INT: Nolan/Thomas

In 1997, I was unlucky to see BATMAN AND ROBIN, which is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I still get angry when I think about it. Most fans assumed that was the end of the BATMAN films, and the hope of ever seeing another good BATMAN movie began to fade. But there began to be whispers of another cinematic visit to Gotham City . Rumors on the web began to swirl.

A whole website, www.batman-on-film.com, was created just to track the progress of a fifth installment (it remains the definitive stop for all things relating to the BATMAN movies). Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller came close to getting their BATMAN: YEAR ONE film off the ground, and there was a brief moment when BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN looked like it was going to happen.

But then it was announced that Christopher Nolan, director of MEMENTO and INSOMNIA would be taking the reigns. But this was not to be another journey down the same trail blazed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. This would be a whole new take on the character, exploring his origins. Nolan’s intention was also to bring a real world aesthetic to the film. The previous films were shot on stages in London or Burbank . This would be the first BATMAN film to make use of real world locations. Nolan applied that approach to the whole film, eschewing big CGI spectacle in favor of tangible reality, a marked difference from most of today’s blockbusters.

We had a chance to talk about the daunting task of making the film with Nolan and producer/partner Emma Thomas during the press day for BATMAN BEGINS in Los Angeles recently.

As a director what’s it like to blow up stuff?

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (CN): Great, I mean it’s absolutely terrific, you know, you get to do amazing things in a film like this. Blowing stuff up is particularly exciting. One of the coolest things I got to do is go to Chicago which is where half my family is from, I lived there, and plus we got to raise four bridges on the river…held up traffic for an hour and a half…yeah, stuff like that. It’s pretty cool.

Did you ever dream that you would one day direct a summer blockbuster?

CN: Well, I always dreamt about what that sort of film would be. But you don’t – at least I never did – think in terms of the process of it or doing it as a job or anything like that. For me it’s always been a creative fantasy.

I thought it was interesting that a lot of the style of MEMENTO was still in this film, not the twisted chronology, but a lot of the quiet, handheld flashback style. How do you do that with such a huge franchise, how do you still get your stamp in there?

CN: Well, I think just by approaching things from a point of view of what best expresses the story and thinking in terms of what shot follows this one in order to progress the story. There isn’t really any reason in my mind why with a different scale story that style should necessarily be different. So when you’re referring to these flashbacks and the way you remember things…for me, having found a way to represent that, that I’m totally comfortable with…I haven’t really changed that.

How did you get away with not having a terrible heavy metal soundtrack? Warner Bros is a giant corporation, how did you get away with not having to do any of that cross promotion that the earlier films got bogged down with?

EMMA THOMAS(ET): In the beginning we sort of said, Chris was very clear to them what sort of movie this was going to be, it was going to feel…comparatively sort of timeless in away. I think that they got where Chris was coming from.

CN: Well, they got the tone of the film. They knew what we were trying to make and what they needed from their end.

They didn’t try to get you to put any Prince music in the film?

CN: No, because, the truth is…they made four films in the previous series and by the time you get to the end of that there is a weight of that kind of activity you have to get away from when you’re starting over. They really understood that, that they needed a very classy film, and a very sincere film…to reinvigorate the cinematic idea of Batman.

Why do you think the franchise stalled out so badly?

CN: Well I think that when Tim Burton made his film in 1989, which was a brilliant film, a visionary and extraordinarily idiosyncratic… it’s a very, very stylized movie. When you go down that road, I mean, to get to four films is pretty impressive because you’re going to hit a dead end for certain. It’s just so extreme in its approach.

Have you conceptualized sequels yet? Do you see your whole dead end ahead?

CN: I thought about it in loose terms, but in truth, we tried to put everything into this film to see…I very much enjoyed making it, so I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of returning, but am really interested to see how people respond to this film.

Can you talk about the look that you and director of photography Wally Pfister wanted to achieve?

CN: Well, really our conversations are somewhat minimal because…in a sense they related very much to the other two films we made, because I like to shoot things in a very naturalistic style, he knows that, therefore he didn’t use any filtration, we didn’t use a lot of digital manipulation, we haven’t been through a digital intermediate process on this film, which has become this ubiquitous way of doing things. It’s sort of shot in camera, anamorphic…very much the same way we made the last couple of films. We know each other very well, so we don’t have to communicate too specifically about a lot of things. One of the things that we did talk about was getting a lot of different looks for the film, not being afraid to have a very different look to the early scenes, the set in Bhutan for example.

Christian Bale’s performance is quite amazing. Were you at all skeptical, because he came out of THE MACHINIST having lost so much weight? Did you think that he might not be able to handle this part?

CN: Well we always knew he’d be able to handle it when we began shooting. We were concerned we wouldn’t be able to convince him to do the screen test for the studio because he would still be too skinny but he managed very, very quickly, within seven weeks, or something after wrapping THE MACHINIST, to put on most of the weight.


Do you think it will be difficult casting a Joker for the next film after Nicholson’s Joker?

CN: Don’t think I can’t answer that.

Do you have any ideas?

CN: Give me a break!! (LAUGHS)


Were you overwhelmed with the challenges of this film?

ET: I think that going in I thought this is going to be much more different than the other films. Once we were in it, it was the same as any other film. We were there trying to make our days. For me, personally, in my job there are a few different things, like having a video game, you know, that sort of thing, which we’ve never had to do it before…on MEMENTO, to have all those sort of ancillary things going on, but you know, it was an enormous amount of fun.

What about having the film come out in IMAX? Is that just a matter of saying make the negatives bigger or do you have to plan that as part of your whole process?

CN: These days you don’t have to plan it as part of your whole process because they figure out their process very effectively. So you just give them an idea. It’s a massive process, it takes a very long time, weeks and weeks just to get the film scanned in. They sharpen the image, lose the grain almost, adapt it for their screen very specifically. They’ve done a beautiful job with this film. I think it’s the first (film) shot in anamorphic that they’ve had the chance to do. They feel it’s the sharpest film that they’ve done.

Did you lose any running time?

CN: No, they only had to do that for APOLLO 13, because that was the first one they did in this process. Literally, the platters just weren’t big enough to take on that amount of film. Now they are. They told me the other day if I go any longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes it gets a bit tricky.

You talked about not using that much CG, but all those swarms of bats, that must’ve been CG?

CN: Yeah, well, absolutely. But we did shoot real bats as well. What I’ve been saying is that we shot, for everything that appears with a bit of an effect in the film, we shot material to base this on, whether in the film it was stunts… or what have you, or miniature photography. In the case of the bats, we shot a lot of tests with real bats and some…we see close ups of the bats that are real. Then to multiply that to thousands upon thousands, that was CG.

Why did you take the approach of trying to get as much of it in camera?

CN: I just feel like the sort of big blockbuster films I’ve been seeing over the last ten years or so have become smaller and smaller and more and more like animated films and video games. I just wanted to make an attempt to get back to the kind of grand scale filmmaking that I’d enjoyed watching.


Source: JoBlo.com



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