Film School Rejects (July 17th, 2008)

INTERVIEW: CHRISTIAN BALE BRINGS ORDER TO THE DARK KNIGHT

The fans have spoken in countless polls, of all the man to ever take on the cape and cowl of Batman, they prefer Christian Bale. Perhaps, as some camps would have you believe, Bale is just a good actor who got to play Batman in a great pair of films, whereas other Batmans of the past got the short end of the stick. Yet, when we got the chance to speak with Christian as part of the press junket for The Dark Knight, we found out that he wasn’t just a good actor who got lucky — he is an actor who understands his character, and has worked with director Christopher Nolan to bring him to life in a real way, something we have not seen before on the silver screen.

In the Q&A from the round table interview below, Bale tells us all about the balance between order and chaos that makes The Dark Knight such an engaging experience, he also talks about some intense scenes with the late Heath Ledger. As well, he also gives us a little update on what it would take to get him into the batsuit for a third film.

Some of that original source material though would show Batman and The Joker as being almost equally psychotic.

Bale: Right.

But in The Dark Knight it’s sort of taken some of that psychosis out a bit and made it about order and chaos. Was that on purpose?

Right. Well, see I think though that Batman is having to maintain his discipline and a sense of order because he does have such a temptation for chaos and for disruption of a violence because he has his great shadow side born of the pain of the death of his parents, born for a need for revenge. His creation of Batman has never been healthy for his own personal life, you know, he has a great capability for violence and he’s given himself this one rule of he will not kill precisely because he can see how very easily he could cross that line, but because of his inherited altruism and philanthropy from his parents, you know, he does not wish to cross that line, but he’s always in conflict with himself about it and The Joker is the person who has managed to have him questioning his own ethics more so than anybody up until now, and tempting him to break his own rule because he knows if he can break his own rule, he could possibly prevent the deaths of many of many other people, and the question of, well, is it in that case selfish to hold on to his principles, should he break his own principles for that, and there is some wonderful ethical questions that come up in The Dark Knight.

You have a very violent thing with Heath, and it’s quite, quite unpleasant. What surprised you about working with him and how tough was it to do that particular sequence?

Are you talking about the interrogation room sequence?

Yeah.

That was our very first scene together.

Really?

It was a great way to start, you know, because also we were afforded the luxury of for some part of that scene for being completely alone inside of that room with the cameras outside with just mirrors surrounding us so the two of us able to be eyeballing each other and then anyway we looked we were just seeing reflections of two freaks, you know, sitting at a table together. I was able to see for the first time how Heath was playing The Joker, and the complete commitment he had to it, and really enjoyed seeing that. Of course, what the scene reveals is that this is not going to be Batman’s ordinary foe who he is able to intimidate with violence, because the more he beats The Joker, the bigger the smile on Joker’s face becomes, so he realizes he’s just satisfying The Joker with this violence, and in seeing Heath’s commitment you know, I mean Heath, man, he took, he received some heavy bangs and bruises from that scene and he loved every second of it, you know, He just adored it, he was egging me on for more, the walls were buckling in from doing that scene and he had total commitment to it, he created this really iconic villain, portrayed The Joker in a way that he’s never been portrayed before, far creepier, far more anarchic than anything we’ve seen, you know,Clockwork Orange style joker, and it was a great scene to kick off with, literally kick off with.

Does that help push your game in a way when you’re working with someone like that?

Absolutely yeah. Yeah, because I really enjoy that what we do for a living is completely ridiculous, we are, well, you know, we call ourselves grown men who are still pretending to be other people for a living, and the more ridiculous I view what I do, the more I love it, and the more I appreciate and I’m able to do this as a living, and the more seriously I take it. It sounds paradoxical, but the more ridiculous, and I think that the more serious and the more dramatic any role gets in any genre, the more ridiculous you’ve made it, but I take that incredibly seriously and I recognize that in Heath as well, and so me sitting opposite seeing him, I was getting real pleasure from seeing the satisfaction he was getting from it, because I recognized it was the same satisfaction that I get from acting as well, and absolutely when you have anybody as good as him, we’ve got a damn good cast straight throughout this movie, yeah, it becomes that much easier to create great scenes.

Do think you’ll do a third one?

It is completely in the hands of Chris, of whether he desires to do that or not. I think that there’s a great challenge to it for two reasons; one is that there have been a number of sequels that have surpassed the first movie, you look at Godfather 2, Empire Strikes Back, whatever, my personal opinion, at least it surpassed the first ones. There’s not been many times that the third in a trilogy has managed to be the best, and I see that as a good enough reason to want to tackle it. There’s also another challenge which is Heath has done such a superb job with this, how do you create a superior villain to that?

Would it require Chris’ involvement for you to come back again?

I can’t imagine that doing this without Chris, I mean I just I don’t even want to consider that, because he’s created this, this is his, you know, I mean no matter how much there are great performances, and no matter how much there’s a great cast and everything, everything comes down to the director. He cast those people; he’s responsible for picking the right people for the right parts. He’s responsible for the whole damn thing. If the movie works it’s all due to Chris. If the movie fails it’s all due to Chris, I mean, the director should take the credit and all the blame for whether a movie works or not, well, absolutely, he should, because he is the one that’s making all the decisions, I’m just providing the piece of the puzzle, but he’s picked me to provide that piece of the puzzle, so if I’m not doing it well, okay, I’m to blame for not bringing that up but he’s to blame for casting me in the first place.

Was that you standing on the ledge of the Sears Tower?

Yeah, I wasn’t going to let anybody else do that.

…and was it just for the thrill of it? Is it different being up there as Batman, does that give you added confidence?

No. I didn’t have the, I don’t have the fear of heights but how often am I going to get a chance to stand on the ledge of the Sears Tower, you know? In that suit. 110 stories down, as Batman. It’s unlikely that’s going to happen again.

Were you attached to something?

Yeah, that’s why I always say, I don’t really consider it a stunt, you know, it was an experience you know, there was no way they were going to let their leading man plummet 110 stories down to the streets of Chicago, I had a cable. I would have fallen a short way, surprised some office worker down below, but pulled up and everything. [laughter]

By Neil Miller.