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
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.
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. Nolans intention was also to bring a real
world aesthetic to the film. The previous films were shot on stages in
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
As a director whats it like to blow up stuff?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (CN): Great, I mean its 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. Its 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 dont 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 its 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 isnt really any reason in my mind why with a different scale story that style should necessarily be different. So when youre referring to these flashbacks and the way you remember things for me, having found a way to represent that, that Im totally comfortable with I havent 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 didnt 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 youre 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 its a very, very stylized movie. When you go down that road, I mean, to get to four films is pretty impressive because youre going to hit a dead end for certain. Its 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 wouldnt 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 didnt use any filtration, we didnt use a lot of digital manipulation, we havent been through a digital intermediate process on this film, which has become this ubiquitous way of doing things. Its 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 dont 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 Bales 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 hed be able to handle it when we began shooting. We were concerned we wouldnt 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.
WARNING SPOILER ABOUT THE END OF THE FILM!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you think it will be difficult casting a Joker for the next film after Nicholsons Joker?
CN: Dont think I cant 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 weve 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 dont 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. Its 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. Theyve done a beautiful job with this film. I think its the first (film) shot in anamorphic that theyve had the chance to do. They feel its the sharpest film that theyve 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 werent 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 mustve been CG?
CN: Yeah, well, absolutely. But we did shoot real bats as well. What Ive 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 Ive 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 Id enjoyed watching.
BATMAN BEGINS IN CAMERA WEDNESDAY JUNE 15
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