Batman Speaks, Talking ‘The Dark Knight’ with Christian Bale

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The man behind the mask… Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

I was recently thinking how amazing it actually is to have films based on comic book superheroes starring bonafide actors working under the direction of a bonafide helmer. Christian Bale is a prime example of a man none of us would have thought of a few years ago to star as the Caped Crusader in a new Batman franchise, but here we are. It’s 2008 and not only do we have one film starring Bale, but two, and he has led the way for actors such as Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk), proving you don’t have to be some second rate actor looking for a big break in the summer blockbuster film. No, in fact you can be a highly sought after actor and as long as everyone approaches the material as if they are making a film and not just another popcorn actioner what you get is much more than your average comic book movie.

Bales steps back into Batman’s shoes in The Dark Knight and he still has one more film left in his contract, but before we get to that, let’s see just how it was for him to return to the character so many folks have been looking forward to seeing on screen for over a year now.

So, how was it literally stepping back into the Batsuit?

Christian Bale (CB): Literally stepping back into it was much more comfortably than the first time. It’s much more advanced suit than the original one. There had been some requests from myself and from Chris [Nolan] to be more maneuverable. At first I was fighting against the suit to do all of the fight sequences, this one was actually compatible with the Keysi fighting method. I could move my head.

It was heavier than the original, but just so much more motion. I could breathe properly inside of it, it didn’t squeeze my head like a vice throughout. So I had to act the rage and anger this time around. I think in keeping with the evolution of the story, it’s natural the Batsuit should evolve and I think in keeping with this movie appearing more realistic in the backdrop, the city, etcetera that it’s closer in appearance of the military, the future soldiers’ combat gear.

Then the other side of it, not so literally, how was it returning to the character?

CB: Very easy, you know it’s the first time that I’ve done that, third time I’ve worked with Chris Nolan and the crew and cast members so we know each other well. Chris was not just treading water, you know he was not going to make the movie unless it was going to be better than the first one and given more to do for each of the characters. Really, far less pressure than I felt with the first one.

Batman has helped establish you as a movie star. When you first started with Spielberg in Empire of the Sun and a lot of child movie stars have disappeared, at what point did you think that this is the career that you wanted after Empire of the Sun? Was there a point you thought, “No, I want to go off and do something else, I don’t really want to be an actor”?

CB: Yeah, many times I would often have times I was unsure this was what I wanted to do forever. Even the notion of forever was completely alien to me, but I did always like the opportunities it afforded even if I lost enjoyment now and then with the actual acting or the movies I was making. I like the most basic things, in this movie I got to go stand on the lip of the Sears Tower, you don’t get to do those kinds of things. I get to go research and be able to go around FBI headquarters and have people let me into departments I would never get access to. These fascinating things which I recognize I would never get if it wasn’t for acting. That being said, probably I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t started with Empire of the Sun, but it’s a less than ideal and I wouldn’t recommend anybody starting at a young age doing this professionally. I would definitely try and convince anyone in my family and near to me not to do so at such a young age.

There’s a point in the movie where The Joker says to Batman, “You complete me.” Is that something that is true with actors, that you find that great partner to work against that it becomes a great performance because of both parties?

CB: Yeah, very true, and with directors as well. It all comes down to the director really, because he’s responsible for the casting, so even if you get an actor doing a wonderful job – well, the director cast that actor in it. I give full credit, always, to the directors and absolute blame to the director as well if the movie is a failure. It’s something I believe is absolutely true and a reasonable thing to consider.

I love that dynamic between The Joker and Batman, he completes him in a sense that he finally has a really worthy challenge, a worthy opponent, that challenges him in a way that nobody else ever has.

Yeah, with other actors, but I found that [connection] with Heath. His immersion into the character makes it incredibly easy to work opposite and up everybody’s game.

How would you describe your dynamic with Heath?

CB: I felt a real enjoyment. I was almost kind of chuckling inside and I didn’t want to let it show when we were doing our first scene, which was in the interrogation room and I saw what he was going to do with it, and I felt I recognized the satisfaction he seemed to be getting in the pleasure from the role to be similar to the satisfaction that I get from acting as well. I felt very comfortable working with him.

Did you bond? I know you have spoken about that a little bit…

CB: I think a few things have been taken out of context with what I was talking about, but look… The guy was wonderful company and when he took off The Joker stuff he was Heath again. He was wonderful company.

When you look at a film you may see flaws and things you could do better, did you watch Batman Begins and think about that when you started The Dark Knight and think maybe you could have a chance to do something better with either Bruce Wayne or Batman?

CB: Not so much any corrections, just evolution, but also remember the first time people were having faith in Chris’s idea and what he had spoken about what he was able to do, but he had to prove himself. After Batman Begins, he didn’t have to describe, he didn’t have to convince people, they could see what he meant. So, it was my impression he was given much more freedom with The Dark Knight to make exactly the movie he wished to.

Could you talk a little about working with Maggie?

CB: Maggie did a great job because she was obviously stepping into the Rachel character played by Katie Holmes in the first one. There can be a lot of pressure in doing that but I found she did a wonderful job, it didn’t jolt me at all, out of the movie, to see this is a different actress playing the character now. She made it her own and I thought she did terrific.

How about Aaron since he had to play a character that became more of a villain by the end?

CB: He is this rival in terms of Rachel, unknowingly to Harvey Dent, to Bruce because of that, but at the same time, probably more importantly, somebody Bruce sees as the answer to be able to make Batman obsolete and to be able to put this Batman creature to rest and get on with his own life and stop sacrificing that. Like he says, if there can be a hero with a face the Batman is not needed any longer. Aaron did a wonderful job with that.

He has such a distinctive chin, I looked at him often and wondered if he would look better inside of my get up, but it would probably be a giveaway for Bruce Wayne with that dimple.

Go Batman, Go!
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Did you do any of the driving at all or was that all doubles?

CB: On the Batmobile, this one no, completely George Cottle. He’s a wonderful driver. I mean, I did drive it, but I didn’t drive it on film I would just race up and down. There’s a Lamborghini in there, you know, oh I had to go practice on that for many hours. I would have to learn how to do the 180s on that, it was really essential. The motorbike as well, I spent days just roaring up and down, all I had to do was pull up and get off it. I insisted it was absolutely necessary for my preparation.

So yes, I did drive it, but on camera it’s pretty much all George. Because, when you see it jumping the other cars and (INAUDIBLE) I could really drive it jumping those other cars. I am quite happy to admit I am not up to that skill level.

The Batpod, that was an embarrassing challenge. I have to admit that there’s not a single moment in the movie I am in control of that thing. There was only one man, Jean-Pierre Goy, world class biker, who was able to control that and not fall off.

Was it because of the wheels?

CB: It’s essentially because they’re huge, they’re the wheels from the Tumbler. I ride motorbikes, but there were world class bikers who were getting on this thing and coming straight off of it. I had to recognize at that point I wasn’t going to manage it either. So whenever you see me on it, it’s still an adrenaline rush, but I am getting dragged behind another vehicle. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have to give kudos to Jean-Pierre for being the only person in the world who was able to master it. He said so himself, it’s not a motorbike, you have to actually ignore all of the skills you have learned as a biker in order to learn how to operate the Batpod.

** SPOILER QUESTION (highlight to read) **

In the film Batman becomes something of a villain, do you feel he deserves to be redeemed in the future?

CB: Well, of course, that would be the hope. It’s fulfilling the role of a true hero, he’s somebody who deserves all the credit and gets none of it whatsoever and is happy to take that accusation if it means the overall good is achieved.

** END SPOILER **

So, would you want to do this again?

CB: That’s up to Chris Nolan, the answer is up to him.

Do you have a three film contract?

CB: Yes, however, I just can’t imagine doing this without Chris. He’s created this completely so I hope that choice will be his.

Then there’s another pretty iconic role you are stepping into as John Connor in Terminator Salvation. What kind of research did you do for that?

CB: In a similar fashion to what Chris did with Batman Begins, in the reinvention. With Terminator – clearly it’s not an origin story – as with Batman Begins we were saying this is the first story, we’re ignoring the others. Terminator, no, you have to recognize the mythology that’s already there. But, it’s our responsibility as the filmmakers and there is no point in making it if we’re not going to evolve it, revitalize it and reinvent it. It needs that, it has to happen, otherwise it won’t be successful from a creative point of view.

Are you still attached to Killing Pablo and if so what is the status of that film?

CB: I hope we get it made and work with Joe Carnahan. I’ve never been “attached,” I’m attached in the fact that I want to work with Joe, he’s a fantastic writer, he’s written a wonderful script. It’s about finding the time and all of the various preparations and circumstances that go into actually managing to get something made.

Then you made Public Enemies

CB: Yeah, it’s coming out next year, it’s coming out in July.


You can also read our interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal here and with producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven here.

Also, be sure to stay tuned for David Goyer, Jonathan Nolan, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Christopher Nolan. We also have a Dark Knight giveaway you can sign up for right here.

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Weekend: Oct. 24, 2019, Oct. 27, 2019

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