Dark Knight Rises co-writer Jonathan Nolan looks beyond Batman in Empire's chat with the Oscar-nominated screenwriter.
What are you working on at the moment?
Well, I’m working on my TV show (Person Of Interest)... and then trying to figure out what the next movie is!
Yes, that’s the thing everybody’s waiting to hear about!
Yeah, it’s very exciting. Got a couple of interesting things I’m working on.
Is this together with Chris, or your own thing?
|"After Inception, Chris can do anything. You can write a sequence as huge as you like."|
I do have a couple of things I’d love to work with him on, yeah. We’ll see how it works out...
The Dark Knight Rises took the superhero genre to a truly epic level. Was there a sense that you could do anything you liked on this one?
The fun thing about writing in that environment is, with Emma [Thomas] and Chris and Wally [Pfister] and their team, whatever you want to do with a scene they would be able to achieve it. The beauty of that is you don’t have to sit there saying to yourself, ‘Well they’re not going to be able to do that!’ After Inception, Chris can do anything. You can write a sequence as huge as you like.
It’s interesting now, looking at the Bane prologue in the context of this year’s films — The Avengers, Skyfall — there does seem to be this trend of villains conspiring to get themselves captured...
Well, the Joker did that gag in The Dark Knight and that’s one of my favourite scenes in The Dark Knight! But I’m sure we were inspired by what went before — probably Bond movies or something else. There’s something great about it: in the face of certain defeat they have actually engineered the whole thing. There are similarities between Bane and The Joker in that sense. With both you think the shoe is on the other foot, and then you realise that the entire encounter has been engineered for them to get something they want. But The Joker has a particularly municipal aim. With this one, Bane’s out to do something really big. He is completely in charge of that situation. And unafraid, almost absurdly fearless. You’re never in any doubt with Bane. He is completely what he is. He’s absolutely... Out-of the box thinking. He does not take into consideration his fear.
That scene’s particularly complex in terms of what we have to follow — it was quite bold to have a blood transfusion going on amid all that chaos.
Yeah, I was actually surprised it made it into the film. It was like that moment in The Dark Knight where The Joker hides the cellphone in the man’s stomach. But it is important to the story. Bane is taking his enemies’ strength and using it against them, namely the CIA’s forensic capabilities. He knows they will check the wreckage and they find the body and they will think it’s him [Dr Pavel]. I always say, if you’ve got a good idea throw it in there!
Tell us about the casting of Aidan Gillen. Are you and Chris fans of The Wire? He’s great in that as Mayor Carcetti and I wondered if that led you to him...
I am a huge, huge fan of The Wire and I got Chris into it from the second season. I started watching that show from the first season. David Simon is extremely talented, and there’s so many good actors in it.
The last time we spoke, you promised that Anne Hathaway would blow us away as Selina Kyle. You were right.
Yeah, she is fantastic. I mean, everyone in this movie’s fantastic, especially Christian — what he’s done with the character of Bruce Wayne over the course of the three films... But I’m glad you agree on Anne.
The scene that really grabs you is the one where she goes in a beat from kicking guys’ asses to playing the screaming victim on the floor...
Yeah, you get these things on paper… It’s very easy for a writer to write that, to see the change on paper, but for an actor to actually do it, I think it’s extraordinary. Mesmerising. And Anne is such a decent, caring, loving, well-adjusted person, too. (laughs)
We have to ask about the Robin gag at the end. We’d always wondered how possible it would be to make that character work in this version of the Batman universe, and this has to have been the only way.
It is a little hard to imagine Robin working in that universe, so the idea had to be limited to that gag at the end. But Joe’s character is very important to the story. In any movie you need a character looking at proceedings the way you see them, and Joe’s character is that character for this film. One of my favourite scenes is when John tells Bruce how he knew he was Batman. It’s like that scene in The Prestige where the little kid sees through Christian’s trick. Little kids, they don’t have any illusions, they just see the truth of the situation. I feel there’s a kind of spiritual connection between the two movies there.
There are of course many other Batman characters that it would have been hard to imagine in these movies...
|"Joss Whedon is a god. The Avengers was just an incredible achievement."|
Yeah, like Clayface or, indeed, The Penguin. Part of what’s compelling about Chris’s take is the naturalism of it and I think that’s one of the things I loved about the Frank Miller comic books was that they were sort of urban, gritty vigilante stories first and formost. So everything had to stick within that universe. It’s hard to imagine [in these movies] any of the rogue’s gallery characters who have sort of a more supernatural or science-fiction bent to them. And I think that’s one of the aspects of Batman which are fascinating: in 70 years, the character has been sort of fully laundered. Because of writers and artists having every month coming up with a different story to tell with this character, there are often different genre aspects to it. You have your science-fictions, you’ve had fantasy elements along the way, horror, camp comedy... I mean there are so many different versions.
Are you curious about the plans for the Justice League movie, and seeing Batman in that very different context?
I’m incredibly excited. I was a big Batman fan when I was a kid. In fact he was the only comic-book character I really liked. I went through a brief spell where I was reading Captain Britain, because I was an English kid living in the States, and Wolverine for 30 seconds, Spider-Man too, but really Batman was the one. And I love that there are different versions of the character. I love that in the context of The Justice League, he’s kind of the black sheep of that family.
Speaking of supergroups, did you see Avengers?
I did. To me Joss Whedon is a god, I’m just a huge fan of his work, I love his work on TV. And I thought The Avengers was just an incredible achievement.
The Dark Knight Rises is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Ultra-Violet.