BOF's Set Visit Report, Part 2 Author: Paul Wares
Originally Posted on: January 3, 2005
Prior to breaking for lunch we had witnessed Batman and Gordon intensely discussing the nefarious schemes of the movies villains. A scene that wasnít in the leaked script. Bale looked perfect as the Dark Knight, mean, intense and downright intimidating and that was talking to an ally. God knows how he would present himself to the criminal element of Gotham City. Baleís Batman voice came as a surprise to me. I expected a low, deep whisper, reminiscent of Keaton. Baleís voice was at normal volume and higher than I expected, but it reminded me of something else--A growl.
In previous interviews I had read that Bale saw The Batman as truly a creature. He wasnít kidding. He moved as though he was a predator getting ready to pounce, his whole body seemed like a coiled spring, ready to unleash without warning. And the voice, this hissing growl was sending shivers down my spine.
Mr. Oldman was no slouch either, looking as noble and as authorative as one might expect. It was obvious though, that Oldman was having a little difficulty with the scene. Hey, so would you, if a very powerful Christian Bale was throwing an object to you in character. Letís face it, Batman would not throw like a sissy, so one could sympathise with Gary Oldman having to catch the projectile that was being launched at him.
Take after take rolled by and Chris Nolan could be seen bobbing in between the actors offering words of encouragement and advice. Finally Oldman was able to catch the object and deliver his line. Soon after Oldman explained to me how bizarre some shooting days would seem. ďThis morning we had a scene and I was perilously close to getting the giggles, because itís such an odd situation.Ē And how does this professional actor get through those moments? ďI donít know,Ē says Oldman with a laugh and a smile. ďI honestly donít know.Ē
I have been a huge fan of Gary Oldmanís for a very long time. I donít believe I have ever seen a bad performance from him, so I was utterly thrilled and a little surpised when I heard heíd been signed as the only other honest man in Gotham and it was Chris Nolan that I had to thank for his inclusion. ďI have to say Iím not a comic reader," says Oldman. "I never read comics as a kid. Chris Nolan really interested me. What he might do with it. The opportunity of someone like Chris to put the BATMAN franchise back on track. To pull it back from where no man had gone before,Ē Oldman says with a wicked grin.
As mentioned in my previous report, many were surprised to hear that Chris Nolan had always harboured a desire to make this kind of movie. Oldman was one of those people. ďYeah, it is a surprise that he wanted to do something on this scale. My sources tell me that he really wanted to do this, and really courted it and went after it with a great passion. I donít know if you direct MEMENTO and INSOMNIA you just get BATMAN. I donít think they just come knocking. You really have to have a vision for something like this and go after it. It is surprising but I think thatíll make it interesting.Ē
Gordonís comic-book persona has yet to make it to the movies in a faithful manner. So how did Oldman feel about portraying the character properly for the first time? ďI was surprised, I went online and there is an enormous amount of stuff written. I was amazed at how detailed the bio is on Gordon. I went there and then youíre pretty much working to the script. Itís like any script, you have to stay within the framework of what is there. Heís pretty much there on the page." Oldman continues, ďYouíve got to work with whatís there. I did a movie called IMMORTAL BELOVED. Bernard Rose in his madness wanted me to play Beethoven. Once I went and did the research read books and things like that, there are so many wonderful things that you find that are not in the script. What you end up doing is you start to lament the loss, you start to look at what isnít there and thatís not a good thing. Youíve got to see whatís there and not what isnít there. So this is Sgt Gordon/Lt Gordon in Chris Nolanís BATMAN and thatís the road map I follow. Doing a great deal of work outside of that to an extent Ė just for your own kind of interest is ok Ė but to an extent itís kind of redundant because thereís only so much you can draw from that and apply to whatís on the page and ultimately Iím playing Gordon in BATMAN BEGINS.Ē
Gary Oldman as Sgt. Jim Gordon
Again, one of the things that hadnít been explored in the previous movies is how intense the relationship is between Batman and Gothamís one good cop. How did Oldman feel about bringing that friendship to life for the first time? ďThe relationship is there on the page, we didnít have a great deal of rehearsal, or any time to cement it. Christian and I luckily hit it off, we enjoyed working with one another and like one another. Thatís primarily what weíve taken and tried to infuse the script with. We enjoy one anotherís company so hopefully that will translate and come through.Ē
If what I had witnessed earlier was anything to go by, neither Oldman, or the fans have anything to worry about. So, with a nod and a smile the very gracious Mr. Oldman leaves us.
We soon start to get word that Christian Bale will soon be with us. On this note, I once again check my notes and my dictaphone. I look up to see a man dressed in a baggy tracksuit, so baggy it utterly hides any shape to his physique, sit at the table in front of me. He picks up one of the other journalists Ipod dictaphones and examines it carefully. ďThat is tiny, look at that," he says softly in a one part British, one part American accent. ďThat could be a Batman gadget.Ē
It takes a moment to sink in, almost as long as it takes for this man to sit, that this is Batman himself ĖTHE BATMAN!
Somewhat predictably the first question to be asked is how he became involved in the project. ďIím not somebody that really comes from a comic book loving background," says Bale. "I didnít have a great deal of knowledge about it, so when I first thought about Batman is was thinking 'Why?' Why would he dress up like this? This is ridiculous. That either it has to be done like a spoof like the TV series was or that it had to go somewhere else that I hadnít seen before. I just found personally that when I put everything on, it made you feel like a creature. I didnít feel human so much anymore. I liked that feeling and felt that it was appropriate for how I wanted to play it.Ē
Bale continues, "I hadnít shown a great deal of interest until a friend of mine who is a comic book fan lent me 'Arkham Asylum.' I just didnít expect anything like that not being somebody who is accustomed to comic books, it was really unusual to me.Ē
The Grant Morrison/Dave McKean graphic novel was just the beginning of the actors interest in the Dark Knight. "I looked at ĎYear One' Ė Frank Miller, 'The Long Halloweení and I saw that they were superb and hadn't realised before that (he) was that interesting of a character because I think that all that I'd seen before was that the villains were fascinating in BATMAN always, and suddenly I was reading these and it was like he's by far the most interesting of them [comic book characters]."
Christian Bale as The Batman
Bale as Bruce Wayne
Baleís interest in portraying the Caped Crusader on screen came long before Chris Nolan was attached to the project. ďInitially what I had heard rumoured was that there was going to be a much lower budget BATMAN made [the Darren Aronofsky/Frank Miller "YEAR ONE" adaptation--Jett], where they were going to go very dark with it. I thought 'yeah that sounds really interesting,' so I started calling up my agents and saying 'Can you find out about this.' Then I heard that theyíre going to go with a big one (budget) and I kind of thought ĎUgh' thatís probably not the one that Iíd be interested in.Ē Bale informs us. ďThen I heard again that Chris Nolan was going to be directing it, which altered everything. I hadnít been anticipating that they were going to go in that direction. Met with Chris, spoke with him and just thought 'yeah this is definitely the right one to do.'"
Bale goes on to describe that they are telling and his take on the characters psychological torment. ďIn our story itís the early days. You see him as a very young boy, you see him age twenty-two and then you see him again at age twenty-nine/thirty. He was very much bent on enacting revenge, of maintaining the promise that he makes to his parents, but specifically I think that he thought of it as a short-term deal, something that he would be able to complete. At a young age initially he just wanted to take revenge on the person that killed his parents and that doesnít go to plan and he has no other life to lead. So in this story he disappears off on a journey. My take is that this is something that he never comprehends that this will be an ongoing thing. He believes that 'I can do this once and then I can get on with my life.' Then it just ends up consuming him and sucking him in and not being something that he can avoid doing, but also not being the healthiest of endeavours.Ē
Bale goes on to explain how much of a physical challenge the movie was to prepare for. ďI finished THE MACHINIST in July and then we started filming on this at the end of February. I had a lot of work to do, itís one of those parts that you have to be in decent shape for, visually, but also I did need to be for filming, just dealing with being in that suit 12 hours a day.Ē
So how did Bale pile the weight back on? ďEating like crazy, trying to put on pounds and pounds and actually I went way overboard. By the time arrived, Chris looked at me in shock and said I looked like some kind of grizzly bear, because I arrived with long hair and a beard and filling up the hallway. By that time Iíd put on exactly 100lbs, from the day of finishing THE MACHINIST to arriving in January in England. It was not very healthy. I could lift a lot of weights, but if you asked me to run across the room and I would have been exhausted.Ē
The actorís commitment to the role was never more evident than when he talks about the training he had to endure. ďI was up for doing a lot more stunts than they would ever let me do. We did a lot of wire-work rehearsals before we started filming and I think they got cold feet after the stuntman one day came down on the wire and landed straight on his face and at that point they thought 'Letís rethink just how much weíre going to let Christian do.' So with all the enthusiasm in the world I havenít done everything that I can do and that I learnt how to do in rehearsals.Ē
Bale explains the fighting styles he had to prepare for. ďBuster (Reeves) the stunt man introduced us to this really great fighting form called Keysi, which has a very unique look to it and is a very brutal fighting style and really fits well with the Batsuit. Itís very savage, very fierce and I had to learn that. We have a lot of different fight sequences, I did learn every single fight sequence that is in the movie. I kind of tag-teamed with Buster, but I did have to do the whole thing. Thereís nothing that I ever sat back and said, Iíll be back there having coffee. Then a couple of times where I did manage to convince them to let me jump off a roof. We were in Chicago, outside and we where six stories up and they let me jump off of one roof just onto the next one down, but it kind of looks like Iím doing a real high dive.Ē
One of the great things about playing Batman is the coolness factor to it and the "toys" he gets to play with, particularly the Batmobile. ďIíve never really been that interested in cars and I realise why after going in the Batmobile, because thatís something else, being in a car where you can see how everything works. That was fascinating. Usually if itís a nice car, thereís nice upholstery so you have to be kind of dainty and itís from an assembly line, so itís impersonal. The noise is incredible. Itís like having Ozzy Osbourne screaming in your ear. I was screaming as I was going along purposely and I couldnít hear myself at all. Itís a fantastic car and Iím in awe of the guys that are able to design something like that.Ē
Even when faced with the challenge of acting through several pounds of rubber, Bale like the professional he is, takes it on the chin. ďIím not going to bitch about the suit. Thereís a quote from me that some of the people have on the back of their t-shirts (the wardrobe dept. did it as a joke) that says 'Itís hot, dark and sweaty and it gives me a headache,' which is absolutely true, but thereís nothing more annoying than hearing to actors bitch about their work. Iím playing Batman for Godís sake. Thatís pretty fantastic, Iím not going to complain about getting a little bit sweaty. And also theyíve changed it so much from the first movie they made, so even though it may not feel like the most comfortable outfit to me, I know that others have had it worst.Ē
Even better, Bale was able to turn the isolation of wearing the suit to his advantage. ďI felt like a panther the first day, I did feel like some kind of wild animal. I donít know if anybody else was looking me in that way, I donít know if I appeared quite as ferocious as I felt that I did, but I really felt like everybody was jumpy. It makes you feel like you want to run and jump at people and beat the crap out of Ďem. It gives you this great neck and physique that just looks intimidating, itís all aggressive, itís all pointed forwards, very much like a predator. That was a thrill.Ē
Something that the actor recognised early on was the need to make Bruce Wayne and Batman separate entities. ďI just felt that it was practical that Bruce adopt a different voice when heís in the Batsuit. Practical in terms of identity, but also it was a way of him being able to channel the clarity of mind that he must have had as a young boy when he first declared that he would get revenge. Itís very difficult to maintain that throughout your life, it becomes a memory and it takes a great deal of energy to maintain that sharpness of emotion. I felt everything about him should become different, the look, the voice. If he was just going to be Bruce Wayne in a Batsuit, that seemed a little bit ridiculous to me. It would have been as ridiculous as any of us getting in a Batsuit and genuinely thinking we could go out on the town and intimidate people, I think most people would probably laugh. So you have to really go for it in every way and for me that involved taking on a slightly beast-like voice as I hear it.Ē
Toward the end of the interview mention is made of the fact that Bale was a huge favourite for the role. Modestly he dismisses the attention. ďI had heard about it, but I think there were lots of different names. I think everybody under the sun was being suggested for it. I donít really go online very much.Ē
Now that he is The Dark Knight, how much pressure does Bale feel about doing the role justice and living up to the fan interest in his portrayal? ďItís probably beyond anything Iíve experienced before, but I really donít want to know about it to be honest. The weight of expectation can be a daunting thing. Before I started I had a couple of days of thinking 'Oh shit. What do people want to see?' and it ain't the way to go. So instead, Iíve got to do something whether they like it or not, to do it how I would like to see BATMAN done and hope that gels.Ē
And how does Bale unwind after a long day of playing this intense icon? ďI go out and kick the shit out of criminals.Ē - Paul Wares