INTERVIEW: Emma Thomas- A BOF TDK Exclusive!


EDITOR’S NOTE: This past weekend in Beverly Hills, California, I had the privilege of attending the press junket for THE DARK KNIGHT – which opens in theaters on July 18, 2008 by the way! Anyway, I saw the film and participated in “roundtables” with various members of the cast and crew.

During this big event, I had the huge, HUGE honor of getting to visit one-on-one with one of the producers of THE DARK KNIGHT, Emma Thomas. Of course, you all know that not only is she Chris Nolan’s producer but his lovely wife as well!

I’m proud to be able to call her a friend. – Bill “Jett” Ramey

Bill “Jett” Ramey and Emma Thomas, June 2008, Beverly Hills, CA

ET: Well…?

BOF: Well, um…it was…it blew me away. I was just speechless.

MRS. JETT: And he’s NEVER speechless!

ET: (laughs) Oh really? That’s funny!

BOF: I told Chris this earlier, that at the end of BATMAN BEGINS, I was all fired-up and high-fiving people. And with this one, I just sat there staring at the credits. Speechless.

ET: It’s kind of intense isn’t it? Well good — we were all wondering what you would think (laughs)!

BOF: How proud are you of it?

ET: Hugely! Yeah, really, really proud.

BOF: More so than with BATMAN BEGINS?

ET: Um, well I think that with every film you come out of it very proud of what you’ve done. But this one — it was really hard work and it’s a really big movie. When we went into it, we really wanted to expand on the last one [BATMAN BEGINS] and make the biggest film it could possibly be. I definitely feel that we’ve achieved what we intended to achieve. So yeah, that makes me awfully proud.

BOF: Emma, there’s so much in it, but it’s all [makes a fast sweeping gesture with arms]…fast you know and it never slows down. And it all makes sense in terms of why all of this is in the film.

ET: Yeah, there’s a whole lot in it. My worry…what I was worried about that it was the HUGE movie with tons of action and explosions and there wouldn’t be this emotional connection and you’re not in it with the characters and care about the characters. But I think that you are…were YOU? (laughs)

BOF: Oh yeah. There were two things that I lobbied for hard on BOF if you were ever going to use Harvey Dent or The Joker again was that one, you really would care about Harvey Dent…that’d he be a true hero.

ET: Yeah, yeah absolutely.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT

BOF: And with The Joker, you had to hate him. And I did (laughs)! It’s a “love to hate” thing. But you know, the writing for The Joker was fabulous, but the performance was AWESOME.

ET: Yeah, yeah. It’s really something isn’t it? He’s so…terrifying…the unpredictability…everything.

BOF: I know! You laugh, but you almost feel bad about laughing…

ET: Exactly! It’s like this nervous laugh and you do sort of feel guilty.

BOF: There’s that one scene…the magic trick.

ET: I know (laughs)! You can’t help yourself can you (laughs)?! But that is what The Joker is all about really, isn’t it? I think Heath did an amazing job.

BOF: Um…How am I going to ask this question? OK, now tell me the truth, were you a Batman fan before BATMAN BEGINS (laughs)?

ET: I’ll be completely honest…no (laughs)! I had no idea, I knew nothing about Batman. I think I’d seen BATMAN [The 1989 film – Jett].

BOF: So you had the “Adam West Batman” in your head?

ET: Yeah, yeah. It was like that…what I knew of the TV series and I never really watched it much. So I never really knew much about Batman which I’m sort of a ashamed to admit now in retrospect (laughs)! I just had no idea about this vast mythology that has been built up over all these years and the richness of that — the richness of Batman. I didn’t even realize that Batman was a regular guy — of course he’s very rich — but I didn’t get the difference between him and all the other superheroes. Not having superpowers and everything. But that’s something the I now really love about the character.

BOF: I wasn’t trying to put you on the spot (laughs), but are you a fan now?

ET: Oh yeah! (laughs)

BOF: That’s what I was really getting at by asking you that — but do you see why so many of us LOVE this character? Like me, Batman is my only “geek thing,” you know? You’d be surprised how many of us there are and lots and lots of us are grownups. I think that — as a guy — you can take like Batman and sports with you from childhood to, well, being an adult.

ET: Oh yeah, I get that totally and it’s very understandable. You know when Chris first started working on BATMAN BEGINS and we met with Paul Levitz [President of DC Comics – Jett] and he was telling us all about Batman and sent us so much material on the character. There’s was just so much about him that I never realized — a whole wealth of information — that I wish I had known about. But yeah, I’m certainly a fan now (laughs)!

BOF: OK, I’m not asking if there is going to be another one. But I’m curious…do you have folks contact y’all and say “If you do another one, I’d really like to be a part of it,” you know? Like agents or maybe actors themselves?

ET: Well, not right now obviously, but we certainly did after BATMAN BEGINS. There were people — after they realized that we’d be doing THE DARK KNIGHT — and agents who’d call and say “I’ve got the right person for you” and all that. But not yet with this one — of course it hasn’t been released yet (laughs)!

BOF: On that same note, how coveted was the role of The Joker?

ET: There were definitely a good number of people who wanted to do it, yeah. But looking back, I think it’s sometimes easy to forget how brave of a thing it was for Heath to do, to take the role. He just owns the part — he just is The Joker. Now having seen [the movie] and then look back to two years ago, it was a really, really brave thing for him to do. To take on this iconic character that had been SO identified with Jack Nicholson. But we always knew when we started making THE DARK KNIGHT that the casting of The Joker was the single most important thing we had to do and did.

BOF: From my point of view — running BOF and all — there were A LOT of people actively campaigning for this part.

ET: Yep, yes there were (laughs)!

Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christian Bale as Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT

BOF: But now after seeing it last night, I CAN NOT imagine anyone else playing The Joker.

ET: I know! Me too.

BOF: He has given us a classic movie villain…a Hannibal Lecter level villain. One for the ages in my opinion.

ET: It is. At this point, I can not think of any movie villain that matches him. He is terrifying and unpredictable but at the same time, he has this charisma and you can’t stop looking at him. The screening we attended — I don’t know if it was like that at the one you went to — but every time he’s on the screen, there was the this “electric crackle” in the place. You just can’t take your eyes away — you may want to, but you can’t, you know?

BOF: What do you think of this Oscar buzz for Heath that’s already out there?

ET: Yeah, it’s almost impossible to say right now because we’re only halfway through the year and who knows what other performances we’ll see. But for us, we just want to put it out there and let people see what he’s done. That’s the big thing for us right now, you know? Now I think it’s an OUTSTANDING performance and would love nothing more for Heath to be recognized like that. But who knows…we’ll see.

BOF: I hate even calling it a “comic book movie” because it seems to belittle it a bit. But I think it’s really raised the bar for the genre — things that will come later. Like IRON MAN — I don’t know if you’ve seen it…

ET: We haven’t. We haven’t seen any movies this summer but we’re going to! We screened the IMAX version you saw last Monday morning and when we walked out, we were like “We’re done!” So were going to see it (laughs).

BOF: What I meant I guess was that IRON MAN is fun — not to say that THE DARK KNIGHT is not fun — but it’s just different you know? It’s like this action crime drama…

ET: Absolutely, yeah. What I like about Chris’ films is that you can rarely can classify them under a particular “type,” or genre you know? Like THE PRESTIGE, for example, that was always a particular type of movie to classify as well and I think that his approach to this movie and BATMAN BEGINS was that he didn’t want to simply make a genre movie. He went into this movie like he goes into all of his films trying to make the best movie possible without boxing it in, you know? So yeah, you’re right in that regard and I hope that people will see it the same way…they’ll see it for what it really is.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, and Christian Bale as Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT

BOF: I’m going to tell you something that’s going around and I was wondering if you’ve heard it yet. They are saying that THE DARK KNIGHT is “THE GODFATHER, Part 2 of Comic Book Films.”

ET: I LOVE that! And I have heard that! I LOVE that people are saying that! It’d be wonderful if people saw our film and thought of that, you know (laughs)? That’s amazing — don’t you think that’s amazing (laughs)?!

BOF: Oh yeah. Now, this is being said by different people — completely unrelated people too. There’s no conspiracy out there to get this term said about this movie, you know?

ET: That’s high praise right there. If people think like that when they see THE DARK KNIGHT then I think we’ve all done our jobs right.

BOF: We were heading up here earlier and before we got on the elevator, I told my wife to be prepared because we might literally run into some folks that she’d recognize. So we get on the elevator and there’s Christian!

ET: (laughs) Oh really, that’s awesome!

BOF: So she calls our seven-year-old son and tells him, right? And he asks if Christian was wearing the Bat-Suit (laughs)!

ET: (laughs) Oh that’s funny!

BOF: So now my point — and I know I took the long road to get there — but I think that you all and Warner Bros. have done a fantastic job in marketing this film for what it is — a mature film, you know?

ET: Yeah…

BOF: Because when BATMAN RETURNS came out in ‘92, it had been really marketed towards kids — younger kids — and then there was this backlash because it was a really dark and macabre film. But people will still see “Batman” and say “Let’s bring the kiddies!”

ET: Yeah totally. I hope so because we were really careful and we’re really conscious of that especially because we have young kids ourselves. I HATE the idea that people would go see this film thinking it’s appropriate for their younger children. When we screened it the other day, I think the youngest child there was like 12 or 13 and that would be appropriate.

BOF: And this is certainly no knock on THE DARK KNIGHT — in fact, it’s a compliment. But I can’t see bringing him — my seven-year-old — to see it. I can’t see him experiencing The Joker — this Joker — right now.

THE DARK KNIGHT one sheet exclusively revealed by BATMAN ON FILM

ET: Yeah totally agree. We’d never have been able to make an R rated version because frankly, it’s just not a good business decision. But I certainly think we’ve stayed as true to the character and the real world as we could have — even with the PG-13 rating. We were always working within a PG-13 framework.

BOF: Just speaking for some of the Batman fans here, OK (laughs)?

ET: (laughs) Oh No (laughs)!

BOF: They’ll nitpick this film to death and I know you know that. But there’s a contingent of fans that have a hard time with The Joker not being “permawhite.” Now I say you don’t know one way or the other and Chris agreed. But what I’m getting at is that I think that even those people will see this film and see Heath’s performance and it won’t matter.

ET: I completely understand. He’s iconic. I was talking to someone very early on and we were discussing how there are so many people who love this character and what’s it like making a film with him in it. On one level, it’s wonderful because it’s great that there are so many who love The Joker and it’s nice to make a film that a lot of people are going to be interested in. But on the other hand, it’s terrifying because — everyone has such a specific idea of what the character should be, there’s just no way to accommodate them all. But I think — I hope — that when people see it, they’ll accept it on its own terms. But we did really try to stay very loyal to the character and of course, DC saw everything we were doing beforehand.

BOF: Totally agree…

ET: But here’s the deal. There’s just no way to make a BATMAN film and please every single fan. But again, I hope they’ll accept it own its own terms and we did stay loyal to the history. Honestly, the vast majority of people who will see this film are not “Batman Fans.” But I really want the fans to like it and enjoy it even though it may not exactly meet their own ideas of what the character is or isn’t.