Director Christopher Nolan is under a lot of pressure to deliver on the third and final (for him) Batman film. But he certainly isn’t letting it show. The 41-year-old Brit is known for his cool, calm demeanor, and even when he is clearly passionate about a certain topic, such as filmmaking, he always comes across as a man whose every word is carefully chosen. This usually makes for a boring interviewee, but with Nolan, his intelligence and depth of thought for the worlds and characters he creates is always enlightening. Late last year, members of the online press were treated to a preview screening of the 6-minute prologue for the “The Dark Knight Rises”. MSN Movies managed to scoop a short but insightful interview with the man, where he revealed some of the thought processes that went into making the film, including shooting on the IMAX format, and keeping secrets on a closed shooting set in the age of handphone cameras and YouTube. Electroshadow has reproduced the discussion for you, dear reader. And here… we… go!
MSN Movies: What was the process that led you to choose Bane as the primary villain?
Christopher Nolan: I tasked David Goyer (co-writer on the story) early on, when we knew the shape of our story, with looking for a worthy antagonist. We examined really all the possibilities, and what we were looking for was an archetype. What we were looking for was a character that embodied a threat that we hadn’t dealt with before, that Batman hadn’t dealt with before in our films. Bane is primarily a physical presence. He’s threatening in a monstrous way and very frightening in a physical way, and that’s why we went for him. We didn’t want to do any kind of watered-down version of the Joker, which a lot of those characters are, and we really found something in him. He’s got incredible intelligence as well and a really fascinating backstory that we were able to draw elements from into our story. I’m very excited for the world to see what Tom Hardy has done with this, because he’s created this unbelievably unique character.
MSN: Is it liberating in a way to go into making this film knowing that it’s your last one revolving around these characters, and that you are ending the story you set out to tell? Does that give you a freedom that these kinds of franchises normally don’t have?
CN: It is liberating, because we’ve earned a lot of trust from the audience with the first two films and we feel a lot of pressure not to betray that trust. But at the same time, we also feel that they’ll go with us if we want to go to some unusual places. So we’re going to take some risks with the film, I think in some really interesting and positive ways.
MSN: Did I understand correctly that the opening scene in the film (which involves some insane aerial stuntwork) was done all practically, with no digital effects?
CN: Not entirely! But a lot more of that sequence was done practically than you would ever imagine. We had a team of pilots and stuntmen and parachutists who worked for months and months trying to figure out how to do all these things, and they did an incredible job. They really did. We were able to achieve some really amazing in-camera things. And then some things were enhanced with visual effects, but everything in there is based on something we shot. I think that’s essential, particularly when you’re working in this format (70mm IMAX) with this level of clarity, because you’d spot the CG shots.
MSN: Were you caught off guard at all by the intensity of the interest out there, and were you surprised by the amount of video footage taken at your location shoots that got online?
CN: Yes and no. Technologically, the world has actually changed a bit in the four years between the films, so now everyone’s carrying a phone. Even four years ago, people weren’t shooting video with their phones to this degree and posting it online. So there’s definitely an increased amount of all this stuff. We had a lot of interest when we were shooting the last one, but mostly we were shooting at night and you’re never going to get as many people coming at 3 in the morning to see what you’re doing as you do during the day. So we accepted a degree of intrusion, if you like, but we accepted that we would have an audience when we decided to set key sequences during the daytime, and that’s fine. The interest level was surprising but very encouraging, because when you’re out there putting massive resources into a project, you want to think that people are interested, so it’s nice to see evidence of that. But it’s definitely a different world in that sense, and you do have to think carefully about what you’re shooting in the streets.
MSN: It’s funny that we’re talking about people shooting video on phones, because when you introduced the prologue earlier, you spoke about cinema being reduced in many ways. People are shooting movies on iPhones now, but you’re hoping to go the other way and restore the grandeur of cinema, especially through your use of IMAX. As much as James Cameron has become an evangelist for 3-D, you’ve become one for IMAX.
CN: Well, I am, and I think when I watch material on that huge screen, I have yet to see any other kind of film presentation that rivals it in terms of its immersive quality. It’s the balance between that immersive quality, an image that’s so clear and a sound that’s so rich and full — you get drawn into the world you’re watching in a physical and visceral way. But you’re also aware of the audience around you. One of my problems with 3-D and the glasses is that it’s a very individual perspective, so for me it tends to diminish your relationship with the other audience members. I think IMAX is a great way of having your cake and eating it too, because you have an incredibly immersive image, but you’re also enjoying the film with the rest of the audience and are very aware of the fact that there are hundreds of people around you experiencing the same thing. I think that’s the essence of the theatrical experience.
MSN: There’s a meme out there on the Internet that you can find on websites and message boards: “In Nolan We Trust.” When you take a long perspective on the Batman films, what do you think it is that you’ve done and that makes the films work so well to earn the trust of fans to that extent?
CN: Well, we’ve been very fortunate with the response. I don’t know whether this is the case or not, but what I’ve always believed is that I know that as an audience member, I respond to the sincerity of the attempt by the filmmakers to make a great film. The only time I feel let down or cheated by a movie is when I get that feeling that they haven’t tried, that they haven’t lived and breathed this movie, that they haven’t been obsessed by this movie and tried to make the greatest movie you’ve ever seen — whatever the movie. I treat every movie as if it’s the last film I’ll ever make. I put everything into it. I don’t save anything for the next movie. That’s why when people asked if I knew I was going to do another Batman film — for me, every single film I’ve ever done, I’ve put everything into it because I think that’s my job, and as an audience member that’s what I’m looking for. And so a lot of fans may disagree very strongly with things we’ve done in the films, but I think that even a lot of those who disagree still appreciate that it’s a sincere effort to try and do right by these characters. We’re not slumming it, you know what I mean? That’s the only thing I can point to that’s hopefully worked in our favour.
I was talking to someone earlier about the expectations on this film. “The Dark Knight” left off in a very interesting way that satisfied audiences. So it’s a huge risk to come back and make another one. I can’t say for sure that it’s going to be a better film than the last one, but I do know that it’s a film I care deeply about and that a lot of people have put a huge amount of passion into. We’re thoroughly enjoying making it and we really think we have something to say about the characters still, and as an audience member I respond to that, whether I agree with everything or not. It’s that feeling that someone is out there trying to make something really great.
The Dark Knight Rises” stars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple, Josh Pence, Daniel Sunjata, Nestor Carbonell, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti, Joey King, Brett Cullen, Chris Ellis, Josh Stewart, Christopher Judge, Adam Rodriguez, and Rob Brown. The DC Comics adaptation premieres 20th July.