Christian Bale is a man that needs very little introduction, presuming he needs one at all. Building a reputation as a highly versatile actor over his 30-year career, Bale became the seventh actor to take on the role of the Dark Knight in a live action production in 2005's Batman Begins. With that first turn as one of the most iconic fictional characters in existence, Bale has in many respects become the definitive Batman.
On the set of The Dark Knight Rises, Bale was in happy spirits when he sat down to speak with us above Heinz Field. Pleased with the work the team was doing in this third trip to Gotham City, Bale also expressed the feelings that come to him when confronted by the fact that this will be the final time he gives Bruce Wayne life. The legacy of Bale's turn with the character could ultimately be decided by the performance of this last film, but as much as ever Bale seems confident that the work by himself, his co-stars, and director Christopher Nolan will definitely be an outing to remember.
Q: Mr. Nolan has been filming a lot more with IMAX on this film. Can you talk about what that’s been like for you? It seems like you had a bit more experience with it on the last film.
Christian Bale: Yeah, in the last one and also in The Prestige Chris was kind of experimenting with it at that time. Some of the stuff where I have a twin brother and everything like that, we used it. Bloody noisy cameras, and you know you’ve got to do ADR whenever you use the IMAX camera coming in now. But you know, it’s gonna be a hell of a great looking shot. It was stunning in The Dark Knight. I remember sitting at the premiere, and people just [said], “ooohhhhh!” They were in it, you know? So it’s a lovely piece of machinery.
Q: Could you talk about the percentage of IMAX he’s been using on this film?
CB: No bloody idea. [Laughs] Ask him about that, you know? I’m not an actor who asks, is this a close-up, is this a master, is this a wide, what’re you doing? If I look up and see the camera and think, “oh, it’s a big one today,” then it must be an IMAX, and that’s kind of it for me. Because you know, it doesn’t affect what I’m doing.
Q: Over the last few years, you’ve always been asked about making this movie, and it always seems like it's about working with Chris again. Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you’d make another movie together, or were you pretty sure that it was going to happen?
CB: I knew it was gonna happen for me because I was contracted to do it, so I didn’t really have a choice. I would’ve been sued up the yin-yang, and I’d be on the street and penniless if I hadn’t have done it. Chris, my understanding was, could’ve chosen not to do it, but he had always talked about this as being a trilogy, and I think always liked the challenge of the fact that an awful lot of movies fail on the third. There’s some exceptions, but most of the time that’s the real tricky one to pull off. I think he really likes the challenge of that.
Q: Are you going to miss playing Batman after this one?
CB: Yeah of course I will, yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Q: Are you going to miss wearing the suit?
CB: You know, for all the kind of discomfort, and all the heat and the sweat and the headaches and everything from it, when you sit back and watch the movie at the end of the day you end up going, “that’s f***ing cool!” [Laughs] So, I will. I will miss it.
Q: Can you talk about Bruce’s relationship with Selina Kyle [Anne Hathaway] in this movie? We’ve seen a couple of shots of you guys talking on the stairs, and holding hands…
CB: Have you? Really, you think you have, have you? [Laughs] Maybe some people see things and they don’t know what they’re looking at! It’s quite interesting to watch, and hear what people think we’re doing. Then you go, “that’s not what we’re doing!” Let them think that’s what we were doing.
Q: Can you tell us a little about what’s going on with Selina and Bruce, and how much he’s taken with her?
CB: Um…I’m figuring it all out as I go along. I think let’s leave that one until you see the movie.
Q: Bruce’s hair seems a little longer this time. Is there any significance behind that?
CB: Yeah, there’s a little, you know…[Laughs] Significance to it? Yeah, certain amount. But with every movie we’ve done with the Batman stuff we’ve always had to mess around with the hair; we’ve had to adapt for different looks throughout. So, the longer you keep it, the more you can do with it.
Q: This is a trilogy, and this is an end for you and for Christopher Nolan on Batman. Does that give you a certain amount of freedom, since you’re not leaving it off and having to come back and do another film? Does that give you the freedom to create a really great character arc for him in this movie?
CB: I have no clue about what an audience is going to think about the movie. Thank God I’ve got someone like Chris who’s really great at representing the audience for us on the set. So for me, I love the character so much that with me you’d probably get a real bizarre Batman movie. People would say, “what the hell, why are we delving so much into his psyche?” But he is a fascinating character, and Chris just has to tell me it’s just tedious and boring, and he doesn’t want to see what I’m doing.
It’s great having someone at the helm who’s remarkably confident at just going with his gut and not desiring any safety net or something to fall back on. There’s a number of times where I’ve said to him, “you sure you don’t want me to give you a few other variants [of a take]?” And he says no, don’t worry, I know what I want. He’s very, very firm with it. And it is a fascinating character! I think there’s probably an awful lot more stories that could be told, I quite like the idea of him getting older, and [seeing if he can] do it as much anymore, but I feel like you got to leave when the going’s good, and this is when Chris wants to wrap it up, and it’s the right time.
Q: Since you’ve said you are going to miss playing him, are you happy where Batman’s story ends with this film?
CB: Yeah, very. Yeah. No, it’s good! [Laughs]
Q: By the third movie, is Batman’s drive really still fed by the death of his parents, or is it more that he’s accepted a larger responsibility for Gotham that doesn’t involve that as much anymore?
CB: Well to me, he has it all. It’s all in there. The thing is, he is still that child, basically. The one thing that I do know is that there’s an awful lot in the graphic novels which we’ve played with a little bit, where there’s this whole notion of him genuinely being a playboy, versus what we’ve done which is like he sort of performs that, but his heart’s not really in it. And the eternal problem that Alfred has with watching this guy who has no life. He’s put his entire life on hold, because he still does [feel that pain]. He’s got such fierceness in his mind and in his emotions that he just will not forget the pain of his parents. With most people it’s like time heals all wounds, but I think with him it’s like he doesn’t want to forget it. He wants to maintain that anger that he felt at that injustice, but equally wants to present this very vacuous, soulless persona to Gotham so that no one will hopefully suspect him. They’ll just think he’s just a spoiled bastard.
But consequently in his most intimate moments, he has Alfred, he’s got Rachel [Dawes], and…there’s not a whole lot there! It’s completely arrested development, you know? And with that the recognition [comes] that at some point he’s got to start living. He’s seriously behind in terms of life, and enjoyment of life. You know, that’s all been sacrificed. And at some point, hopefully, its Alfred’s wish, that he’ll start to live again. Of course this tragedy has defined him, but to a degree he’s sacrificed everything that most people would consider worth living for in life. So, he’s going to have to relearn that far too late, and embarrassingly late in life.
Q: Do we know how much time has passed since the last movie, and is anything from The Dark Knight dealt with in this film? It seemed like there were a lot of open ends after the last film.
CB: Oh, yes. There’s an awful lot of new discoveries, truths coming out, and the whole question of what’s the correct thing to do, you know? Continue with lies and make people feel good, or have the truth come out and devastate and ruin people’s lives? So yes, absolutely. It goes back to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and deals with an awful lot from both of those movies.
Q: How much time has passed, do we know?
CB: It’s been, I would say years, I don’t know if Chris would want me to say exactly how long. There’s quite a change in him.
[Note: Back in December, Christopher Nolan confirmed that eight years have passed between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.]
Q: Can you talk about working with Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy?
CB: Yeah, it’s a real good cast. I worked with Marion really briefly in Public Enemies, and she’s a wonderful, versatile actress and so far, the work’s been really great. I think she’s doing something very different than most people would’ve seen her do before. And Tom, who I’ve been working with mostly the last few weeks, he’s a real fascinating actor. He’s going to be creating some wonderful characters over his career, and he’s really doing so with this. He’s kind of just gleeful coming in to work every day, and he’s got great character that you can chew the scenery with in a good way. He’s the real deal, I’m very impressed with him. I’m very impressed with all of the cast in this one.
Q: Can you talk about crafting fight scenes with Tom Hardy and making them all work?
CB: We have fantastic stunt guys, Buster Reeves who’s been with us since the first one, and Tom Struthers, and the thing is, this is sort of what we do. They kind of work out what they would like to see in the fights, and then Tom and myself come in and bring in the story to the fights. Because you know, a fight which is just a knock-down with everyone punching each other ceases to be really exciting after a while. You’ve got to figure a way that you tell a story within the fight.And also, you can get some very trained fighters who can follow an incredibly fast and furious fight, but I don’t know about you guys, when you watch UFC, sometimes you’re saying, “I don’t know what’s going on. It looks like a bloody mess.”
You sometimes have to be able to look with the eyes of someone like myself, someone who’s not a trained fighter, and understand what’s happening, and it’s amazing the difference [there is] between the fantastic stuntmen who come in and do their jobs, and when we, Tom and I, come in and say, “alright, I get that, but this is what I’ve got to be thinking here, so I’m going to do it this way.” And actually seeing a fight that has description and beginning, middle and end to it is a wonderful thing and keeps it so much more entertaining, and means so much more than showing off a few martial arts.
Read our other reports from the set of The Dark Knight Rises:
The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters on July 20th.