The guiding impulse of telling this Batman trilogy has been Bruce Wayne’s journey. In the eight years since ‘The Dark Knight,’ Bruce has found himself jaded, and in a darker place.
Christian Bale: Yeah. Well, in ‘Batman Begins,’ you see the tragedy and the pain that motivates this angry young man, who feels useless and is searching for a path. This young man who wants to find out who he is and what he can become. Then in ‘The Dark Knight,’ he’s discovered that path. He is useful; he is doing what he imagines is the best thing for him to be doing in his life. Now, we are eight years on and he has lost the one thing that gave him a purpose…until he is forced to deal with a new threat to the city and to himself. Bruce Wayne feels absolutely isolated since the tragedy of losing the woman he loved, Rachel, and the terrible turn of events with what happened to Harvey Dent. He carries a certain amount of guilt that if he had not chosen the course of becoming Batman, none of that would have happened. His belief has been rocked, and that has caught up with him, both physically and emotionally. But how much longer can he allow the pain of what has happened in his life control what he does with his life? And at what point does it start to become completely self-destructive, you know?
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer began working on the script for ’The Dark Knight Rises’ prior to the recession and prior to movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Yet while you were filming the movie, the recession, income inequality, and the rise of protest movements made elements of the story all the more relevant….
Christian Bale: There’s something I’ve always found uncanny with Chris’ ability to make movies very topical. There was something that happened with Occupy Wall Street, which actually happened a couple of blocks away from where we were filming in New York, which he had no way of knowing was going to happen when he wrote the script and when we started, you know? But by the time it was happening I was looking at him going, “What the hell? How did you know?” (Laughs) It become very topical. I think in many ways, my understanding is that Bob Kane created this character in 1939, which being from England, that’s the beginning of World War II, and it was an answer to the uselessness individuals felt against this humongous tragedy. This question of, “What could you do?” So it as topical in its inception, that’s how Batman began. And there’s been wonderful spoofs, Adam West done it beautifully and spoofed it. But it began as a very topical character and I think Christopher Nolan has returned it to that.
With Bane, Batman has met his match physically as well as intellectually. How was that working against?
Christian Bale: Definitley. This is the first time it appears highly unlikely that Batman will come out on top in a physical altercation. He has been dormant for years, so he’s in a weakened condition to begin with, and Bane, he’s not only incredibly strong but ruthless in terms of his sheer militancy and the ideology that drives him. Tom Hardy did a wonderful job becoming this very formidable adversary. He is a very bold actor that I admire greatly, a phenomenal actor, a formidable opponent. It was fantastic working with him.
How was it working on the fight scenes with Tom Hardy’s Bane? I think that’s something people are going to be talking about after they watch ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
Christian Bale: The final fight sequence, we started that in Pittsburgh and we finished it in New York. So it took a fair bit of time to get from one place to the other, punching each other all the way (laughs). But there was the excitement of….I don’t know how many extras were there, everybody punching each other….but it really invigorated myself and Tom Hardy. He‘s obviously the first adversary of Batman that you know could probably whip his butt. Which we’d never seen before. The thing that I liked so much about the fight sequences with Batman were that they’re never just knock-down fight sequences, you learn something more about each character throughout each fight, which is the mark of a good fight. You are learning about what Batman has had to go through, from the beginning of the movie until the end, in order to be able to try to defeat this man. You are learning about Bane as well, the changes that have come over him. That is always essential with any fight. That’s what you’re really looking for, we’ve seen so many people punching each other none-stop….who cares? But you’re looking for, “What are the changes, what are the weaknesses, what are the strengths of these characters that are going to allow them to dominate one or the other? What is going to change the situation here?”
With this being your third and final instalment in this Batman story. What were the comparisons between when you first saw yourself in the mirror, in costume, versus your last day filming as Batman. When you looked in the mirror and thought, “This is it.” What was that experience like?
Christian Bale: I think the very first time I had the costume on, it was at the audition, it was Val Kilmer’s Batman costume. It’s didn’t fit very well (laughs). The first time that I ever put on the actual one myself, I thought, “Oh, Chris has to recast.“ Because, the claustrophobia was just unbelievable. And I stood there and I thought, “I can’t breathe, I can’t think, this is too tight, this is squeezing my head, I’m in a panic, I’m about to have a nervous breakdown. I’m having a panic attack right this second!” So, I breathed deeply and I asked for 20 minutes by myself. I said, “Could everyone just leave me alone for 20 minutes.” So everyone left me alone for 20 minutes and I stood there and thought, ‘I’d really like to make this movie, I‘d like to be able to get through this moment here.” (Laughs) So I just stood for 20 minutes by myself, called everyone back in and I was like, “OK, lets all talk very calmly and quietly please. Maybe I can get through this,” and I learnt to.
Then, similarly, after 20 more months of wearing that cowl, it became….in the same way that Bruce Wayne improves the suit, we improved the suit for ourselves, and it became far more comfortable. And primarily, that panic attack aspect, that was lost because I was able to rip it off myself if I ever did start seeing stars and I couldn’t breathe. But it was a very similar thing at the end of shooting ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I was doing a scene as Batman with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman on a roof. I was wrapped and the whole movie wasn’t wrapped, they had a number of days to go yet, but I went down, I sat in a room and I realised, “This is it, I’m never going to be taking this cowl off again.“ So again, I said, “Can you please leave me alone for 20 minutes?” And I sat, but with that moment it was a realisation of everything we had done, and with a real pride of having achieved what we had set out to. It was a very important moment to me. It’s been a very important character to me, it’s the only time I’ve played a character three times in a row. The movies themselves have changed my life and changed my career, so I just wanted to appreciate that for a little while. It was very bittersweet when I took off the cowl for the last time, because it’s meant so much to me personally to play this character. It never stopped giving me goose bumps to stand in that suit, because I recognize the honour of having portrayed this icon. And I can’t help but feel immensely proud.
Other than Alfred, Bruce Wayne hasn’t had many constants in his life. There’s some amazing moments with Alfred in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’….
Christian Bale: Yeah, definitely. Alfred has been the one constant throughout his life, the only family Bruce Wayne has left. Alfred has seen him grow up, watched him become a man, and he’s seen the pain Bruce has gone through. He accepted Bruce’s need to honour his parents and try to right the wrongs of their deaths, but equally he recognizes that his parents would be desperately unhappy that he’s not living any kind of life. There’s always been that caution from Alfred that this is not the best thing for Bruce in the long run, and it comes to a head in this story.
Two character introduced in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ are Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle and Marion Cotillard’ Miranda Tate. They both have an unexpected effect on him, in different ways?
Christian Bale: What really impacts Bruce Wayne is that, after years of isolation, he’s meeting this woman he finds fascinating and funny, in Selina Kyle. He suddenly recognizes he’s been seeking something, even unconsciously…that he’s lost all the colour in his life and needs some human contact. And with Miranda Tate, she’s somebody who is encouraging Bruce to use his resources for the betterment of Gotham through an environmental project. She is beautiful, smart and altruistic, and all the good that she aspires to earns his respect and also intrigues him a great deal. I had worked with Marion very briefly in ‘Public Enemies,‘ and she’s wonderful and versatile actress. It was great working with her, and with Anne, likewise, she’s done a great job.
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