is that you’ve got all of these CGI and computers, but he doesn’t do any of that. If a guy falls off the Empire State Building, it’s a real guy falling onto a bunch of boxes. If it’s 11,000 people walking down Wardour Street in London, then there’s 11,000 people there (laughs). The only time that I was in a scene were he used CGI was when a tonne of bats came in and we were quite pleased they were CGI (laughs).
Michael, you have some incredibly emotional scenes with Christian Bale in this film? How did you find working on those scene in particular?
Michael Caine: I was a method actor, sort of, I trained in method when I was very young. I picked up a couple of things, one of them was “sense memory”, where you go back to a particular time whenever you want to be really emotional. And I have a moment, which I’ve never even told my wife what my moment is, but it’s a family moment. And I rarely cry, but bang, I can go straight into it using that. I’m not gonna do it now because my eyes will be red and people will be wondering what I’ve been up to (laughs). And in this, I was thinking that, in terms of the audience, Alfred represents us in this incredible world. He is our spokesman. He’s not tough like the others; he reacts like an ordinary human being in this situation.
Morgan Freeman: I’ve never been able to do that, actually just once, and they didn’t take the shot! They missed it (laughs).
As the father-figures to Bruce Wayne/Batman. How has it been to watch Christian Bale encapsulate this dual character over the years?
Morgan Freeman: He’s great, truly great. I didn’t know Christian’s work when we did ‘Batman Begins,’ but afterwards I got to see a lot of the stuff that he had done prior, like ‘American Psycho,’ my gosh, he was awesome in that. And ‘The Machinist,’ golly, he was unbelievable.
Michael Caine: Before I did ‘Batman Begins,’ the last film I saw him in was as this skinny little guy, I think for ‘The Machinist.’ But then the first day on Batman, here comes walking in Arnold Schwarzenegger. I thought, “How the hell did he do that?!” (laughs). I was trying to lose 3 pounds and I couldn’t do it. Christian is amazing, an amazing actor.
How was it working with and watching Tom Hardy as this ruthless villain, Bane?
Michael Caine: With Tom Hardy, the first time I saw him was on British television, I had actually never heard of him. And he came on as a cocky gangster, in the area that I come from, so I sort of knew what was right and what was wrong. He was the toughest gangster I had ever seen on British television, or anywhere – including me, I played a couple of gangsters and he made me look like Mary Poppins (laughs). And then you meet him and he’s a sweetheart.
Morgan Freeman: That’s often the way; the hardest guys in the movies are often the softest guys in real life.
Michael Caine: He’s a wonderful actor and lovely guy. And he’s great in this.
For me, this movie was an emotional roller-coaster, a fitting conclusion to the trilogy….
Morgan Freeman: Oh yeah, I think this will definitely put people on an emotional roller-coaster. People will be fanning themselves walking out of the theatre (laughs).
Michael Caine: Definitely. I’ve only seen it on my own, I’m looking forward to seeing it with an audience, in IMAX. I’m really looking forward to that!
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