The Dark Knight Rises is your fifth movie with Christopher Nolan now. How would you sum him up your experience working with him?
Absolutely great. I was thinking about it now, having finished the last one, that what happened was when you do that kind of movie, you wind up with working with the greatest technicians in every field, in the entire movie industry anywhere. We had the greatest music, the greatest cameraman, the greatest stunts, special effects, scenery, design… It's fabulous. And of course, one of the greatest talents of a director is casting. I once said to John Huston when I was working with him on The Man Who Would Be King, "what is the talent of a director?" He said "casting", and you look at the cast of actors that Chris has got. It's absolutely wonderful every time. And this one, Dark Knight Rises, is no exception. He's got one of my favourite new young British actors, Tom Hardy, who I saw on television a couple of years ago and I went, "who the bloody hell is that?" And he's proved me right.
Did Chris ever say why he wanted you for Alfred? You mentioned The Man Who Would Be King, I think that's one of his favourites.
He didn't say. He just said, "I'd like you to play the butler". I mean, I don't come in and say, "dinner is served" or anything. The butler is an essential character in the whole movie; he's not massive but that pleased me. I don't want to do massive.
But you get some great moments...
I get some great moments. I have a couple in this last one, too.
What's new with Alfred then, in The Dark Knight Rises?
Its such a plot point that I can't tell you. We've signed agreements for silence. I think I'd go to jail if I told you. Or I'd have to kill you. But we don't want either of those things to happen!
It looks absolutely huge, a full-on, epic war movie. What was the experience like making it for you?
|"I get some great moments. I have a couple in this last one, too."|
|Sir Michael Caine
How did it compare with making Batman Begins, your first one with Chris?
It's always the same. He's got an overcoat on and a flask of tea in his pocket. He's very quiet and he just wanders around looking at everything, and then he comes up and whispers something to you and everything is very controlled. Everybody knows exactly what they're doing... With the exception of me! (laughs). Its true, I think he's the great new director of our time. That's my opinion.
How do you feel about Chris now ending the series?
He's got to go on, he's got some other idea, and I'm in it! I've been in everything he's done since he's been in Hollywood. We're each others' good luck charms. I always say to him, "I'm not your good luck charm, you are mine!" (laughs)
Do you talk movies much with him? Do you have similar tastes or reference points?
We don't talk much movies. We have dinner and it could be about anything, but normally the dinner is associated with the movie. He lives in Hollywood so I barely see him. I haven't had a private dinner with him for two years! But we've had lots of dinners on jobs. When we go on jobs we go on dinners every night. We start off in LA, then go to New York and then we come to London, then we go to Paris... So we see a lot of each other. But once he's off on his films and I'm off on mine, we don't see each other again. We don't have much of a social life because I live in Surrey and he lives in Hollywood.
Will you miss playing Alfred?
In a way, but in a way it's right. I mean, I've played him three times. His role in Batman is to be your reality. When you get into the fantasy, suddenly you've got the butler there saying exactly what you're thinking - "you can't do that! You can't go flying up in a bat suit in here! What are you, nuts?!" He is the foot on the ground and that's what was always important to me. And I played it that way. I remember once when Chris told me this would be the last one I said, "if they're doing another one I'm going to play the butler if it's any good and if they offer it to me." He said, "I want ten percent." I said, "No, you're not getting it!". It's that sort of relationship...
Interview by Dan Jolin