Groucho Reviews (February 19th, 2005)

COMPLETE WONDERCON BATMAN BEGINS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

Groucho: Hello, Christian.

Christian Bale: Hello.

G: How did Christopher Nolan help to shepherd you through this role, and based on your mutual conception of Batman, can you give me your reading list essentials?

CB: Yeah, well, I mean Chris was really the reason that I wanted to do it. I had first read a graphic novel. I’m not a comic-book fan, at all. Y’know, I never have been, but had—I kind of forget how I actually ended up getting it, but somehow got Arkham Asylum and read it and was really intrigued by it because it was nothing like I’d seen in theBatman TV series, nothing like I’d seen in the Batman movies, either. Thought it was so much more interesting, and then read Batman: Year One and the Dark Victory and stuff, and I thought, “This is fucking good stuff.” Y’know, “This is a really great character here, and it’s—the way that they play it is fantastic. Why has there never been a movie done?” And I knew that—I had heard that Darren Aronofsky was planning on doing a version, which fell apart for reasons I’m not sure why. But then Chris Nolan coming on board—another really interesting director—somebody who, y’know—just the fact that they’d asked him to do it meant that they didn’t want the same thing that we’d seen before, which is what I was interested in, creating something completely new. And we just had our first conversation, and really just—Chris very much wanted to focus on those graphic novels, on Batman: Year One, on Longest Halloween [sic], et cetera. And he seemed to just like what I was comin’ up with, y’know? Because it was a long shoot, but it was very rare that we kinda actually stopped and had to really work something out because it was going terribly wrong. He usually kinda enjoyed sitting back and seeing what I was gonna come up with. And generally, we communicated enough before-hand that he liked it, that he enjoyed it throughout. The main thing he had to guide me on was just about kinda physicality, because I was coming into the part being extremely scrawny, and skinny, and he was just kinda terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to, y’know, look believable playing the Dark Knight, but we got that worked out.

Q: Have you seen a rough cut of the film yet?

CB: Well, I’ve been told I would get shot or something if I said that. So I–.

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: But, yeah, no—I expect very good things.

Q: Does it look like what you thought it would look like?

CB: Yes.

Q: How so?

CB: I’m not sure how much I should go into. Uh—.

Q: You can tell us the whole thing.

Q: Totally.

CB: (Laughs.)

Q: Totally. Start with the opening credits.

CB: First of all, it is obviously the genesis, and it’s not referring to any of the other movies. It’s not—y’know, it’s not a prequel, it’s not a sequel, none of that. It is just the beginning. We weren’t referring to any of the other movies whatsoever. It—it’s far more human than any of the others. And then also, my feelings in the actual—you know, we’re taking advantage of using the great story of how he came to invent Batman. So his early days and the beginnings of Bruce Wayne and, y’know, a very large part of the movie is taken up with that. Y’know, before you even see any ears at all.

But then, also, I think that one very big difference in my eyes is just the way that we chose to portray the Batman, y’know, himself. Just because, y’know, I realize that the TV series was a spoof on what the original Bob Kane intentions had been. And I never felt that I’d seen it adequately done in any of the other movies either. In the—y’know, I really attempted to become a different creature. You know, that he kind of ceases to be human at that point. And frankly, I had to do that out of necessity just because I felt like an idiot when I was just standing in the Bat-suit and being a guy. You just can’t. You can’t hang out, you know? In that suit, you know? You have to be in control. You have to be focused. You kinda—I would always remember about the fact that this is somebody who is—who is fanatical. You know, I mean if you think about the obsession that somebody must have to retain the pain and the anger from an incident that happened, you know, twenty years previously, and it’s still in the forefront of his mind—that’s an incredible obsession, you know. I mean, that’s an unhealthy obsession. And so concentrating on the fact that he’s attempting to take his pain and his guilt and his anger and the rage and do something good with it even though his impulses are that he does just want to rage and break bones and do damage, you know? So there’s always that conflict. And so for me, it was very much about remembering that. I would refer to the different graphic novels. I had them on the set with me all the time just ’cause I loved the imagery of it so much, and remembering that I never wanted to appear to be Bruce Wayne in a Bat-suit when I was playing the Batman. He just becomes it. It is an alter-ego, completely.

Q: Separate character?

CB: Hmm?

Q: Did you see Batman as a separate character?

CB: Yeah.

Q: Can you talk about your characters? Trevor, from The Machinist, is very obsessive. So is Patrick Bateman. What is your attraction to that kind of character?

CB: Y’know, I’ve done many other different characters that aren’t so obsessive as well. But I think, you know, I would imagine to everybody here—I’d be very surprised if anybody here wouldn’t say that an obsessive character is not illuminating in some way, y’know? That they are people who you wouldn’t necessarily want to have in your life, but you certainly enjoy hearing about them. And watching them. I mean, pretty much anybody who you look at throughout history who’s achieved great things: they were obsessive about it. And it also means that with characters who are as obsessive as that, you can kinda make up your own rules because they are not playing by society’s rules that we all kinda know and acknowledge each and every day of how to get through life without upsetting everybody around you at any given moment, y’know? And you can kinda chuck all of that out of the window when you’re playing those kind of characters. So they are enjoyable.

Q: There is a legacy that obviously you’re aware of, of the Batman, people who played him. How did you approach it differently? I’m sure you wanted to bring something new that hasn’t been seen before. Talk a little bit about that, about being more human. How did you approach Batman/Bruce Wayne? How was that different from how it’s been done before?

CB: I think that, y’know, you have in the Tim Burton ones a great stylization. But, to me, whilst I enjoyed those ones, it was more the stylization of the villains than Batman himself. I didn’t see a whole lot going on in Batman. The other ones just weren’t my thing at all. And I just felt that it was—I wanted to attempt to base it in reality, the starting from a realistic point of view of the pain and the trauma that a child has been through. And really looking at it as that instead of just, you know, hey, this incredibly theatrical character that jumps around in a Bat-suit, which to me would be kind of stupid if I met him in the street. I don’t think I would be intimidated, I would laugh at him. That you had to get to a point where the audience would be drawn in enough to believe that this guy has gone through so much pain and anger, and then we have a really nice backstory about how he creates the Batman. You know? And also, there’s a very nice practical backstory to every gadget and to the Batsuit and everything. Everything is explained in the movie. Nothing was taken for granted at all. There’s no assumptions that the audience would just understand it immediately. We wanted to show quite how did this happen, and why did he choose everything? And it’s all explained very, very well and in detail. And in making that kind of approach, I think it couldn’t help but appear different because you got a real character, y’know? And also, we were focusing on Bruce Wayne and Batman. Whereas what I would find in watching most of the other movies, and also the TV series and things: I always found the villains much more interesting. And that was the main revelation to me in reading one of the graphic novels. Batman’s the most interesting of them all, y’know? I mean he’s the really on-the-edge one. Y’know? Because he’s the guy that—okay, he’s doing good, but he’s the Dark Knight, y’know? I mean a knight is meant to be in shining armor. He’s a Dark Knight. He could do good things, but, man, he could just as easily flip over and become, y’know, like the ultimate villain. And hopefully, we’ve been able to portray that in a more character-based way than has been shown before.

Q: Other actors who’ve played Batman have expressed difficulty acting in the suit. How difficult was that for you?

CB: It wasn’t. It was—I mean, I think some of them were talking about just the physical stamina that you kind of need for being in that. Y’know, when you first put it on, you feel like you’re scuba diving or something, and it feels kinda claustrophobic. But you know, I just sat with it for a while, and like I said, I could not wear that suit without making myself feel like some kind of beast, you know? And so I found it just happened really kind of organically, and I just went with as much aggression and rage as I could, bordering on appearing like a bad guy when he’s got the suit on. That you should be unsure when you’re faced with him. First of all, that I wanted it to be that he was never somebody that kind of just stood still saying, “Hi, I’m Mr. Batman. How are you?” That it should always be almost as if you’re witnessing a very rare and dangerous creature, you know, in the jungle or something. Like somebody that you just glimpse momentarily. And also I think that they made a lot of advances in the actual make-up of the suit. It was kind of like they cooked it, really. It was like a kitchen where they were boiling up all these different, y’know, ingredients to try and get just the perfect level of mobility and rigidity in certain areas, et cetera. So I think I, by far, have had the easiest time of anybody, short of probably Adam West who I think was trotting around in some kind of cotton get-up or something. They really came up with some good stuff. And it’s much more mobile than any of the other suits have been.

Q: What do you think shooting some of the film in England brought to the production?

CB: You know, I mean, to be honest, we shot the exteriors in Chicago. And it wouldn’t have mattered where we shot it, y’know? It really wouldn’t have done. Being blunt, I think what it brought was a lot of tax rebates, y’know?

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: I think that was it. That’s the main reason. You know? Because obviously this is not England. And it should not be England. It’s a very American mythology. Though it travels—everybody around the world knows it—y’know, it’s quintessentially an American mythology.

Q: How heavy was the suit, and what was your first reaction when you saw yourself in it?

CB: Actual poundage, I’m not sure of how heavy it really was. And my first reaction in seeing it, I remember I tried on one of the old ones for the screen test I had to do, but, y’know, it didn’t fit exactly. It hadn’t been made for me. The first time I put on the one that actually was made for me, it was like I said. It was like looking at a creature. Y’know, it kind of wasn’t me in there at all, and that’s how I liked it. I didn’t want to have any kind of recognition of myself or Bruce Wayne, once he’s inside of it—at all. But it was a kick as well; it’s a high. You’re getting into that suit, and you’re looking in the mirror and seeing it, and staring back at yourself, y’know? And, y’know, it’s a long shoot. It was about seven months. You can start to get kind of blasé about it. “Well, you got the Batsuit on again.” So that was why I kept the images around me all the time, to remind myself of that initial feeling. Because it was a very strong feeling when I first put that on, of feeling like a very dangerous creature to be around.

G: Batman and Bruce Wayne each have a number of interesting foils—Alfred, James Gordon, Lucius Fox, and, of course, the antagonists: Scarecrow and Ra’s-Al-Ghul. Which character that you played off of told you the most about your own character?

CB: I think certainly the—Michael Caine as Alfred, y’know? In terms of the past. I think that he certainly is the most informative of the characters because, first of all, he plays it brilliantly; he’s so good, y’know? He’s funny, but—[exhales] you really get to feel and witness the pain that this guy has been through and that the ones who love [Bruce] have had to sit back and see him go through and being tortured through his teenage years and everything and not really know to reach out and help him. Everybody else kind of is controlled more by Batman, but whereas the Alfred character is the only one who’s able to, y’know, get behind that mask. And know exactly who Bruce is and knows his weak points, and can push any button that he wants, because he’s his surrogate father.

Q: How many of these films are you signed for?

CB: Three.

Q: Yeah, I’ve a question: Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and—

Q: Ad—

Q: George Clooney—was that your question?

Q: Adam West. Yeah, throw Adam West in there too.

Q: Well, I’m going to—and now, we’ve got Christian Bale. Which one of the three previous Batmans do you think added the most amount of credibility to the Batman role?

CB: You know, they did it in different ways. I think what Adam West did was great. I just didn’t realize when I was watching it as a kid that it was a spoof, y’know? It was a very camp kind of thing, the performance that he was doing. And I like—after that, I would say Michael Keaton because of Tim Burton and the way that he approached the movie. However, we didn’t want to do anything like that either. To me, that isn’t what I was seeing in the graphic novels—at all. And I’d never really felt the danger of Batman that I felt should be appropriate. And it was also in reading a forward by Frank Miller that I believe is in Batman: Year One about when he first saw Batman, and how he says, to him, Batman was never funny, y’know? And I liked that because that’s what I had always thought. That this should not be—that there can be a lot of comedy through it, but coming from other people—but the actual Batman himself, y’know, I think had gotten lost in a lot of little one-liners and quips that reduced—

Q: The edge.

CB: The edge, and the reason that he had become this Batman in the first place, which was this incredible pain, anger, guilt, y’know, and rage that he had within him.

Q: So it’s a rougher Batman?

CB: Much more, yeah.

Q: Is he mentally ill?

CB: Mentally ill?

Q: Yeah.

CB: I think probably some psychiatrists would say “Yeah!” y’know, for hangin’ on to that pain intentionally, keeping hold of it, for letting it rule much of his life. I would say that, y’know, he’s—I would say he’s actually—I wouldn’t say he’s schizophrenic or something, like it’s an actual—or multiple personality where he’s unable to control it. He can control it, but it’s intense discipline that he’s learned to be able to function in everyday life. And in many ways, the Bruce Wayne character, the playboy, the cad, et cetera, the business man, he’s actually the mask, y’know? He is the performance. And so I would say he’s not—I would say it—nobody would say it would be a healthy state of mind to be in, but I’m not suggesting that he’s actually got multiple personality disorder or anything like that. Although, y’know, personally, I think that’d be quite an interesting way to take it if you wanted to really go to extremes with him.

Q: Did you involve any of that in your character? Thinking like that?

CB: Yeah. Yeah.

Q: Batman is known for all these different weapons and cars and gadgets. Is there any one in this film that is your favorite?

CB: Um—.

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: Which one do you think? Y’know?

Q: (Meekly) The car?

CB: Yeah, it has to be, y’know?

Q: The Batmobile?

CB: Yeah, because they’ve done such a radically different thing with it. And what I love about it is that aesthetically, y’know, it kicks ass. It looks fucking stunning. Y’know? I mean, there were a couple of times driving down the street in Chicago, and when—y’know, it was like, “We can load it on the truck or just drive five minutes down there—.”

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: And they just drove five minutes down there. And you see that thing just going down the street, and everybody’s stopping and looking. “What the hell is this?” y’know? There was even this guy who crashed into it. This poor drunken guy who didn’t have a license, who said he got so panicked when he saw the car, he thought aliens were landing.

Q: (Laughter.)

Q: Were you in the car?

CB: And he put the pedal to the metal. I wasn’t in it, no. It was the stunt driver driving it at the time. Put the pedal to the metal and sideswiped the Batmobile. So, you know, it has this effect upon people. And I just loved how—it’s indicative of the way that we are making the movie as a whole. It looks nothing like any Batmobile that has come before it. And it completely has practical applications, which are explained and, y’know, are very smart and make complete sense. And that’s indicative of what we’ve done with everything to do with the movie, including explanation of the suit, the cowl, y’know, all the different gadgets that he comes up with and where he comes to them.

Q: How did it handle…?

CB: Stunning. Fantastic, y’know? I wish I had gotten to drive it more, y’know? There was a—y’know, the guy with the coolest job on the set was the stunt driver. It didn’t matter. I got a lot of attention the first few days I had the Batsuit on—everyone was “hhhuhh” and “uuuuhh.” But then, after a while, y’know, you get used to me sitting around in the Batsuit. The stunt driver, every time he came on the set, everyone was just in awe. “Alright—.”

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: “…here comes the man,” y’know? This is the guy that’s really gonna make the movie. And it is stunning, the things that they did with it. The actual engineering of it is stunning. Y’know, it’s apparently—I don’t know an awful lot about cars, but it’s apparently the first car ever designed without any kind of front axle. It really can do the things that you see in the movie. The actual cars really did do them. Y’know, they built like 12 or 13 of them.

Q: Who did the [design]?

CB: Uhhhhhh. Tony.

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: He was the main designer. Y’know?

Q: Did you get to keep one?

CB: That was the first question. They looked at me, and they went, “You f***ing kidding?”

Q: (Laughter.)

CB: So, no. I didn’t get to keep one of them. But it is a fantastic drive. Y’know, you get in it and—I’ve always been a fan of motorbikes and not so much of cars. You get in that and you just—you can’t help but love cars because also you see all of the inner workings inside of it. You can see the functionality of everything that’s going on. And it screams, y’know? When you get it up to a high speed. And it really flies. They actually—they couldn’t keep up with it—the camera cars. They were having trouble keeping up with it. They were having to ask, “Can you please slow down a little bit? ‘Cause we just can’t keep up with the thing.” But it screams in your ear. Y’know, and you got the smell and everything inside of it. It’s elating. Y’know, my heart was pounding every time I’d step out of that thing.

WONDERCON BATMAN BEGINS PANEL TRANSCRIPT

Christian Bale: He-llo.

Q: Hello, sir. (Laughs.) How are ya?

CB: Good, thank you.

Q: Good deal. I was just wondering what is it like to be in that costume, considering the lineage behind it, and can you be expecting to make another Batman film after this one?

CB: It is—it’s one hell of an honor to wear that Batsuit. Y’know? And that being said, it’s very hot, it’s very dark and sweaty, it gives you a headache. But when I use that for channeling the rage that I felt that the Batman should have—. (Audience laughs and applauds.) And, y’know, we’ll wait and see. I have signed up for three of them—. (Gasps and applause.) That’ll depend upon you guys, you know? If you like it—if you like what we’ve done, and if people like what I’ve done with it.

Q: Thank you.

CB: Thank you.

Q: How you doing?

CB: Good.

Q: First of all, I want to say—excuse my French—you were the shit in American Psycho. (Applause.) In regards to the previous attempts at Batman, who was your personal favorite, and did you reflect as far as how they delivered the character and kind of veer away from that or take elements of what each of them…

CB: You know what? I didn’t want to refer to anything that I’d seen before. (Applause.) I wanted to make sure that this truly was, y’know, the genesis. It’s not a prequel. It’s not a sequel. It’s a reinvention of the lore. And it’s also something that is sticking to the mood and the atmosphere of Frank Miller’s work—. (Enthusiastic applause.) Of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. You know, the artistry of Alex Ross as well. That was my source for it, not the other movies, not the TV series. Great as it was, the TV series, I didn’t realize until I first picked up a graphic novel that that was a spoof on what Batman was. And there was something that I read in a forward to one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels in which he said that, to him, Batman was never funny. You know, this was a dangerous character. And I loved the sound of that. There’s a great deal of comedy in terms of Alfred, in terms of the other characters, but I really felt that I had never had an adequate explanation about why a man would dress up as a bat. (Laughter.) And truly believe that to be intimidating, y’know? And so, very much, with this movie, we wanted to recreate all of that, and make it a far more human experience and also a much darker experience than seen before. (Applause.)

Q: My question is: I was a kid in the ’60s when the TV series came out, and I want to know what you thought of Adam West’s version of Batman?

CB: Listen. I think he did a great job, but I wanted to do nothing like that for this one, y’know? It was great but as a spoof, and you know, he was camping it up a great deal. And I ain’t camping it up in this one.

Q: Hello, Christian. It’s great to see you here. I was just wondering—like you do so many dark roles, like I mean American Psycho, Equilibrium, which, by the way, still rocks…(Applause.) I still watch that movie, and it still makes my heart just race. And this—and now Batman, and I mean, how do you do it? Like how do you—where do you go to, like, get all this darkness for the characters that you are?

CB: (Laughs.) I don’t know if I can tell you that. You know? (Laughter.) But, uh, regardless of where I go for it, which really is less important than if you look at where Bruce Wayne goes for this. And very much in this movie, we’re making it much more character-based. We want to understand the pain, the anger, the guilt that he went through. The obsession and the fanaticism that he must have to maintain those feelings through to adulthood. And, y’know, I think in smaller degrees, we all have certain things that have happened in our lives that we can draw on for that, you know? And I also kind of view Batman—you know, somebody mentioned American Psycho. (Pause.) He’s kind of an American psycho. (Laughter.)

Q: Thanks again for showing up. (Applause.)

Q: Hi—how you doing?…My question is: what was it like working with Chris Nolan and Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman?

CB: It’s got one hell of a cast.

Q: Yeah.

CB: You know? Yeah, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy—who’s playing Scarecrow—. (Applause.) Who did a great job in 28 Days Later…. Um, Gary Oldman, you know, playing Gordon, who—he was always one of my favorite actors growing up, so that was just fantastic to get to work with him. And then, you know, Chris—who obviously did Memento, which was a, I felt, stunning movie—Insomnia. And he just—we just jelled about how we wanted to make Batman. I had to screen-test for it. And I decided that in auditioning for it, that I was going to do it as extreme as I felt that it should be. And—fingers crossed—they would go for it, or they would look at me and think, “The guy is a nut case,” y’know? (Laughter.) “Why on earth would we risk this great franchise that Warner Brothers owns with that kind of performance?” But they loved it, y’know? I knew that just the fact that they’d asked Chris to direct that they wanted to take this in a whole different direction. Chris is an incredibly smart guy. He had a great respect, again, for all of the graphic novels. That was his source as well. And we just communicated very well beforehand, so that when we were actually working together, he pretty much let me take it away, y’know? And do whatever I wished.

Q: Hi. I’m a person who has a high metabolism, and when—how did you gain your weight after doingThe Machinist? Like, what was your process, and how long did it take? (Laughter.)

CB: Man, I did it too fast. Losing the weight was nothing. It felt fine. But, y’know, I knew that obviously Batman could not look the way that I was looking—. (Laughter.) When I was doing The Machinist. It was something that Chris was very concerned about as well. He’d be speaking to me on the telephone and saying, “Listen,” y’know, he’s got to try and convince Warner Brothers that I’m the right guy for the job, and you know. It was like that. But it was just pure eating and lifting weights and just, again and again and again. And far too much. And very dull and boring. But, y’know, it’s what I had to do to get there.

Q: Thank you.

Q: How’s it going? What inspired you to be an actor, and who’s your favorite actors or actresses?

CB: I actually got kind of inspired by—I would say that, if I had interest in it, when I was doing—at Wright Little School—comedy sketches and things with a friend of mine, and I just found, y’know, I enjoyed the kind of immersion and obsession that you had to have with the different characters, and I just enjoyed that feeling, you know. It’s kind of—it’s a very nice sort of concrete feeling when you’re playing a character, and you have certainties that you just don’t have in your everyday life at all. And for me, in terms of actors that I respect, like I said, I mean Gary would have to be one of them. But for me really, it’s anybody who’s prepared to really go the distance and be on that fine line of giving a great performance or making a complete fool of yourself.

Audience member: Show the clip! (Laughter.)

Q: Hi. Huge fan for many years. Just saw Equilibrium, like, the other day, and I was blown away. My question is your favorite part about this specific movie, like with the actors and on set?

CB: Y’know, the Batmobile had to be one of the highlights. I loved what they did with it. You know? It’s indicative of what we did with the rest of the movie in that it looks nothing like any of the other Batmobiles. There’s a great foundation to, y’know, the practicality of everything to do with Batman: the Batmobile, the suit, the cowl, everything is explained in great detail. And that’s what I enjoyed most. Then also, they built this phenomenal set of Gotham on a—it wasn’t a soundstage, it was an old building that they used to build blimps in. And so they truly could build an actual city within it. And that was just stunning—y’know, getting to drive the Batmobile around there.

Q: Hi, Christian.

CB: Hey.

Q: Looking over, like, your past movies like Newsies,which was an awesome movie—. (Applause.)Newsies, Reign of Fire, American Psycho, and The Machinist—which I thought you were awesome in—did you ever think of yourself as being a superhero, or have ever wished to be one?

CB: F*** no. No, I mean, never—.

Q: No?

CB: Never imagined that was going to happen. Wished for it, yeah. Had a bizarre bet, actually, with the director of Equilibrium. Out of nowhere one day he came up to me and said, “One day, you’re gonna play Batman.”

Q: Oh, really? Wow!

CB: And I said, “How much you wanna bet? Because that’d be the easiest money I’ve ever made,” and I bet him five-hundred bucks, which I lost. (Laughter.) (Laughs.) But, uh, I didn’t ever think about it because it wasn’t until—I guess it was five or six years ago that I read any of the graphic novels, and I saw the potential of this bad-ass Dark Knight character that, you know, to me, just kicks ass compared to any other superhero.

Q: Yeah. (Cheers.)

CB: It wasn’t until I read that that I thought, “There is really something here, and I would envy anybody who ever got to play it in that fashion.”

Q: Yeah. Were you at all hesitant?

CB: Hesitant? Absolutely not. No.

Q: Good. I’m so glad you’re up for this part. You have balls. (Laughs.)

CB: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Hey, Christian, thanks for being here. The three Batman Begins questions I had for you were already taken by three other people ahead of me, so I’ll ask you about Empire of the Sun. How was it working with Spielberg?

CB: You know, that was something else, obviously. I was a little young to really truly appreciate it. But they probably want people here for Batman questions, huh? But it was a good thing.

Q: Hey, Christian, thanks for being here. First, I thought you deserved an Oscar for your performance in American Psycho. Then, about American Psycho, I was also wondering if you had an opportunity to revisit the character of Patrick Bateman, would you take it? And also what, in your entire body of work, are you most proud of?

CB: I wouldn’t take it unless Bret Easton Ellis had written it. Y’know? You know, They made anAmerican Psycho 2, which—uh, uh, uhh—I didn’t see it. (Laughter.) But proudest of? You know, many different things. Many different things. This has got to be one of them. American Psycho as well. The Machinist. All for varying reasons, you know, because each project that you do kind of really becomes your baby and, y’know, you just feel bad about favoring one over the other.

Q: How involved were you in the stunt work and do you have any, like, awkward tales about the stunt work of this film?

CB: You know, I would love to be able to tell you that I did all the stunt work. But they had these great stuntmen—some of whom are like five-times mixed-martial-arts champions, UFC kind-of guys—all that, you know? (Laughs.) You know, I couldn’t compete with them. But, we came up with a—but wefound a great fighting style called Kaycee, which is a relatively new fighting style, which is very, very brutal and worked extremely well with the whole Batsuit. And I did as much as I could. They taught me everything. I did a lot of wire work, primarily before the movie started. Then we had an accident where somebody landed straight on their face (audience gasps) from an eighty-foot fall, and they suddenly didn’t want me to do it so much. (Laughter.) But I would do—I did every single fight that you see in the movie. However, when I was starting to get tired—you could see me flagging—then Buster, his name is, would step in and frankly do it a whole lot better than I was doing anyway.

Q: Hi again, Christian. A lot of us that have seen the Batman movies in the past have walked out of the movie theatres shaking heads, going “Noooo.”

CB: “Heeey.”

Q: And now, we get you. And we’ve been looking on the internet, and we’re like, “Yes, this is finally it.” You’re the new Batman, and you get a whole new Batmobile. Tell us what that’s like.

CB: Yeah, everything should be new. Listen, if you guys are not leaving feeling satisfied afterwards, then, y’know, we’ve failed because that’s the whole point of this. You know, we looked at it and said, “There is an audience out there that has just not been given what they should have been given, and what we want to see.” (Applause.) So for you guys, y’know, you’re kind of the hard-core fans. You know all about it. You know what it should have been all these years. Hopefully, you guys are gonna be satisfied, and for everybody else, they are going to be surprised and satisfied at quite how good, y’know, this movie could be. And the Batmobile—the thing—driving the Batmobile is kinda like, uh, having Ozzy Osbourne when he was in Black Sabbath just kind of screaming in your ear—. (Laughter.) As you’re driving it, you know? It’s exhilarating.

Q: Hi, Christian. How you doin’?

CB: Good.

Q: Two questions for you. Number one, this is a character that means a lot to me personally, and to a lot of people. Did you feel a burden taking on this character? And my second question is: did you approach The Batman/Bruce Wayne as one character or as two? You put the cowl on and Batman is a separate character from Bruce Wayne.

CB: Listen, I completely appreciated that it does mean an awful lot to many people—as it should, y’know. This is American mythology here. However, I had a couple of days after I first got cast when I could not get that out of my head. And all I was thinking about was what do people want to see? You can’t turn in a good performance if you’re worried about what everyone else wants to see. You have to just have your own belief—a conviction in it—focus yourself, and you know, and I became obsessive about it. So I had a very, very clear idea about the way that I wanted to play it, and y’know. I hope that you guys appreciate it. But it came to mean an awful lot to me as well. And—what was the second part of the question?

Q: The second part of the question: did you approach this character—Bruce—.

CB: Oh, Bruce Wayne versus Batman.

Q: Wayne and Batman—as two separate characters, or…?

CB: I couldn’t help but feel, when I first put on the Batsuit, that I wanted to see a creature. I didn’t want to see a man dressed as a bat. You know? I wanted to see a beast come out. And, of course, y’know, the two are linked. But I think that the interesting idea behind it is that the Bruce Wayne character is the mask. The Batman is the true self, y’know? (Hearty applause.) That that is the way, Wayne’s the actor. And Bruce Wayne is what he creates in order to be able to be socially acceptable, y’know? And to disguise the fact that he is actually Batman. But, y’know—and there is that constant conflict of his rage and his need for vengeance. And the fact that he’s a very capable fighter, and he’s very brutal, with the fact that he has the philanthropy learned from his father. And the need to uphold his father’s good works. But that, y’know, frankly, he wants to kill. You know? He wants to kill, but he’s having to reign himself in constantly. Because Batman never kills.

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Bale. Thanks for being in San Francisco. Just had two quick questions. The first one was: in the movie Equilibrium, the whole Gunkata thing was—did you have a lot of say in that too, or did you help—or did Kurt Wimmer just come up with that?

CB: You know, it came actually from a mistake. Originally, there were going to be bullets that were clashing in mid-air throughout the entire fight. I think it was budget problems. And we couldn’t do it. And so we had—man, we had weeks of rehearsals to get the Gunkata through. And I think it turned out brilliantly, you know? (Applause.) I think that the stuntmen on that did a phenomenal job. You know, I haven’t seen anything like that before, and I haven’t seen anything like it since.

Q: Pleasure to have you here. What was, like, the toughest thing you had to do on Batman Begins that ended up being, like, the most gratifying thing you did?

CB: I think that—I mean, obviously I’d have to look at many of the fight sequences because they were exhausting, and things go wrong, and you end up getting hit very often, and you have to do it again and again and again, but I think that, y’know, when you see the movie, you’re gonna see that they’re some of the best ones that, y’know, have been put on film. But, uh (pause) for me, the one thing that I really look back on and remember as hating throughout filming is kind of what I was referring to earlier—is I love the cowl, and I hate that cowl, at the same time, you know? And the reason being that just the material—it had to be so tight that, you know, within twenty minutes, I was the most foul-tempered person you could come across. But, I used it. You know? I refused to take it off. I said to them, “No, just leave it on.” You know? And they were like, “Ye-ah, but we can see that you’re gettin’ mad,” and I was like, (intense) “It’s fine.” (Laughter.) “It’s okay. You know, leave it on there. It’s gonna work.”

Q: How does it feel to see your face and likeness immortalized in all kinds of merchandise: toys, shirts, posters?

CB: I haven’t really seen that yet, you know? I’ve seen impressions of it. I visited DC. They showed me the workings of it—of how it’s gonna be. Y’know. I think that’s something that I’m really going to enjoy being able to show, y’know, my kids—getting a kick out of it from seeing that. I’m personally kinda—I can’t help but keep a distance, and I still view it as “Y’know, that’s Batman. That’s not me,” you know? I can’t help but do that. But I mean, shit, c’mon, it’s going to be a blast getting to see that kind of stuff. (Laughter and applause.)

Q: I just wanted to say, you kicked all manner of ass as the Grammaton Cleric in Equilibrium. I’ve been handing out the DVD at work. It’s like this is like the Batman audition piece. It’s like so cool to see someone bring so much depth and just dedication to the whole process that—I just needed to gush—not a question. Just you rock. (Applause.)

CB: Thank you.

Q: Thank you for being here. I was wondering: the information you gave us tonight was quite exciting, that you’re up for three, and I was wondering if you know if the director—assuming everything goes well this summer—would be up for three as well, or if there’d be a different director for each film?

CB: You gonna have to be asking him that, y’know? As far as I know, y’know, he’s not. But that doesn’t mean he won’t.

Q: Mr. Bale, I feel that, I mean, a lot of us here probably won’t ever get to be this close to you again because I think it’s going to be just such a successful film coming out. But with this kind of character and the sheer fan base, you get a lot of rumors. And you get some real crazy ones. And I’m like, “Can this actor do some of these—like just be into the comic-book world and”—I mean, like, batmanonfilm.com has a lot of rumors and rumor controls. Do you ever hear any kind of strange things that others may have said about you that kind of make you just go, “Ga—. What the heck?”

CB: Yep. (Laughter.) (Laughs.) Yep, an awful lot. I haven’t kept track about everything that’s going on with Batman, you know? I hear things about reviews of the movie, which are completely incorrect, y’know? But it’s interesting to see—y’know, to try and kind of filter the fact from the fiction. But it’s a very confusing thing for anybody who was not actually involved in the movie to know what on earth is correct and what isn’t. And because most of the time, it’s a complete confusion and blend of it all. But in terms of hearing weird things, yeah, it kind of comes with the job. And frankly, I don’t really care because, y’know, I’m an actor. People might be confused about me, about, y’know, the job that you do. And I think that, if anything, that benefits a movie and benefits an actor as well.

Q: I just have to say that I think you’re a phenomenal actor.

CB: Thank you.

Q: And my question is: you’ve played so many characters, most of them dark, and I was wondering which one was your favorite?

CB: Um, I mean, I have to say that playing Patrick Bateman was very gratifying. But it was largely because I had to fight so hard to be able to play that character because nobody except for the director wanted me to play it. And so, you know, it was about a year and a half of struggling to get that finally—y’know, get the role to be mine. So that was very gratifying. Equally, The Machinist holds a great place in my heart as well. And, y’know, and this one is, does, and will do, too.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thank you for being here today. The question I’ve had is: when you were prepared for this role, and, as Batman, the Dark Knight, do you often feel like during those exhausting hours of working that what could burn you out—what the Batman character would be—that maybe Gotham City is a child, and Batman would do anything, or Bruce Wayne, to protect her?

CB: Yeah. Because he holds all the memories of what was good, y’know? Of his father’s wishes for the city, what it could become, and seeing it being destroyed, you know? So, absolutely, you know, for him its kind of an attempt to return to innocence. You know, in a way, it’s quite a naïve approach that he has to start. And Chris and I both felt—it was something Chris would often reiterate to me—that he felt that Bruce, as Batman, initially felt that this would be a job with an end. That he can fix Gotham, obliterate the Batman character, and everything would run smoothly from there on in. And he kind of becomes trapped because he started something—it causes escalation.