The Dark Knight Set Visit: Crowley, Henning & Oldman

While visiting the set of The Dark Knight, we had the chance to talk to Production Designer Nathan Crowley. He spoke about the Batmobile and the various Bat-gadgets, but in particular we were interested in hearing about the new vehicle – the Batpod:

CS/SHH!: So what all does this vehicle do?

Nathan Crowley: In the film it does a variety of things. He’s in a chase, you can see by the shape of it it’s not an orthodox… I don’t call it a bike actually, because it’s not a bike. They have a very talented French stunt rider, Jean-Pierre Goy, who is working with us. He’s in my mind is the best stunt rider in the world but he’s had to forget motor bikes in learning to ride this bike, or the pod as we call it. It’s totally different, certainly while we’ve been practicing with it he’s not ridden an orthodox motor bike so he gets out of his head. It’s interesting, the whole different characteristics of what a normal bike would do.

CS/SHH!: What’s the most challenging thing this bike has to do in the film?

Crowley: It jumps, it…I’m trying not to give away too much of the story line. It does, it’s quite extreme what it does do. We’re still exploring what it can do for real and we’re making… the sequence will revolve around what this machine can do rather than jumping through the air. There are certain exercises which it is particularly good at, which we are exploring which you won’t have seen before. It has the ability to… the pivot points, it can drop down low. So effectively he can be riding it in certain instances where he presses a button and it drops and he’s actually between the wheels, which obviously you can imagine he can get through quite small gaps.

CS/SHH!: How fast does the Batpod go in the real world?

Crowley: In the real world we have different readings but I’m guessing probably upwards of 90 to100 mile an hour if we geared it to do that. We have different gearings for specific things.

CS/SHH!: Can it make sharp turns?

Crowley: Again, when you see a motor bike doing a sharp turn, this has a very specific way of doing a sharp turn which involves, it totally locks up the back wheel and it almost enters a spin. It’s, you know, I mean I picture it resembling a motor bike or the handlebar but more so a mess, probably anybody would make the shot a mess. But it actually looked incredibly effective, when the stunt rider does it you sort of take a step back and go, “Blimey, did he just do that?”

CS/SHH!: Can you talk about what each of the guns on the front of this thing does?

Crowley: This one here is a machine gun really. The one above it is more a cannon, so that’s a single shot, big round. The one on front there, that’s actually a grapple cannon, it has the ability to fire a grapple out with a line on it.

CS/SHH!: Is this like an extension of the Batmobile or is it completely independent?

Crowley: It’s completely different component.

CS/SHH!: Are there any other vehicles or gadgets in the film besides the Bat Pod?

Crowley: There’s various sort of semi-gadgets. Batman has his array of instruments he’s… in the first one he had a line of, I think you see them up there, the spikes that come out. Basically he’s fighting, and in this one they have the ability to fire out so he has a weapon, and there’s a double row of them so he can use them to take out a few people in close proximity. He also has a hydraulic (glove) in his hand which works on hydraulics. So he can sort of crush things or bend things, or bite into things with this particular hand grip that he’s got. I’m trying to think of what else he’s got. He’s got his usual array of bits and pieces on his belt which is more costume.

CS/SHH!: In terms of the vehicles you have the Batmobile you have the Batpod, do you have any desire to see the functional aircraft or other vehicle?

Crowley: I’d quite like to do a Batboat. I like the water. I’d much rather design a Batboat than a Batplane. The Batboat from my perspective is achievable whereas the Batplane isn’t very. But a Batboat would be fun.

We also had a chance to speak with Costume Designer Lindy Hemming. She spoke about the new Batman suit and Bruce Wayne’s clothes, but most interesting was her discussion about the design of the Joker’s outfit:

CS/SHH!: This Joker outfit is remarkably accurate.

Lindy Hemming: Really?

CS/SHH!: The thing is it’s such a difficult costume, a very much traditional Joker looking costume.

Hemming: It’s funny because I don’t think it is a Joker, I don’t think it looks like a Joker because it always, he always looks like he’s slept in hedge. It’s always very broken down. It’s when he’s wearing it. It’s difficult to see it there but, have you seen him act? No? Well it’s much more flamboyant, moves a lot, which he does. I suppose it is quite traditional. We started off going through all sorts of reference, photography, hip hop, just going through all kinds of people that we could think of that might dress like that for real because you know Chris’s whole thing is sort of reality. So eventually it became… Chris didn’t want him to have a brand new costume made look and so I started getting pieces together, always keeping them in various shades of purple. And we made up a look like that of course had to design it and have it all made because there are 25 of those cloaks or something all in different stages of breaking down for the things that happen to him. And the last thing we did was wouldn’t have given him any green. I wanted to give him a green thing and then in the end, on the last day I made him a green waistcoat and we tried it on and it worked. So yeah I think it looks like the Joker, and I think it’s important because his whole Joker style is much more Goth stroke, punk stroke, it’s a much more street kind of Joker rather than a man who puts on a clown mask somehow. I could talk for hours about the Joker really.

CS/SHH!: Does the character put the costume on over time or…

Hemming: No, no, no we just find him dressed like this and we can assume that he may have been dressed like that for years, or for a long time. He may have always been wearing those clothes instead of putting them on like the Joker has done before. You find him wearing them and your back story is that he’s been wearing them, whatever he’s been up to and all the bad things before we use him he’s been wearing those clothes and that his makeup is something which is… he’s already scarred, you know, he’s already scarred in the film and so the makeup comes from what he does to himself to enhance that rather than to look like a clown.

CS/SHH!: Did you have an issue with the makeup getting on the color on the Joker outfit?

Hemming: No, the makeup can go all over. In fact I would like it if the makeup was everywhere, it probably will be. I mean it would be, wouldn’t it in real life if somebody had makeup on?

CS/SHH!: So is that part of the character that he’s…

Hemming: Yeah, it would be. I mean, I like the idea that he’s sweating, you know, that he’s a mess, I think that’s a nice…

Finally, our last interview of the day was with Commissioner Gordon himself, Gary Oldman. The poor guy had been working all day as we saw while watching the monitors. We were quite lucky to get the 15 minutes we had with him. He walked in between setups of shots and briefly chatted with us:

CS/SHH!: Jim Gordon gets promoted to Commissioner in the film, this time around, Gary. So, I guess congratulations are in order.

Gary Oldman: Thank you. How much do you know about it? I don’t want to give too much away.

CS/SHH!: I’ll stop you before you say too much. (Laughs)

Oldman: Right. Well, without going into the plot or going beat by beat, there’s more, I guess, an emotional arc with this one and this big, big scene that I have in the finale with Two-Face. I’m better used in this one. (Laughs)

CS/SHH!: In the first film, Batman shows up and says, “Here I am, Gordon. You have to deal with it or you’re out.” How does that relationship evolve in this film?

Oldman: Well, it’s evolved and it’s developed, but the official policy is to arrest Batman. So there’s still that element there. I’m dealing with this vigilante who’s running around dressed as a bat.

CS/SHH!: How does your character feel about Batman now? Are they partners in a way?

Oldman: Oh, I trust him, I think. Yeah. I mean, in that sense it has developed and he’s an ally, but there’s a tension there. There’s an underlying kind of tension there because of what he does and who he is.

CS/SHH!: How does Harvey Dent affect your relationship with Batman?

Oldman: Well, he becomes the D.A. and then he’s another, I wouldn’t say, wild card, but I mean he’s another headstrong character, another character, a real character in that sense to deal with.

CS/SHH!: He’s going to be hard to keep out of it.

Oldman: Yeah, and that he’s like (Batman). He’s as headstrong and stubborn as you are. So I’ve got Batman on this side and I’ve got Harvey Dent on this side. It’s tough policing this city.

CS/SHH!: Several of the creative team members have referenced Johnny Rotten in regard to the Joker. Do you think that’s accurate?

Oldman: You know what, I think that all along with this, Chris has tried to root the thing in some reality, and you know where the franchise ended up, and so he wanted to make it more realistic given the framework that it’s “Batman.” He wanted it to be more realistic and darker and edgier rather like the comic book, and so the inspiration for the Joker is punk, which explains the colored clothes and so it is very sort of Johnny Rotten, very punk. The smile and the scars from a razor and he’s got like a sort of rinse, a green rinse that remains there in his hair, and so you look at him and he’s very forbidding and not like a clown. It’s very dangerous, very unhinged. It’s like Coco the Clown on crack.

Source: Scott Chitwood