The Dark Knight Set Visit: Christian Bale

While visiting the set of The Dark Knight, we got a chance to speak with Batman himself, Christian Bale. We had been watching Bale film a scene all morning as Batman with Commissioner Gordon in a bank vault. As they spoke about the Joker, Oldman and Bale kept having an amusing mishap where Batman would throw a stack of money to Gordon… and he kept dropping it. This would, of course, be mentioned in the interview. As Bale entered, he had traded the old Batman costume for a casual T-shirt. He also wore sunglasses to cover up his blacked-out eyes from the costume makeup. He also carried with him a book – “Jumbo Sudoku”! With his arrival, the Q&A began… (Please note that this interview was conducted next to a busy Chicago intersection, so some of the audio was unintelligible. If you see XXX’s below, that’s why.)

CS/SHH!: So how do you like the new costume?

Christian Bale: If any of you had had to wear the first costume you’d… it’s so embarrassing I’m sitting here with a “Jumbo Sudoku”! I don’t know why but that seems really embarrassing to me. If any of you had to wear the first one then you’d love that one as much as I do, just being able to turn your head is something else when you spend 7 months, or whatever it was before, you know, not being able to do that. It’s also lighter, you can move a whole lot more in this one than the first. And (it’s) a whole lot, a whole lot less hot.

CS/SHH!: What could you tell us about the scene that we’ve been watching today?

Bale: Oh, you’ve been watching it have you, all the time?

CS/SHH!: You toss the money, all that…

Bale: Right, I wasn’t really going to go into that. That wasn’t really a well-oiled machine is it. I think that was more me, I’ve got to say, than Gary because every time he did catch it somebody else was throwing it. So I guess it was the thrower. What do you know about the scene because I’m trying to gauge how much I should say.

CS/SHH!: You’re in the vault talking about the Joker…

Bale: So you’re guessing all of these things. They haven’t told you anything.

CS/SHH!: Right, just that you’re having a conversation.

Bale: Well you’ve pretty much got it.

CS/SHH!: Well in the first film – (Bale sees the guy asking the question is wearing a Superman T-shirt.)

Bale: Are you doing that on purpose? You woke up this morning and went “right.” (laughing)

CS/SHH!: In the first film, Bruce Wayne is sort of trying to find a balance between revenge and justice. How is that sort of challenged in this film, or what is he sort of coming to terms with in regards to this film?

Bale: Well I won’t tell you, obviously, everything, but it’s an evolution and it’s again, with Chris (Nolan), he manages to make a blockbuster size, entertaining movie, but there’s a whole lot of thought behind it as well. There’s a lot to carry away. There’s a lot involving ethics, if you wish, to think about beyond all of the action. And it’s somebody who’s a little older and he’s coming to realize that maybe he’s not quite as in control as he believed himself to be.

CS/SHH!: Chris talked a lot about the theme of escalation in this film. The close friendship Batman has with these people and in certain situations creating new criminals. Is this something that Bruce Wayne had to reconcile with his role in this, is it doing more harm than good?

Bale: Who told you this?

CS/SHH!: Chris.

Bale: Oh, Chris did. Constantly with these projects go “what are we saying” or “what are we not saying.” Yes, having to take a look at yourself and while he knows that his motives are good having to question if he is part of the problem or the solution.

CS/SHH!: What was it like seeing Heath in the Joker makeup for the first time?

Bale: It was fantastic really, this kind of anarchic, sort of punk-rock, druggy take on the Joker, which I think is definitely the best one I’ve ever seen.

CS/SHH!: Does he ad lib with the character to throw you off?

Bale: Well he’s not making an effort to throw me off. I like that and he knows that and likewise, we’re both actors who are completely happy within adlibbing and throwing me off and I think those moments are usually the best in movies when accidents happen.

CS/SHH!: Were you bothered at all by sort of the way that Chris Nolan told you that you were going to be XXX character or was it a challenge to keep it interesting to you as an actor?

Bale: I wasn’t timid at all in the first place because I had a very strong idea with the first one of what I wanted to do and I really wasn’t interested in doing anything else and you know I knew that either we’d be laughed at or it would work. I think it’s less that I have more confidence in what we are doing and more that I can see other people have more confidence.

CS/SHH!: So how did that affect what you were doing?

Bale: It doesn’t make any difference to me really, it’s… I still recognize we’ve got to invent something, we’ve got to come up with something new. I think the worst thing that we can do is getting too comfortable and thinking, “Hey we’re accepted now, don’t have to come up with as much.” You do, I think in sequels, that’s usually what the problem is. People start to get a little complacent about it, and it’s nice to try and maintain…it’s nice actually, the energy of having a lot of people thinking that you’re not going to succeed. I always enjoy that, when people think a movie is going to fail miserably. I get quite a kick out of that. It’s tougher for me to deal with when everyone thinks it’s going to be a home run from the get go. I don’t know what to do with it so much.

CS/SHH!: You’re playing at least three characters in this…I mean you’re Batman, you’re billionaire Bruce Wayne, and then you’re the real Bruce Wayne. How do you approach each of them and who do you feel most comfortable with?

Bale: I mean now it’s the first time that I’ve ever had to, well, that I’ve had the chance to reprise a role and so I’m very comfortable with all of them and it just keeps it much more interesting for me having the different levels that I can play, and the conversations with Chris and I about which one is which and who is where and what we agree and disagree on and working that out.

CS/SHH!: What’s the coolest thing about being down here?

Bale: I, uh, (long pause). Well it is when you, because I’m very used to it and I wasn’t a fan of comic books growing up. It is just a character to me that I’m playing and I do on occasions I’ll take a look at the graphic novels or whatever or see how other people react to it. And in most instances yeah I kind of allow myself to get a kick out of the fact that he is such an iconic character. Well the things that I like doing, oh if you’re talking like day to day. I do actually love the kind of hazardous situations that can find yourself in, in many movies, but with this film we see it as well. And I try to do as much of the stunt work that I can myself. I’ve got a fantastic stunt double and I couldn’t even begin to do the things he can do but if I can give it a shot I always will. And that has been some great experiences, stunt experiences, dangerous situations which I love. I do get a kick out of that, I do love the adrenaline rush.

CS/SHH!: Are we going to see more of Bruce Wayne and his life of a millionaire?

Bale: Well, you know that’s always his cover. It’s something which has to be there to make people never suspect that he’s somebody that would ever have the desire, belief, passion, intelligence, capability to be Batman. He has to be this kind of ridiculous cliché of a playboy.

CS/SHH!: Can you describe your working relationship with Chris? What was the most challenging thing the collaboration?

Bale: Well, I mean it is our third movie now and I’m very bloody happy. I think we’ve made some great movies. It does get easier when you know each other so well, and this kind of includes other actors and obviously Gary and Michael and Morgan and crew as well. It is just this kind of shorthand that you get, Chris and I actually just sort of have to grunt at each other now or he looks a certain way and I know what he means. He doesn’t have to explain himself a whole lot and neither do I.

CS/SHH!: They told us, obviously, that the Batcave is being rebuilt in this film, that it’s in an apartment or something like that. Can you tell us about Bruce Wayne’s new digs?

Bale: Digs that anybody would be jealous of and that only a billionaire could manage.

CS/SHH!: You must have gotten quite a number of new characters and actors. What is the main balance in that situation? You’ve got people who communicate very effectively with certain people who are new.

Bale: Well we just sit around and go, “Bloody hell, we’re never trying to figure out how” (laughing) They’re all very good actors that Chris has hired, you know, with Heath and with Aaron and with Maggie and usually I’ve always found in my experience with good actors that they’re not… they don’t waste a lot of time with nonsense. They get on with it and all of them are very into the movie. And I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far with the three of them.

CS/SHH!: How have you found working with Maggie different than working with Katie?

Bale: I don’t really analyze it all too much. Katie did a very good job and Maggie is doing a fantastic job. I don’t want to get into comparing the two. Obviously Maggie brings her own substance to the role. But you’re saying it like it’s something tricky, but it’s really not. It’s been quite, it’s been as seamless as is possible to be.

CS/SHH!: Did you drive the Batpod yourself or was it all stuntmen?

Bale: Well, you know we’re still, it’s early days on the film yet. I haven’t yet but I will. I don’t want to embarrass myself with having to admit that I never even got on it. (laughing)

CS/SHH!: What’s your favorite gadget to work with in the role?

Bale: I’ve got to say it’s not really a single gadget. I do enjoy, like you were saying, I do enjoy, actually I love just gauntlets. I love the fighting scenes and the beating the crap out of the people. Yeah that, and otherwise for me it’s not so much the gadgets as the Batpod itself or the Batmobile itself, a bit of the focus on speed.

CS/SHH!: Lindy (Henning) said you put on a lot of muscle.

Bale: Who, who?

CS/SHH!: The costume designer

Bale: Oh Lindy.

CS/SHH!: And I’m just wondering was that your choice and how do you feel about getting something XXX.

Bale: It’s part of the evolution and why he’s choosing a different suit. He wants to be able to move quicker. It’s all about speed, it’s about him needing to be faster than he was before so I just thought it was appropriate for me to behave likewise.

CS/SHH!: Do you have any interesting encounters with fans?

Bale: I’ve read an awful lot of crap on the internet about things that have happened to me and things that I have said and stuff which is absolutely untrue. And I’ve got to say I really haven’t had the reactions I was expecting and maybe it’s because of coming from England where we don’t quite have the same kind of, well I guess just the love of winners that America has as much. I honestly thought that my life was going to be full of like, bar fights and things after playing Batman. I really did. Before when I was on Batman I would say to the martial arts guys, “I need to learn this for the movie but for my life as well because I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who are going to get a kick out of saying, ‘Yeah I took Batman.’” And I’ve had nothing but people being very polite and saying nice things and flattering, and everybody, there must be people who don’t, but everybody that I’ve spoken with seems to really enjoy it and like it and appreciate it. I was a little surprised at how few people believed that we were going to be able to resurrect it because I had complete confidence in it and maybe it was just me being in denial. I just refused to accept that we weren’t going to do it very successfully. But there’s a lot of people who do seem to be real happy that it has risen again but I’ve not had any craziess. I know that’s probably what you were hoping for but I’ve not had any crazies.

CS/SHH!: Do kids recognize you as Batman?

Bale: No, no that’s it because it’s all in the mask. All that happens is they tend to look a little confused and disappointed (laughing) when people say, “oh this is Batman.” Because they look at me like, “No it’s not”. They either think their mom or dad’s gone nuts and that I’m some kind of a fool.

CS/SHH!: What inspires you the most about coming back? Is it the script, the actors, the characters?

Bale: Well, it should be the whole package and now with it being the third movie with myself and Chris I don’t have any questions about his ability to make a great movie. He always casts really well and he always puts the emphasis on going with a good actor rather than with a bloke of the month. He has a lot of integrity and so it’s about being able to reprise a roll for the first time for me.

CS/SHH!: Both of these movies are based on the realism and believability of creating a world for Batman. But we hear there’s going to be a “Justice League” and would you be interested in playing Batman in a more sort of comic book oriented film with Superman and other characters?

Bale: Well, it’s like I say to Chris I’ll probably be doing this in dinner theatre somewhere in my 50′s (laughing), so I won’t knock it because who knows where I’ll end up.

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Source: Scott Chitwood