Acting since childhood, Christian Bale had already built an enviable CV before he met director Chris Nolan. But that meeting of minds was to take the actor to a whole new level, starting a four-film (so far) collaboration and making Bale the definitive Bruce Wayne / Batman for a generation. Our Dan Jolin sat down with the actor to talk about his experience on The Dark Knight Rises – and here are the results…
The action is really ramped-up for Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, to the degree that you took part in a 1,000-strong fistfight on Wall Street. That must have gotten pretty chaotic.
Yeah, with a crowd that big you can’t really control it completely. It’s impossible. Shit’s gonna happen. So I see there’s a wall of guys right there. They’re not meant to be there. Because I’m about to throw this guy there, you know? And I had to kinda go, ‘Do I? Don’t I? All right, they’re up for it…’ I went back and checked on them afterwards, and they were all fine. But those are kinda happy accidents which you can’t fake because there really was a guy flying through the air who knocked them all down!
How is it performing fight scenes?
It’s fascinating. It never looks how it feels. It’s so weird. You get moments where I’ve had fights in movies where I get punched really, by mistake and when you look at it on playback it looks like a really crap punch. And then you do another one which is really slow and big and felt like crap and you look at the movie and you’re wincing, like, “That must have hurt!” So it’s always interesting. Often I go to Chris [Nolan] thinking, “Oh, it’s terrible,” and he’s kind of, “Yes, fantastic!” Other moments I think, “We nailed that,” and everyone’s looking around scratching, wondering how they’re going to tell us.
Is this movie much more physical than the other two? It seems there’s much more smash-mouth stuff, because of the nature of Bane.
|It’s the first time in Chris’ movies that we’ve had an adversary who’s physically superior.|
The nature of Bane, right. Yes, certainly between the two of us. That’s right, because it’s the first time in Chris’ movies that we’ve had an adversary who’s physically superior. Previously it’s always been an intellectual battle and you know what’s going to happen if they meet and it gets to a fistfight.
You and Tom Hardy trade quite a few blows. How was he to work with?
Tom is phenomenal. He’s an extraordinary actor. If I was a director I would want Tom to be in my movies. He knows his shit. But it’s a funny distance that you have in these movies, literally, by being cocooned by a cowl. I don’t truly feel like I’ve worked with Gary [Oldman], even though we’ve done three movies together. I don’t really feel like I’ve worked with Gary because I’m here in this darkness every time. And likewise with Tom, we’re both behind these masks. He’s feeling that isolation as well. It’s a strange feeling. So we agreed after this we’d like to work with each other on something one day!
What was your reaction when you were first told that Bane would be the main villain?
I thought it was a great idea. The only time I’ve ever really familiarised myself with the graphic novels was previous to Batman Begins. For inspiration, for understanding what Chris [Nolan] was going for. After that I never picked one up again, because by then we had created our world, so I just referenced that one. So I wasn’t familiar with Bane, you know? I vaguely remembered just a crazy ‘roid-looking guy with a mask. But I just trust and have faith in Chris. Look, this is not going to be an impulsive decision of his, you know? I always kinda suspected he would do a third one. But it was never definite. And I hoped that he would think of it as a challenge, the fact that with most movies, by the time they get to a third one, it’s crap. So I knew he wasn’t gonna mess around with making a poor decision on who the bloody villain was.
Then I just went and sat around at Chris’ house and astounded him with how slow a reader I am. I sat and read and he kept walking in going, “You’re kidding me! Still?” And I’m like, “Yeah. Still.” Then lunch… dinner… [laughs]. Then he came in and was like, “That actually took you seven hours”. [laughs]. And I understood at that point.
The Dark Knight was an immense success…
I understand that. Yes. I’ve heard, I’ve heard. It did quite well.
You’ve been told, good! But to do a billion, I don’t think anyone could have guessed that. Did that create more pressure on this?
Well, that’s not a bad pressure to have, is it? You should feel you wanna top the experience. I think the bad pressure would be if it was focused on the money. I always confess that I have no idea what people wanna see. I’ve got no clue. I’m an idiot with that. With Titanic I thought, “That’s crazy, why would they wanna make that movie? Everyone knows how it ends so no-one will bother seeing it!” So in fact that the numbers, whilst astounding, don’t interest me in the slightest. You know, it’s very strange for me to be in a movie that has ever done well financially…
Was it strange to be out in daylight in the Batsuit so much for this final instalment?
It was very strange to start with. We had the idea of the intimidation and the mystery being successful in the dark. And so it did feel odd to be outside quite so much. But obviously I got used to that. We kinda made a deal right when we first made Batman Begins; me and Chris said, “Let’s just not let people see Batman half-dressed. It’s just not a good idea.” Batman should be Batman and that’s it. He should always be defined and complete and let’s not ruin that experience for people.
We never really see you wearing the suit without the cowl, do we?
Never do, never. I mean like [during the Wall Street battle scene], it’s funny because when it’s cold the cowl is extremely tight, and it gets better the warmer I get; it becomes more flexible. But after a couple of takes I was trying to breathe and I wasn’t getting the breath properly in my nose. I was starting to see stars and I said, “I have to take this off,” and thank god on this one I can — on The Dark Knight I could as well, but on Batman Begins I couldn’t — so I had to get inside because I couldn’t let anybody see me without the cowl, you know?
Do you think it’s a shame that so much gets revealed so soon these days, via camera phones and the internet?
It’s incredible how much technology has advanced where everybody has cameras and phones everywhere, so I guess you just can’t — and especially the fact that we’re out in daylight so much more with this one — it’s impossible to stop people. I mean we were doing [fight] rehearsals and it’s like, “Oh, I can’t punch that guy ‘cause he’s a paparazzo. He’s not an extra”. They’re right in there. Chris and I are talking and there’s a paparazzo right there! The thing about the net, though, is nobody knows what’s true and what’s not. So that can be quite interesting for us. There’ll be moments when — and it was likewise with The Dark Knight — you go, “Oh shit, somebody got it right there,” but nobody but us knows that. There’s all these other ideas out there too and maybe people haven’t gotten it that that one was right! There’s so much crap that cushions the truth.
Interview by Dan Jolin
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