CHRISTIAN BALE INTERVIEW: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
As Christopher Nolan’s hugely successful Batman series draws to a close with the release of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, Christian Bale tells John Hiscock of an emotional farewell to his 10-year relationship with the Caped Crusader.
When Cristopher Nolan called “cut” on the final scene of The Dark Knight Rises, an era ended not only for himself but also for Christian Bale, who has lived with the Batman character for almost a decade.
“It was a fairly low-key affair,” Bale, 38, recalls of his last day on the set. “I don’t like big goodbyes, so I said goodbye to everybody fairly quickly and then sat in the outfit and the cowl for a good 20 minutes, just reflecting what it had meant to me through the years.
“I finally took them off, knowing I wouldn’t be doing it again, and it was very meaningful.”
Writer-director Nolan’s rebooted Batman – who first surfaced in Batman Begins in 2005, returned in The Dark Knight and makes his final appearance in his present form in The Dark Knight Rises – made Christian Bale a star, enabled Nolan to write his own ticket in Hollywood and provided lucrative work for cast regulars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman.
But, says Bale, “we were never arrogant enough to think we had the luxury of knowing we were going to make sequels. Chris always stressed that each movie had to be independent and stand on its own because it could be the only one that we ever get to make.”
Warner Bros, which has already said goodbye to the Harry Potterfranchise, will be loath to see the end of Batman, as the two previous movies have brought in more than £900 million worldwide and generated hundreds of millions more in merchandise and licensing deals.
The Dark Knight Rises, written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan from a story conceived by the director and David S Goyer, begins eight years after The Dark Knight’s climax, when Batman took the blame for crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crimes as Two-Face.
With Batman a reviled scapegoat, his alter ego Bruce Wayne is a bearded recluse, still mourning the murder of his true love, Rachel Dawes, and needing to repair his troubled relationships with faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and weapons and gadgets expert Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).
“He’s filled with remorse, he’s become a recluse, he’s given up and completely quit,” says Bale. “He’s in very poor health physically and mentally.”
Enter Batman’s mysterious adversaries, the femme fatale Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and the brilliant and brutal terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), who hides behind a menacing and medically necessary mask and is plotting a multi-pronged attack on Gotham City.
They and Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Oldman) are enough to persuade Bruce Wayne, whose only superpower is his extraordinary wealth, to don his Batman cowl and return to crime-fighting.
A prickly political subtext includes scenes of financial market abuse, politicians behaving badly, riots and a terrorist attack at a football game.
“You can watch this and have a blast, or if you wish you can dig a little deeper and see there are some very resonant topics in it,” says Bale.
Two new faces in the cast are Marion Cotillard as the wealthy and beautiful Miranda Tate and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as young cop John Blake. Both actors previously worked with Nolan on his Oscar-nominated movie Inception.
As with the taciturn Nolan’s previous films, the tone is dark and serious, with none of the humour that imbues Avengers Assemble or even The Amazing Spider-Man.
Hathaway says: “There’s no moustache-twirling in Gotham City. Chris isn’t making fun of the material. It’s serious.”
The Dark Knight Rises was filmed over seven months in India, Glasgow, Pittsburgh, New York, Newark, Los Angeles and at a former RAF training airfield at Cardington in Bedfordshire, Nolan’s home base, where he filmed much of the two previous Batman films and Inception.
Bale, a thoughtful and introspective actor, who, like Nolan, was born in Britain, has had plenty of time to analyse Bruce Wayne/Batman over the years and has some firm ideas about the comic-book character who first appeared in Detective Comics No?27 in 1939, created by the artist Bob Kane.
“He is not a healthy superhero,” he says. “He has multiple-personality disorder and is a very sad, lonely individual. He has the public persona of the playboy, and the character of Batman is the personification of his rage and sense of injustice.
“He’s almost a villain and takes it to the edge, where he can do great wrong, but he has this altruism holding him back from doing that. The reason he dresses in the Batman suit is that he feels monstrous, so he creates a monster to represent that rage and keep it away from his own personal life.
“There are so many stories that can be written in that vein. We could continue endlessly with this, but Chris has written a wonderful final chapter and this is the right time to say goodbye.”
But Nolan is not leaving the superhero genre behind just yet. He and his wife and co-producer, Emma Thomas, are currently producing Warner Bros’ Superman reboot, Man of Steel, and he is talking to his long-time cinematographer, Oscar-winner Wally Pfister, who has worked with Nolan on everything from Memento in 2000 to The Dark Knight Rises, about co-producing Pfister’s directing debut on an as-yet-untitled project.
As for Bale, the quietly spoken actor says he has had enough of big- budget blockbusters. “I want to make some small movies now,” he says. “I’m looking at very different kinds of movies.” So different, in fact, that his four next films combined will cost less than half the £160 million budget for The Dark Knight Rises.
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is out next Friday.
By John Hiscock.