Christian Bale Interview – THE DARK KNIGHT

     July 20, 2008

While I promised all my Dark Knight interviews would run before the movie came out…I decided to wait till after opening weekend so more of you would actually read them.

I knew a number of people (and readers) that didn’t want to know anything about the movie and they avoided every spoiler and interview so they could be surprised. And…I think that was the smartest decision any of you could make.

After all, director Christopher Nolan and the team behind The Dark Knight spent years making this brilliant film and learning everything that happens before walking in….I think it defeats the entire purpose.

Anyway…since millions of you have now seen this brilliant film…I figure you might want to read some interviews with the people who made it.

So posted below is an interview I participated in with Christian Bale. While Christian clearly isn’t the biggest fan of talking to the press, he did open up by the end when he started talking about his favorite parts of the movie and all the stunts he did himself.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the MP3 by clicking here.And if you’d like to read an interview with David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan, click here.

Question: Was it nice to be able to be finally able to talk about the film not having people wonder or ask you to spill the beans?

Christian Bale: You know I’m finding that more and more on movies nowadays just with the Internet, you know, and these movie haters. You like to give spoilers to everybody all over the place. It’s not unusual to have a lot of secrecy around movies that don’t have even the expectations of something like “The Dark Knight”. Is that what you were referring to?

Q: Yeah, sort of. Just a lot of times people will hit you up in an interview being like can you tell us all about this and you’re sort of guarded about it.

Christian Bale: Yeah, well you know I still have to be guarded somewhat. I don’t want to be giving away the endings and everything in the interviews but it’s nice to be able to talk about something that you feel has been successful and work that you’re proud of. It’s not nice when you’re having to talk about it when you’re not very proud of it.

In a sequel to a franchise film like this a lot of time filmmakers say that this is the film they wanted to make the first time around because they don’t have to set anything up anymore. Now they can get to the heart of the story of what this…

Christian Bale: I wouldn’t abandon the first one quite so easily as that. I mean I enjoy very much “Batman Begins”. I think it was done superbly. I really enjoy the origin story. It’s absolutely essential. “The Dark Knight” couldn’t exist without having had “Batman Begins” beforehand. What I do think is that previous to “Batman Begins” everyone was going on faith of what Chris Nolan was saying he was going to do whereas now with “The Dark Knight” they had proof of what he was going to do and I think that in my eyes it appears as though he was given more freedom to make exactly the movie that he wished to. So we see an even more realistic appearing Gotham, the characters and I think he’s really nailed it with this ability to take this certain genre of movie, but not have it be constricted by that genre, you know? And truly has made a superb story and finely crafted movie that I think stands up against any movie regardless of genre.

Could you talk a little bit about with working in the IMAX format because it looks brilliant?

Christian Bale: Not really, I don’t really have any idea about that. It’s a bigger camera and it makes more noise and that’s about it. That’s all I know about it. I’ve yet to see the movie on IMAX. I know I understand and hear that it is very spectacular to see it there, but as far as I’m concerned I don’t care what kind of camera—whether it’s digital, IMAX, film–whatever the hell it is pointing at me, I’m doing the same thing.

Gary Oldman mentioned it came with an instruction booklet on how to act. Would you have happened to see that?

Christian Bale: The IMAX thing?


Christian Bale: Well, I missed that one. Damn.

The first Batman—the story is very different from this one—this is a much more street level Batman. This is a crime epic as opposed to…the first one was sort of bigger and had sort of world aspects to it. Does that affect the way you’re playing Batman this time because it is more of crime epic? A little bit more noir and pulpy?

Christian Bale: Well it’s certainly more…there are more mind games being played here in this one. You know, Batman will always have this conflict within himself of his altruistic side vs. his raging violent demonic side, but added to it with this one is the notion that he wants out, you know? He does not want to continue to be Batman. He is looking for somebody who can be like he says a hero with a face, which will make Batman obsolete which is his initial goal. He doesn’t want to have a Gotham where Batman is necessary. Harvey Dent is clearly the potential heir to that—the elected official-who can have integrity and stamp out the corruption and the crime, but we’re seeing that Batman is finding it impossible to relinquish this creature no matter how much it means that his own life is being sacrificed and he’s suffering because of that. He’s unable to and then especially with the arrival of The Joker. I think there’s a mutual fascination between Batman and The Joker, you know? Like The Joker says, you complete me. I think that Batman is a wonderful challenge for The Joker because everyone else has just been too easy. They’ve quit so early on, they’ve been paid off, they’ve been bought out. They just give up their beliefs and ethics so quickly. The Joker sees that Batman does not compromise and The Joker does not compromise and so both of them are raising great questions for each other and The Joker is tempting Batman very much to break his own cardinal rule of:”he will not kill”. There’s a number of great questions raised throughout in this movie. There’s that, you know, it’s the fact that he can take the life of The Joker and potentially save many more people, but he’s broken his own beliefs in doing so and what it the correct thing to do. At what point do beliefs just become selfish or must you stand by that, you know? And then you’ve got Lucius Fox as the mentor as well as Alfred guiding and criticizing Batman and his questioning. This idea of the triangulation and the ability to hear the entire city and the invasion of privacy that that means and again the question and clearly that’s very relevant in America, the question of what kind of deals do you do with the devil in order to solve a problem quickest, but are you then setting yourself up for future problems and more dire circumstances and consequences.

As you said, Bruce Wayne in this movie wants to quit being Batman. Can he ever do you think? Will there ever be day that Bruce Wayne could stop being Batman? Is there a Bruce Wayne left in there anymore?

Christian Bale: I think again there’s 2 minds about that. I think that on the one hand he needs to. I think this is not something he feels he can continue to do endlessly in terms of physical and mental toll that it is taking upon him, but I think there’s also an addiction to it, you know? I think the day that he did actually take off the suit and burn it, I think that he would be…I don’t think he would know what to do.

Do you, Christian, feel the same way about the role yourself? I mean did you start off thinking with the first Batman that you were going to continue doing the franchise and do you ever get tired of it? Are you excited about doing another one possibly?

Christian Bale: No, I mean listen the possibility of doing another one is completely Chris Nolan’s decision. And if he’s doing it then absolutely I know that he will be coming up with…he’s presented himself with a huge challenge of surpassing this one, I believe. And very much so with the challenge of surpassing The Joker as a villain. How do you up that? It’s a very tricky thing to do. If anybody can do it I think Chris can. So that’s his choice. I’ve actually enjoyed very much reprising a role. I’ve never experienced that before and I like it a great deal.

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We do see the detective side of Batman on this thing. Whose input was that? Was it Jonathan or was it Chris, was it David, or was it yourself that wanted to see more of the detective come out?

Christian Bale: No, it wasn’t me. I’m not sure out of them. They have a way of working together Jonah and Chris and David. You’ll sometimes get one of them kind of begins it and the other one then comes in and then it switches up. You know that happened with “Batman Begins” in “The Prestige” in there and so that’s a question for them.

We’ve talked to the other cast members who have all uniformly said how Heath came in and helped raise their performance as well because of how free he was with the character. Can you talk about working with him and sort of how that informed your own performance?

Christian Bale: Yeah, I think that the tone for the performances had already been set. Chris picked a really wonderful cast and each and every person was up in the game. Heath clearly had created a character which I was absolutely happy to stand back and witness and see what this guy’s going to completely steal the show, you know? And in a fantastic way. In a deserved fashion, you know? The Joker is a hypnotic character. I mean one thing that we’d always wanted to make sure is that in all the other portrayals of Batman that I’d seen, he’d always been less interesting than the villains and I think we’ve found the true interest and I find Batman to be absolutely fascinating, but, clearly, the first movie was all about Batman and how he came to be that. Well now we see him, he’s in a position of power already, well now is the time that we start introducing these other archetypal villains. And Heath did just a fantastic job. It was a real pleasure to work with him, to see his immersion in it. It gave me a lot of amusement because I enjoy watching somebody when they commit themselves so absolutely to a role. And it’s absolutely right, yeah. I mean I think he’s just raised the bar in general as Chris has for villains, you know? He’s created an iconic villain for the ages and I think simultaneously Chris has raised the bar for so-called genre movies, you know? They don’t have to be limited to being considered good action or good superhero movies. They can be good movies finish and I think this one stands on it’s own 2 feet against any drama that’s been out there this year.

You do small films. You do big films and you’ve just signed on to do another huge potential franchise—a rebooting of “The Terminator” franchise. Were you ever hesitant at all or were you like “all right, cool. Let’s do another one?”

Christian Bale: No, absolutely, I was hesitant. I was working on “Public Enemies” with Michael Mann in Chicago and considering “The Terminator”. My feeling is that we have an opportunity and a responsibility and there’s no point in making it if you don’t achieve this of reinventing that mythology and there’s a great deal of potential for that and that’s what I’m attempting to do and anything less than that would be us failing.

I wanted to know that you have in this film—in Dark Knight—you have some big action set-pieces and you have some very small moments. Do you have a favorite whet you looked at the film that you…just a favorite of the film?

Christian Bale: I’d have to watch it a few more times to really understand the favorite. The ones that immediately come into my mind are actually the interrogation room scene with Heath. I did enjoy that greatly, largely because that was the first time that we were sitting together in that room by ourselves, just recognizing how we were going to be portraying these characters. In terms of experience, I did enjoy to no end the standing on the edge of the Sears Tower shot, but I’ve only seen the movie once. I’ve not seen it in IMAX yet. I’ve also seen a rough cut. I saw it a couple of months back just with Chris. It was not…it didn’t have the final mix or anything to it at that point. I mean it was a wonderful, beautiful, polished movie that to me, hey you could have just released it as it was, but Chris still considered it a rough cut at that point. So to truly understand my favorite scenes I’ve got to see it again.

Did you just say that you were on the edge of the Sears Tower yourself?

Christian Bale: Yes. I was. It’s not really a stunt….it’s more of an experience, you know? I had a cable. They weren’t going to let me plummet 110 stories to the bottom. I could have fallen but I would have just had a nasty bang and surprised some office worker down below and get hauled back up. But yeah, no all the fight sequences I do myself. With that I had to turn to my stunt double, Buster, and say, “sorry buddy that one’s mine. I’ve got to be doing that one”, but I gave him slamming into concrete pillars at 30 mph, falling 5 stories onto a car. That stuff I said, “that’s yours. You can take that one.” But the Sears Tower experience I had to take for myself.

You’re playing a superhero but do you have one in real life? A hero?

Christian Bale: You know what, I was never much one for heroes growing up; I’ve really got to say. I was never into comic books. I mean the first time I had any interest in Batman…I enjoyed very much Adam West’s kind of spoofing of what I think Bob Kane’s original intention was and I think he did a great job with that, but I was never into comic books. I just happened to come across Frank Miller’s “Batman Year One” and have enjoyed that tone and that was the first time that I felt that I could see that Batman could be played in a real interesting fashion and the concept of graphic novels from that, but I’ve never been somebody really who looks for heroes.

Do you have one in real life?

Christian Bale: In real life? Well you know what, God bless him, that would be my father.

Are we seeing you at Comic-Con?

Christian Bale: When is that?

July 26th? 23rd, 24th, 25th.

Christian Bale: I’m not in the country.

All right, good deal.

Christian Bale: You didn’t want to see me there.

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