The last time I had a chance to write to you about The Dark Knight Rises was pretty early on in the process, and quite a bit of news has emerged since then. I’ll be able to run down the bullet points of the news that has come to pass since mid-May, but as always, you can find the details on everything I run down at my home, Batman-On-Film.com.
New (Strange?) Additions to the Cast
Israeli actor Alon Abutbul was added to the cast recently, with the news breaking around the 13th. Probably best known to American actors for his role in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies from 2008, Abutbul’s casting is apparently in the role of an “evil scientist.” For Batman fans, this has reignited speculation that Dr. Hugo Strange, who in his modern incarnation, was a highly skilled psychiatrist that attempted to assist the Gotham City Police Department in capturing Batman. At the same time, however, Strange is insane, and in that very same story attempts to “get into” Batman’s head by actually becoming him, albeit in private. Strange is a formidable Batman adversary for a few reasons, one of which is working inside the system that attempted to hunt Batman (which is mirroring the Gotham City of the films coming out of The Dark Knight). His brilliance also allows him to deduce Batman’s identity, and his scheming puts many innocent people in danger while simultaneously threatening to blow open the secret of Bruce Wayne to the public at large.
If the character that Abutbul plays is in fact the maniacal doctor, then it would settle longstanding rumors of the character’s inclusion and probably elevate Strange to the highest profile he’s ever had in Batman’s pantheon of villains. Strange is also a primary antagonist in the highly anticipated Batman video game Arkham City, which hits this Fall. Could this be a warm-up of sorts, presuming he is in the movie? Time will tell.
In addition, according to Variety, five new actors have joined the film in presumably more supporting roles. Matthew Modine, who ironically played a character named “Private Joker” in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket has joined the film as a character reportedly named “Nixon.” Actors Tom Conti and 11-year old Joey King have also joined the cast, but their roles are as yet unspecified. A later report from the same publication also added two character actors, Brett Cullen and Chris Ellis to the film’s ensemble, with Cullen playing a judge and Ellis playing a priest.
The Budget Emerges, WB/Legendary Conflict
According to the LA Times, the budget for The Dark Knight Rises has been counted at a staggering $250 million. While this is understandable given the $1 billion domestic and international box office return of the last film, one can get easily worried about the new film’s attempt to be too big. The last super hero film with a budget of this magnitude was 2007’s Spider-Man 3, and while no one could really argue that the film was commercially successful, it was hardly the critical darling that the first two films were. There’s no doubt in this fan’s mind that Warner Bros. will recoup their investment, but if the creative direction gets lost in the mix of such an enormous endeavor, then it would be sad if the new film can’t match up with the previous two.
The best part of this though, is that the director is Christopher Nolan. The man has yet to make a bad film, in my opinion.
The other end of this story is that Warner Bros. is apparently becoming more restrictive in its production partnership with Legendary Pictures, who had a 50% stake in The Dark Knight, in addition to several other high profile projects including Batman Begins, Watchmen, 300, and Superman Returns. Legendary is apparently trying to secure a similar stake and partnership for Dark Knight Rises, which WB is reportedly coy on engaging in.
Legendary is still in on the mix for 2012’s Man of Steel Superman reboot, probably deemed a safer partnership for WB given the perceived-timid box office response to the last film featuring Krypton’s Last Son. It’ll be very interesting to see what direction this partnership takes, and how these developments will affect the union between WB and Legendary in the future. Their current agreement is scheduled to expire in 2013 unless a new deal can be reached.
Shooting Begins in London, Photos?
Cameras are rolling! Dark Knight Rises production in the UK was scheduled through the end of May, so by now it’s likely that the team has moved to a different location, possibly a 12-day New York City shoot that was reported to be occurring by Jett back on May 19th at BOF. Jett has stated on the site, and I will reiterate, that it would be wise for WB to release publicity photos of main characters in costume before someone shoots a low-quality spy picture of one of these actors on set. This happened during production on the last film in April of 2007, when a spy picture of Heath Ledger in Joker regalia emerged on the net. WB would be wise to strike before these people do, which actually brings us to…
Bane Emerges in First Publicity Photo
Beginning in a viral-marketing campaign using Twitter, users that employed the use of a specific hash tag (#thefirerises) had their Twitter profile picture added to a collage that would eventually reveal the first major publicity photo released for the film. Ultimately, the image was revealed as the first of actor Tom Hardy in (presumably) full costume as Bane.
At first glance, the film’s interpretation of the character seems well in-line with the ways in which Nolan tends to reimagine characters from the comics. While Bane’s main visual motif from the source material is a distinctive full-face mask (resembling that of a Mexican Luchadore’s), Nolan’s decided to go with an unsettling muzzle of sorts, decorated with bones. Hardy’s body in the shot is massive, with apparent scarring on his back and a dead look in his eye, resembling a pacing panther in a cage, waiting to strike.
The image definitely amps up the level of danger that someone could feel, and it’s easy to see that this is a very formidable and physically threatening adversary for Batman to have. While it’s unlikely Batman would ever hide from an opponent, it’s not far out of reason to imagine that he wouldn’t exactly be thrilled going toe-to-toe with that. Beyond this, one of the most defining images for Bane coming out of the comics in his first appearances in the Knightfall story was his arrival at Wayne Manor and beating the hell out of Batman in his own house. If the rumors of Bane’s origins in this film are true and he’s a part of the League of Shadows, it’s easy to imagine that this version of the character would easily have access to Bruce Wayne’s identity, as well as his address.
Speaking of which…
The Return of Wayne Manor?
The climax of Batman Begins was definitely unexpected for comics fans, as it involved the destruction of Wayne Manor, the family home where generations of the Wayne family lived. A highly important locale, Nolan decided to twist the arms of fanboys everywhere by having Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Shadows burn it to the ground in the opening of the film’s third act. At the end of Begins, Bruce vows to Rachel that he’s going to rebuild his old home brick for brick, with Alfred adding a note to “improve the foundations,” hinting at the future of Batman’s state-of-the-art, subterranean Batcave lying beneath the palatial home.
The Dark Knight made one passing mention of Wayne Manor’s reconstruction, and opted instead to take a cue from the comics of the 1970’s where Batman stayed in a penthouse in the heart of Gotham and operated out of a bunker underground instead of out of his famous hideout. According to Jett’s sources at BOF, the Elizabethan mansion in Osterley Park, located in the suburbs of London, may serve as the interior for Bruce Wayne’s newly constructed home. Presumably, Nolan and company will return to the Mentmore Towers for the exterior of the new house, if Bruce follows through with rebuilding it just as it was before its destruction.
However, Nolan doesn’t necessarily have to follow through on this, as he noticeably changed the main visual inspiration for the location of Wayne Tower between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. In Begins, the Chicago Board of Trade Building served as the primary visual inspiration for Wayne Tower, and in the follow-up, without explanation (The company moved? Remodeled? Nobody cared?) Wayne Tower looked to be inspired by the Richard J. Daley Center, also in Chicago. While the location of Wayne Manor may change again given that the new film doesn’t seem to be shooting in Chicago, I’m sure we’ll see what happens with Batman’s new digs soon.
All in all, it seems like quite a bit of news has transpired over the last several weeks, and now we’re going to be hitting our stride with The Dark Knight Rises Countdown every two weeks! Who knows what crazy things we’ll learn by then? Keep it tuned here and find out, because until July 2012, I think we’re in for a wild ride. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
413 Days Until The Dark Knight Rises