Director Christopher Nolan 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. You can check out my previous interview with Christopher Nolan for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ here.
Completing this story you started nine years ago with ‘Batman begins,’ what was the impetus behind ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ being conclusion to the story?
Christopher Nolan: I really wanted to finish Bruce Wayne’s story, to put it together as one piece of work, one trilogy. We had done two acts of a three act story, in a sense, and the challenge for me was to really figure out the reason to take another trip to Gotham City. And to invite the audience to take that with us. Once we’d really figured out where our story went, where it wound up, what Bruce’s conclusion is? In a sense, then it became something that I had to do. And something that I really wanted to show to the world. That’s what we’ve done with ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight,’ and that’s where we are for ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
I think setting ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ eight years after the events of ‘The Dark Knight’ really added to the story, to Bruce Wayne’s journey in particular. How did you come to that starting point with this movie?
Christopher Nolan: The end of ‘The Dark Knight’ left the characters in a pretty interesting place. Because we’re trying to make one unified story here, so it’s not another episode, another Batman episode, if you like. For me, that meant really trying to be true to where the characters were left. And Bruce Wayne, as Batman, has made a rather large sacrifice at the end of ’The Dark Knight.’ For that to mean something, he really has to have succeeded in a sense, in his mission. He has to have a Gotham that at least superficially doesn’t need Batman anymore. And that leaves him frozen. And the eight year period is about showing that he’s retired in a sense, that he’s hung up his cape and his cowl. But he hasn’t been able to move on, he’s stuck. The jumping off point of the story was really the question of, “How can this person who has become disconnected, who is in a self-imposed exile from society, how can he reconnect with life?”
The opening scene is spectacular, and I know you do much of your stunts in camera, what was that like to shoot?
Christopher Nolan: It was pretty intense to shoot, we tried to do as much of it in camera as possible. We were up in helicopters filming a fuselage of a plane hanging from a heavy-lift helicopter, with stunt guys on the side of it and everything. I found it pretty thrilling actually, it’s one of the great privileges of my job really, that you get to sit there with your writing partners and come up with something outlandish and then you have months planning it with great stunt co-ordinators, special-effects people. And then you actually get to go up in a helicopter and see these amazing things take place in front of you, it’s a joy. It looks dangerous, but an enormous amount of care and planning goes into you choosing the right people to do it; who have the right skills, who are trained correctly. It’s a very slow, methodical planning. Those guys were up there in Scotland where we shot for many months just figuring it all out in a very calm way (laughs). So it went very smoothly, we finished a week early because it came together so well.
How was it shooting in IMAX? You shot a good amount of ‘The Dark Knight’ in IMAX, yet with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ you really took that further.
Christopher Nolan: We had a great experience shooting IMAX on ‘The Dark Knight.’ We wanted to expand that on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ by shooting more of the film that way, and we have. We’ve shot almost half the film using those IMAX cameras. Seeing that projected on an IMAX film screen is a very unique experience, and I hope people will seek it out where it’s available because it really gives you that extra image quality. That extraordinary clarity and immersive quality that really throws you into the world of the film. That for me is a great thrill in terms of how you experience a large scale action film.
With ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ you’ve got a couple of actors joining your Batman saga that you worked with first on ’Inception’….
Christopher Nolan: Yeah. There are couple of people in the film, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I’d worked with on ‘Inception’ and I really wanted to work with them again because they’re just such incredible talents. With Tom Hardy I had also worked with him on ‘Inception,’ and he felt to me the obvious choice for somebody who would take on the challenge of portraying this monstrous character, Bane. A character who expresses all kinds of evil and malevolent intent, really just through his eyes, because his face is mostly obscured with a mask. It’s really his eyes and his voice. Tom was very much up for the challenge of presenting a face of evil in that way. And I think what he’s done is going to be threatening to audiences in a way that they’re not used to seeing. It was very exciting when Tom said he would do it.
And then Anne Hathaway, I thought she was incredible as Selina Kyle. What was it about her that made you think she would be great for the role of Selina/Catwoman?
Christopher Nolan: I didn’t really approach it from a sense of, “Ok, who’s going to be a great Catwoman?” It was really about, “What was Anne going to bring to the character of Selina Kyle?” For me, approaching these icons, and this was true of Christian as Batman and true of The Joker with Heath, and it’s very true of Catwoman with Anne….you can’t approach the icon head on, it’s too daunting. It’s more of a question of, “Who would this person be in real life, in our world, where we’re trying to be a bit more grounded with things? How do we approach the icon from the ground up? What’s the real character, what going on in her head?” And Anne, she’s such a talented actor, she’s also a great performer, if you like, she’s got those two sides. She can portray the interior life of the character with great authenticity and relatability, but she can also be very expressive and inhabit a larger than life character. And obviously Selina/Catwoman, she’s both those things and Anne brought it together really beautifully.
How has it been seeing Christian Bale flesh out the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman over the series, over nine years?
Christopher Nolan: I really enjoying watching what Christian Bale had done with the role. Like you said, we’d been working on these films for nine years, its been a long time, its been a long time that I’ve been watching him develop the character. It was pretty amazing to go back and look at the first two films and just see how the character of Bruce Wayne had changed going into the third film. And then shooting ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ watching Christian take that character even further, it was real pleasure.
As Bruce Wayne has developed and changed both mentally and physically, did Christian’s approach to the character change at all?
Christopher Nolan: Christian is extremely consistent in his methodology, so really there’s been no change to the way he works, even after winning his Oscar and all of that (laughs), he’s the same Christian – which is terrific. He’s a very grounded performer, and the way he approached the character is very grounded. He really just tries to inhabit the psychology, and taking on Bruce Wayne, a Bruce Wayne who’s really been in a self-imposed isolation for eight years, almost like a Howard Hughes figure. Christian just really tried to approach that characterisation from inside and present the truth of that and what that would be. It’s a fun thing to watch on screen.
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