How were the scene and the part described to you? Nolan is very secretive — did he give you any sense of the broader story, who Bane was, and so on?
Yeah it was all very clandestine. When I was offered the role the missive I got was, “There’s this one part, it’s one scene…” I said, “Eh, is that it?” And they said, “Yes. That’s it. It’ll be a good scene, but you don’t get the pages unless you say you’re going to do it.” So I said yes and a couple of days later seven red pages which arrived by FedEx in New York, where I was.
I didn’t actually meet with or speak to Chris Nolan until Day One on the set. I had a few questions, naturally, about how much I was supposed to know about Bane ¬in the story — whether we were actually looking for him or was this just a fortuitous, or rather not very fortuitous encounter, on my part, that is. I got some answers, but didn’t ask about anything that didn’t relate to the scene we were shooting, as at this point I also knew it would be the opening scene and anything beyond this in story terms wasn’t really relevant. As the Bane character has been around a while, I had the basic Bane knowledge — ie he’s big and he’s strong.
How many days did you shoot for?
I was at Cardington for about seven days, but only shot on two or three of those. The sets there are built inside two massive World War One airship hangars, which are very Batman.
How much did you work in special-effects supervisor Chris Corbould’s hydraulic rig set of the CIA plane?
I was in that rig for a day or two. The rig itself did just about as much as you could possibly expect to replicate the action of an out-of-control plane without actually being in one, and you had to watch out for real, cos it was still pretty high up, with an open door, and you’re rolling around with stuff flying all over the place when it gets going. All controlled, sure, but you had to watch it. Wind machines blowing broken glass in several directions, people falling past, a massive IMAX camera that makes a sound not unlike a wind machine itself…
It was cool to see the dynamic between Nolan and Wally Pfister. I hadn’t reckoned on it being such a level partnership. Wally is like something from a John Ford or Howard Hawkes set, if not those actual guys themselves. Very old-school feel, super-profane, all in a good way. And despite it being such a massive set-up, they were shooting in what seemed a very loose and free manner.
I felt at home getting shunted around up there, firing my gun and hanging guys out the door. And thinking, “Shit — this only lasts until Wednesday.”
Did you experience the rig going fully vertical?
I’d love to say I was there all the way, but I made it to about 45 degrees, then it was time to hand it over [to the stuntmen]. But that’s only for one falling shot, really… and loads of lying on the floor with a ton-weight IMAX camera 20 feet above you…
How much did you interact with Tom Hardy? How was he to work with?
We were just getting on with it. I tend to keep to myself in between takes when working on anything, and in this case you really did have to listen out so you were on-side with what was going to be happening next. He had the mask on all the time and it was very noisy, like I said, with the hydraulics, wind machines and camera, so it was really a quite technical exercise, like me trying to find timings so I’d know whose turn it was to talk. He’d be arriving with a sack over his head, so the long-lensers in the bushes couldn’t get any shots of the mask, which was amusing!
What did you make of the final product?
I really liked the film. As final part of the trilogy it had a proper sense of closure and it looked absolutely beautiful. I also liked the way, by the time we reached the finale, it was really obviously Manhattan we were looking at, and all that that brought with it. The levels of anxiety that had been present throughout the trilogy were maintained — ramped up, even — from first scene through to the last.
The Dark Knight Rises is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Ultra-Violet.