Gary Oldman Interview – THE DARK KNIGHT

     July 14, 2008

While I’d love to post all the interviews I did for The Dark Knight after you’ve all seen the movie, I know Warner Bros. probably wouldn’t be too happy with me if I did. The reason I’d like to not post them is…The Dark Knight is one of the best movies we’ll get this year. It’s loaded with action, great performances, and tons of twists and turns that’ll make your head spin. Also…big things happen to a lot of the characters. And I mean BIG.

I walked into the theater and saw The Dark Knight not knowing any of the spoilers. I didn’t know what happened to any of the key characters. And I was so happy I didn’t. Not knowing what’s going to happen ALWAYS makes a movie better.

Anyway, I LOVED The Dark Knight. LOVED.

It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and it’s absolutely as good as the buzz you’re hearing online and in every magazine. So…if you’re planning on seeing the film this weekend or anytime soon…don’t ruin the ride. Avoid the spoilers. Don’t read the interviews. Stop watching the clips and the trailers. Try and walk in as fresh as you can. I promise you…you’ll be happy you did.

If I were you….bookmark this page. Come back and read it after you see the movie. That way when Gary Oldman talks about doing certain things, you won’t have anything ruined.

But that’s just me. I like being spoiler free. But for the rest of you…the ones who already know what happens and want to learn as much as you can…enjoy the interview. I think it’s the best one I participated in at the junket a few weeks ago.

Finally, the last thing I want to tell you all is when you go see The Dark Knight…go see it in IMAX!!!! About 25 minutes of the movie was shot in the large screen format and it’s a sight to behold. While seeing it on a normal movie screen won’t be a bad experience, it’s not what director Christopher Nolan envisioned and since he filmed the movie for you to watch it in IMAX…do yourself a favor and seek it out.

And even if you see it on a normal movie screen this weekend as most of the IMAX shows are sold out…the movie is so good you’ll all see it again anyway. Just make sure the second time is in IMAX.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here.

The Dark Knight opens this Friday. Like you didn’t know…..

Gary Oldman: Last time we did this I had Morgan Freeman sitting next to me. We did it in pairs.

Question: I remember that, they paired Katie Holmes with Michael Caine and he did all the talking.

GO: Did he? Well, things have changed. (laughter)

Q: Lieutenant Gordon has a much bigger role in The Dark Knight than he did in Begins, is that something that you asked for? To get your character to have more to do this time around? You were one of the…you were tremendous in this movie…

GO: I’m sort of the moral center of the piece really, he is the ultimate good guy. But I didn’t campaign for it. I’m at the mercy of what Chris Nolan writes and I think we had a good time working on the first one and maybe I’d like to think that he liked working with me and thought that I could carry it and pull it off. But, I was very thrilled when he sent me the script. I thought, “Oh, yeah! I’ve got more to do.”

Q: Compared to the first film, was it the same feel on the set, was it more structured, did you follow storyboards…

GO: No, you never see storyboards. It’s very unusual, a movie of this size, this scale, you normally have a second unit director but Chris shoots everything because his feeling is that the action is as much a part of the movie as anything else so he thinks, “it’s weird that I direct the actors and do a style and look and then someone else, another director, goes off and make this other bit of the movie?” So, he shoots the movie from the second unit and the whole thing. I’ve never seen a storyboard, I am sure that they exist. The great thing about Chris is that he’s so prepped, he doesn’t shout, he doesn’t scream, I’ve never seen him lose his temper. You start the movie day 1, day 147 you come back and he doesn’t look tired, I don’t know how he does it, he just goes, “Hey, how are you? Great! How’s it going? Great, got some great stuff here, flipped a truck last night. Ok, start over there…” (laughter) It’s like…he’s a very pleasant guy to be around and you’re home for tea and put the kids to bed. You do a days work and you are home for dinner. Who could want for anything more?

Q: Were you in any of the IMAX shot scenes and if so did you notice a difference?

GO: Noisier camera and it’s the size of a washing machine. Noisy camera, and did you know there’s a booklet that comes with the IMAX? Of how to act? Yeah…you have to make it really subtle because it’s going to be so much bigger. And make-up, the whole thing, the gestures, make the gestures smaller…

Q: Did you take any of it to heart?

GO: Um, well, I couldn’t be small if I tried.

Q: In the first film you got to drive the Batmobile, but you didn’t get to do that this time…

GO: No, I didn’t get to do anything

Q: Was there something fun…

GO: Oh wait, I did! I drove the SWAT car, it is me, he [Nolan] asked that I come in even though we might not see you. It’s amazing that the city of Chicago gave Chris permission to kick the hell out of it like that. Those are real stunt drivers and real cars. He really flipped that truck and crashed that helicopter. He doesn’t like to use a lot of CGI, the explosion is a real explosion, that’s a building blowing up with Heath walking out of it, that’s really blowing up behind him, that building. And of course Chris tells a great story, he says that before you cut – the take was bringing Heath out of the building walking across this car park then the building sort of blowing up in pieces behind him and then the whole thing blowing up…Heath walks and gets into a bus and the camera follows and as it pulled away out of the shot, there was a first AD in there on a walkie talkie and he says Heath turned at the end of the shot going, “One more.” (laughter) Yeah, no, we’re not going to do that again! You don’t get another one! So there are a lot of “one-takes,” there are a lot of one take things, you flip that truck and that’s it, it a one take deal and Chris said I don’t really want to use CG I want to flip an 18-wheeler and he said to his special effects guy, “now go make it work.”

Q: What was working with Heath like?

GO: Wonderful, I was saying earlier that there are actors that go along in a career and it’s as if they’re travelling at subsonic speed and then you’ll get a movie like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or you’ll get “Dog Day Afternoon” and actors like Nicholson and Pacino go through the sound barrier, they don’t do it every time but an actor in a career will do that, if they are lucky, if they’re good. And Heath has gone through the sound barrier with this. I think it’s an extraordinary piece of acting and he was such a…there was a frequency he was tuning into like a broadband or something, he was tuning something, he found something. He tuned into a station that none of us could hear.

Q: When you read the script for the first time and read that Commissioner Gordon gets shot and we all assume…we’re you surprised or were there notes saying that’s not really what’s going on here? Or were you just as surprised as us the audience watching?

GO: No I wasn’t surprised because they were already talking about the third one. (laughter) I read – Oh he’s shot! He’s dead, yeah well he’s got to come back! (laughter) I don’t know what they’re going to say about the third one, Chris Nolan is, you’ll see Chris today and you’ll say, “Are you going to do the sequel?” And he sits here and he goes, “I don’t know…I’m kind of tired, I’m going to go on holiday…” Which I think is code for yes!

Q: So they haven’t given you a heads up like, “Hey we’re gonna shoot it in Summer of 2009” or anything?

GO: No, I think he’ll go away and work the story. The way he did this one was he got together with his brother, well his brother later but he got together with David Goyer and they sit around and they flush out the story, the plot. They are like, “What are we scared of in the world? What really scares us? Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the Joker do this…” And they just throw these ideas around and get a story roughly of what they want. And then he hands it over to his brother, Chris is a great writer in his own right, but they got the story together and gave it to the brother to flush it out. It’s a great way to work, I can’t think of a better way to work.

Q: Do you think of Gordon…he seems like the only optimist, like he’s the only one who believes his fellow officers are actually good even when Aaron Eckhart’s character is telling him no they are all corrupt.

GO: I think he knows they are corrupt but I think Gordon’s a great poker player and he even says at the end, I think he has enormous admiration for Batman at the end because he says, he does say people will lose hope and everything was riding on this and then Batman says, “But I killed those people, I’ll take the fall for it.” And that shows great character, someone that can do that, I think he has an incredible amount of admiration for him at that point and if there is a third movie it’ll be interesting becuase he does openly work with Batman, even though he says to the D.A. that really the thing is that you’ll arrest the vigilante Batman on sight, I mean, but he does openly work with him and he does trust him because he gives oer a crime scene to Batman over the police officers and his detective and he says, “look, you know what, no one is looking you can have 5 minutes with the crime scene.” But, there is that policy that he is a vigilante and that he’s kind of not working with him, he works with him but he’s kind of not working with him. And now, if there’s a third one he has to openly, publicly, hunt him and chase him but he’ll have to meet with him covertly.

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Q: You character will also trust his fellow police officers even less than before I am guessing?

GO: Yes, he really is a really honest and incorruptable, virtuous character in a system that is very, very corrupt.

Q: But I like that he’s also very sneaky…

GO: He has to be.

Q: He has to be and he does have this fatal flaw, Two-Face would not have happened if these cops on Gordon’s squad that trusts and he lets go and hadn’t set up Maggie and Harvey. I just love this movie! It’s so horribly murky! Everything! ….There’s a debate amongst comic fans whether or not Gordon knows who Batman is after working together, from you point of view does Gordon care who Batman is?

GO: No, I don’t think he does. Where is that in a comic?

Q: Well, every now and then there’s a storyline where maybe Gordon has figured it out because after working with him for so long how could he not begin to wonder.

GO: I think Gordon thinks that Batman is George Clooney. (laughter)

Q: You are in Goyer’s next movie right?

GO: I am.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

GO: It was great working with him, I can’t really…it’s a horror movie and I play a Rabbi. There you go.

Q: You’ve been rumored to be in A Christmas Carol with Zemekis.

GO: I am.

Q: Could you talk a little about working in that CGI environment?

GO: People have said it’s like theater, but often they are the people that have never done theater (laughter) so…they go (in Oldman’s best American accent), “It’s like working in theater isn’t it Gary?” And you go, “No, it’s nothing like theater.” Basically it’s like being in a movie but without the breaks and costumes. But it’s the weirdest thing because you perform the scenes much like you would a play with like 200 cameras in the room but you don’t wear a costume and you’ve got weird dots on your face and Zemekis will make the movie in the computer later.

Q: I know Jim plays a lot of parts, are there a lot of actors together, do you do it together or do you act by yourself?

GO: You’re with them, I play Marley and I play Tiny Tim and I play Bob Krachet.

Q: You said earlier that Heath was able to tune into something, some actors are very “method,” after they said cut was Heath still the Joker for a while?

GO: No, you get a little, if you are that intense when you’re playing a role like that, there’s an energy on set and people get into it, I mean Jim Carrey is pacing up and down getting into an emotional scene and you can’t fuck with him because he’s off in the corner trying to sort of get into it or you take a moment and say, or Francis Ford Coppola says to you, “I want you to weep in this scene.” Yeah, you’re going to go off into a corner and think about terrible things, I don’t know, you know what I mean? And you are focused on something but you know, what you get with Heath is he’s so committed to the role and you look at De Niro’s work and if anything you watch a movie like “Raging Bull” and whether you think it’s good work or bad work, you’ve got to admire the commitment to it, the commitment to the work to gain sixty pounds to play Jake La Motta, that has to be applauded. And Heath is completely committed to this character and so free when he works it was just like a freedom. Often it shot differently, because Chris would say let’s put it on steady cam or let’s put it on a handheld and see what he does, just wind him up and let’s see what he does and there’s a real sense of danger there. I think that really comes across. But, we would cut and I would sit on the sidewalk with him and he would have a cigarette and laugh and joke and talk about Matilda. People want to believe the Joker contaminated him and you’d have to have a neurological disorder to, you know what I mean? I’ve played a lot of weird, wacky characters in my time and I’ve always managed to get to sleep. You know what I mean? But people want a darker story there I think, then there really is. Christian is still alive, you know? I mean, so it’s just an accident sadly. But I think he’s looking down from heaven saying, “They’re going to nominate me for an Oscar? You’re kidding me!! Bad timing!” But I think he will get nominated and the work will get recognized and this genre doesn’t normally get recognized because people don’t take it seriously enough, I mean, people don’t understand that it’s hard to costume a movie like Michael Clayton as it is to costume Dracula or Jane Eyre. It’s just as hard. You have to get the right suit, the right shirt, should it be cotton? That tie doesn’t work with that, is the cardigan right? Should she wear a short skirt? Should it be a 3/4 skirt? I mean, even though you are going out and buying the clothes there is the same skill that goes into it. But, of course the Academy never acknowledges, they would never give a best costume Oscar to Michael Clayton. And, so they’ve never taken the acting in these movies seriously, I think the last time they did was Tony Hopkins, they gave him an Oscar for a horror movie. So I think that they will acknowledge this and take it seriously on the strength of the performance not because it’s a posthumous Oscar and it’s a sympathy vote because he’s dead. So, I’d like to see it, he’s wonderful in it isn’t he? He’s wonderful.

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