BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!


Friday, June 10, 2005

The last of the roundtable interviews would be with the man behind BATMAN BEGINS - director Christopher Nolan. He was accompanied by his wife - and BATMAN BEGINS producer - Emma Thomas.

Nolan is best known for MEMENTO - the “backwards” movie - and INSOMNIA, which he did for Warner Bros. Never before helming a “blockbuster” film, Nolan was thought to be an unlikely choice to revive the BATMAN franchise. But after viewing the film last Thursday evening (June 2nd), that’s just what Mr. Nolan has done. In fact, he may go down in Batman lore as the man who saved Batman - on film at least.

BATMAN BEGINS is a serious, adult-oriented film. Chris Nolan agrees, “You’re right. But I think there is this increasing misperception that kids will not respond to something because it is also for adults. I think that often tends to get underestimated.”

Since BATMAN BEGINS is such a huge film - and Nolan came from doing smaller ones - does he want to continue making big movies? “To be honest, I don’t think they come much bigger than this,” the director says of his Bat-film. “I would love certainly to do something on this scale again, because I enjoyed it. But I would also be interested to go back to something smaller. I think there are advantages to different scales of filmmaking. You wouldn’t want to do just one thing.”

Nolan was questioned whether or not he had any sort of mandate from Warner Bros. when it came to BATMAN. “The creative mandate was really to do something fresh and original,” he said. “And if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with the project because it is pretty rare to have an iconic figure that is owned and controlled by a studio that’s asking you to do something different with it.” Nolan continued, “For me, what that became was my desire to do something we hadn’t seen before - a superhero story told in a realistic fashion.”

For the first time in a BATMAN film, Gotham City looks and feel like a real city - in both size and scope. And even filming took place on location in Chicago, New York, and London, it is its own city. “We tried not to be too specific,” Nolan told us, “We wanted to do something that reflects the reality of a large modern city, which is a tremendous variety of architecture and a tremendous variety of periods in which things were built. We approached Gotham as an exaggeration of New York. [We took] some from New York, some from Chicago, a lot from Tokyo because of elevated freeways and monorails. From Hong Kong we took the walled city of Kalhoon - which is the basis of the “Narrows” which is this kind of walled in slum.”

Just as with all the cast and crew that we had a chance to visit with, Nolan was questioned about doing a sequel to BATMAN BEGINS. “Well, I enjoyed making this film very much. So, I would be open to it. But, uh, I wouldn’t want to jump into it straight away,” Nolan said with a laugh. Nolan spent over two years consumed with this film, so wanting to do something else first is certainly understandable. Nolan’s wife, producer Emma Thomas interjected, “We’re having another baby [soon], so I’m quite ready for a holiday.”

(A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR : BOF has heard from several sources that Nolan and Goyer are looking at a trilogy. The next one will feature The Joker, with The Batman’s relationship with D.A. Harvey Dent being forged. The third film will feature Two-Face - the villain that Dent eventually becomes.)

Talk of a sequel continued. Nolan was asked if he did come back, if has given any thought to a story - as BATMAN BEGINS certainly sets things up for a follow-up. “Yes, it does [set up for a sequel],” Nolan told us, “but for me it was just a way to send the audience out with a sense of possibility and a sense of excitement about where this character could go. I certainly share that sense and we’ve talked in vague terms about how you could follow on from this film, absolutely. But at the same time, it’s very important that this film stand on its own.”

BATMAN BEGINS features very little CGI. Most of what you see in the film actually happened and was filmed. What did Nolan think about the challenge that all the practical effects in the movie would pose? “The challenge wasn’t really to me, it was to the stunt co-coordinator and the physical effects guys, and they rose to it admirably. And I think they - in a day and age when so much is done with computers - they really rose to the opportunity.” Chris continued, “They really enjoyed the opportunity which is performing amazing feats and building amazing things that can actually work in the real world.”

Mr. Nolan was asked about his approach in dealing with actors. “Well, my approach is to try to give them whatever they need from me - how much they need to know from me and how much they can figure it out for themselves, really.” Nolan continued, “This was a very talented bunch of actors and they were very specific in what they wanted to do. What was nice was that I was very relaxed with that notion because I had a whole lot of other things to worry about on this film because of the scale of it.” All the actors that I talked to were very complimentary of Mr. Nolan. All commented how they would like to see him return and how “quiet” the set was. And even though BATMAN BEGNS was a huge project, it felt to them like a set of a small film.

So, what’s up next for Christopher Nolan? “I don’t know what I want to do next,” said Nolan. “My brother is actually working on a screenplay that is based on a comic called THE EXEC that, you know, we’re quite excited about. But I really don’t know how I’ll end up choosing my next project - it just kind of happens.”

With that, Nolan and his wife left us and we were finished with our interviews. We had run late and I had a plane to catch at LAX in less than an hour. I hurried out of the room and down the hall to the elevator. Upon reaching the lobby, I grabbed by bags from storage, hailed a cab, and was then quickly off to the airport for my 6:20 PM flight back to Houston.

I got to LAX just in time and arrived at the gate just as the final boarding call was made. We were airborne not long after, and like that, it was over. I had been in LA for just a little over 33 hours, but I had made memories that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

And hoping that this man guides The Bat to where he should go on the big screen over the next decade.

"Jett" is the creator and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and ON-FILM.NET.

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