From the Set: The Crew of The Dark Knight Rises

TOM STRUTHERS – STUNTS

Struthers is another veteran of Chris Nolan’s Batman movies, having worked on all three, as well as doing the stunts for Inception, and in between, he was stunt coordinator on X-Men: First Class and John Carter.

The kind of fighting we can expect

“There’s a lot more fighting than there was in the last two Batmans. We’ve still got an emphasis on vehicle work, which you’ve seen on the pitch (field) today. The colors have changed obviously, so that’s a little surprise in there for everybody. The characters Bane and Batman, there’s a lot more interaction between them. The fighting techniques have evolved over the last two films. Basically, we started out with a technique that was put together a Spanish-English guy called Keysi, and it’s a mixture of all the different martial arts: ninjutsu, tae kwan do, muy thai, it’s a mixture of everything really, and it was designed for the armed forces originally. What we’ve done with this one is we changed the format just a little bit. We’ve taken it to another progression. We’ve kept a little bit of the Keysi, we’ve also got a bit of ninjutsu, muy tai, everything mixed into it. My fight arranger, Buster Reeves, who is very, very good, we’ve just taken it to the next level. I can’t give too much away with how far we’ve taken it, but it has taken it to a different level on this one and I think you’ll be very pleased with what you see. I certainly am pleased with what my crew has put together between Sy Hollands, my assistant stunt coordinator, and Buster Reeves, my fight arranger – they’ve all done fantastic work.”

How stunts interacts with the other departments

“With the way Christopher Nolan puts a crew together, Nolan is very much hands on with every department head. We’re all chosen by Chris. There’s no studio or agent hire – we are hired by Chris Nolan from Nathan and Wally who have been with Chris since the beginning to Chris Corbould. I was on the first two films with Chris, but as the stunt supervisor. There was another person ahead of me who did a great job but is just going a different route now, more second unit directing. And then Chris asked myself and my crew to do “Inception.” We haven’t really changed the mix of the physical action crew and neither has Chris changed the mechanical like Chris Corbould (above), Lindy in the costumes (below) and Nathan (Crowley, production design), so we’ve all worked together and we all overlap dramatically and that’s the difference with most movies I think. A lot of the movies I’ve worked on, most departments become very insular – “This is ours and no one can touch it” type thing—whereas we interact a lot with the other departments. From my side, it’s mainly with mechanical FX and the mixing of that because a film like this is probably 65% physical and mechanical FX, maybe even 70%, so there’s a big interaction there. Then we have Nathan on sets, which we talk to Nathan about what we can do in these sets, what he can do for us to design the size of the rooms and the exteriors, then Dan Grayson and Lindy Hemming in costumes, they’re very good to us. They help design costumes and put it together for the actors and make them user-friendly for the environment we’re in, which is very difficult.”

Catwoman’s fighting style

“Catwoman’s style of movement is very different from the last ones. The story plotline, Catwoman where she comes from and where she gets to, I’ll leave that aside, but our movement, I’d say the thing that you can feel with Anne is graceful, that’s the one thing I can say with Anne. We’ve worked a lot with her stunt double who is now here only trainer, and she trains with her every day, and it’s difficult because I can’t tell you much, but it’s graceful. It’s very feminine and she’s very alive in it and spectacular. With Catwoman and with Bane, Chris wants a lot of things to be a surprise but if you look at the photos on the steps that ended up online, you’ll see what we’re looking at, especially for Bane and Wayne in the suit. That will give you the indication.” (Struthers was deliberately vague when talking about Bane’s fighting style since he said it gave a lot away.)

If Tom Hardy’s previous physical roles in movies like “Warrior” and “Bronson” helped prepare him for  Bane

“It does give him a leg up, but what it does is it gives him a physical appreciation of where we’re trying to take him and what he’s going to do for us. I try to prepare our actors as much as we can with as much rehearsal time, so I work on the premise that the studio’s paying a really good actor a lot of money to get the best performance from them. My stunt performer, no matter how hard I try, will never give me the performance of a Christian Bale or a Hardy. That’s the difference. That’s why they get paid to do that, and my guys get paid to do what they do, so I always try to use the actors as much as possible in a safe physical condition, because Hardy and Bale, I’ve got to say have done 85 to 90% of their own work. For example, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s in this one and we had Joseph in ‘Inception’ and there was only one shot he didn’t do in that whole Zero-G sequence, because we had him for 21 working days to prepare him plus another three months to physically prepare him and there were no injuries and he’s fantastic.”

The potential for doing some wirework in New York City

“I have the same team that I had for the last ten years that I’ve built up doing all the Batmans and ‘Inception’ and ‘John Carter,’ and films like that. I have a great wire team and a great performing team and we marry them together with Chris Corbould’s FX team, to put it together. We possibly could do some wire stuff in New York, maybe, maybe not, but we already have done some really good wirework in London. We have done stuff that rivals ‘Inception’ in the revolving hallway.”