Emma Thomas has been the producer for all three of director Chris Nolan's Batman films -- BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Below is the interview with Emma that took place in August of 2011 on the Pittsburgh, PA set of RISES. She is a lovely woman and I'm proud to be able to call her a friend.
EMMA THOMAS: Basically, this scene is in a football stadium and weíve got the Gotham Rogues playing the Rapid City Monuments. Itís really fun for us, shooting in Pittsburgh, because we had the Pittsburgh Steelers here this morning; theyíre playing some of the Gotham Rogues.
What happens in this scene is, and this is the total top line rather than giving you the whole thingÖbasically, Bane (Tom Hardy) comes and subverts it and, as you probably know, heís one of our villains. He takes this moment to tell Gotham what his plan for them is.
Are the craters on the field a result of what Bane does?
ET: Youíll see that. Thereís going to be quite a lot of explosions during the game. Youíll see all that later on, hopefully.
Does Ben Roethlisberger get blown up?
ET: (laughs) No, weíre not going to be blowing him up, although he was he was here this morning. Itís a shame you got stuck in traffic. We just shot all the Steelers for the national anthem moment and he was here.
Is this the first time we see Bane in the movie?
ET: No, itís not his introduction. This is the moment where he makes is plans known.
What can you tell us about what Baneís agenda is and how close it is to the comic book roots? He was a lifelong prisoner and had a Spanish accent in the comics. How much of that is intact in the movie?
ET> Without saying too much, I think weíve retained what works for this universe and for our world. Heís definitely recognizable. But then there are some things that weíve changed, because I donít think those things wouldnít have fit into Chris Nolanís version of the [Batman] world.
Are you surprised at the level of interest around the world in your production? The amount of most set photos that have hit the Net has been huge. Were you prepared for this or did it blindside you all?
ET: Weíve definitely been surprised by it. Itís interesting because every film that we make -- certainly with this film because of the property and because of the success of THE DARK KNIGHT -- thereís definitely a whole different level of interest based on the tie with that. But also, every time we make a film, every two years, whatís interesting to me and what I find fascinating, is that technology has changed. Twitter wasnít a big thing even on INCEPTION and it certainly wasnít on THE DARK KNIGHT. It just seems to me that thereís so much more. People communicate in a whole different way now I guess.
Itís partly a function of what weíre shooting. On THE DARK KNIGHT, for example, we were shooting mostly night shoots in the Loop in Chicago, so there was no one around to take photos. There were a few die-hard fans that would come down to the set and be there for everything, but this is different. Weíre shooting in the middle of the day and in the middle of Pittsburgh. There are lots of different reasons why thereís a lot more interest, but one of the most interesting things to me is the way that technology is different. Where, on THE DARK KNIGHT, if someone had taken a set photo, it might end up online maybe the next day or maybe a couple days later. But now, Iím literally looking on the computer and, a half an hour after weíve shot something, itís everywhere! Itís crazy!
I think itís a bummer, personally. I love that people are interested and excited, but Iíd prefer people wait for the movie.
What about the choice of Bane for this movie, which is obviously very different from The Joker. The Joker was very intelligent, very methodical. Youíd imagine Bane to be all brawn. Was it deliberate to go that rout with this movie, to be more action based?
ET: Thatís something that Chris [Nolan] can speak to a little bit more than me, and probably Tom [Hardy], too. I think thatís one of the interesting things about Bane as a choice. We were obviously never going to revisit The Joker and you donít want to be trying to chase that. So itís fun to have a very different sort of villain in this and a different sort of challenge for Batman to meet -- one thatís much more physical. Itís almost a more even match in some ways, you know, in a physical sense. You just donít want to do the same thing again.
BOF: Youíve got another very iconic character, probably the next biggest after Joker, one would argue, although youíve not actually said sheís CatwomanÖ
ET: We havenít, thatís true. As we were just saying, thereís so little that we can control about what goes out there at this point. Itís actually quite nice to not give everything away!
Can you talk about any of the comic book storylines that may have influenced this? Clearly, when you bring up Bane, everyone thinks of the KNIGHTFALL storyline. Are you actually culling from existing storylines for the basis of the film?
ET: Not being one of the writers, itís difficult for me to talk about that sort of inspiration. I think that Chris and David Goyer are very mindful. Itís great for them to have that massive treasure chest, really, of the comic book storylines to draw from. Once again, as I was saying in terms of how things fit into our world, ultimately what theyíre doing is completing the stories that were started in BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT. Theyíre drawing from comic book elements, undoubtedly. I canít speak to which specific elements because thatís their thing. But itís a mixture of both.
BOF: One of the things that people have talked about is that youíre shooting so much in the daytime. Is Chris going for a different visual aesthetic on this one?
ET: Itís definitely a different aesthetic. Once again, we didnít want to just be repeating the same old thing. I donít think anyone would want to see just the same old thing and it certainly wouldnít be any fun for us to tell the same old story. Visually, I think the same thing applies to that. Itís meant to be winter in Gotham, so that right there is going to lend a whole different look to the film. So far, we have shot rather more in the daylight than we did in THE DARK KNIGHT, but weíve got a lot of nights coming our way, too.
What are the pros and cons of being here in Pittsburgh instead of Chicago where you shot the first two movies?
ET: Itís great to be in Pittsburgh. Weíre having a really great time here. One of the biggest reasons we came here was that Chicago -- we had a fantastic time there and we loved it -- but we literally have shot every inch of that city. As I said, we donít want to be re-treading in old territory, whether that be visually or in terms of the storyline. We want this to be a stand-alone movie that just doesnít feel like something anyoneís seen before.
Gotham is meant to be a massive metropolis -- itís meant to be a huge city. I think we felt like if we went back to Chicago we would be limiting the scope and we just wanted to make it feel massive.
There are locations in India, too?
ET: Yeah, we shot a small piece in India. Weíve been all over the place. Weíve done India, England, Scotland, here, and going to Los Angeles next, and then New York.
One of the more interesting things about Baneís character is that, beyond being a physical match for Batman, he might even be smarter than him. Is the intellectual component of Bane very much present in this movie or is it more physical?
ET: I donít want to sound like itís all about brawn, because itís not. Heís definitely a smart guy -- we are touching on that, no doubt. I think that thatís why itís an interesting match for Batman after The Joker, who was just purely about chaos and playing with people. Bane has a plan.
Everything in this movie is epic, including the casting. People have remarked on just the sheer number of actors involved in this. What can you tell us about some of these other characters like Tom Conti and Matthew Modine and Alon Aboutboul and Christopher Judge, all those guys?
ET: Once again, we feel very lucky to have such an amazing cast. Chrisís attempt has always been, beyond the big lead roles, to flesh out the world with believable characters. A big part of that is getting really amazing actors to play the parts.