When THE DARK KNIGHT hits theaters this July, we’ll see the same actor in the cape and cowl for the first time since Michael Keaton portrayed Batman in 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS.
That actor of course is Christian Bale who reprises the role of The Dark Knight, in, well, THE DARK KNIGHT.
Last summer [June of 2007 – “Jett”], I visited the Chicago set of THE DARK KNIGHT and had the chance to chat with Mr. Bale — who was still sporting the black eye makeup he wears when filming scenes as Batman. (He did try to hide it with a pair aviator sunglasses!) Christian also was carrying a sudoku puzzle book — which he said he was embarrassed about and claimed was belonged to his wife!
Before settling for the interview, he also poked fun one of my colleagues who was sporting a Superman T-shirt. “You’re doing that on purpose (laughed). You woke up this morning and went ‘Right!’” Bale asked the guy.
Perhaps I should have wore one of my Batman shirts which certainly would have got me on Bale’s good side and a one-on-one, right? ANYWAY…
The following is what Christian had to say about his second turn as Batman/Bruce Wayne…
How do you like the new costume?
CB: “If any of you had had to wear the first costume you’d (talks about the sudoku book)…If any of you had to wear the first one then you’d love that one (points to it) as much as I do, just being able to turn your head is something else when you spend 7 months — or whatever it was before — you know, not being able to do that. It’s also lighter, you can move a whole lot more in this one than the first. And it’s a whole lot, a whole lot less hot.”
What can you tell us about the scene that we’ve been watching today?
CB: “Oh, you all have been watching it have you, all this time? Right. I wasn’t really going to go there. That wasn’t really a well-oiled machine was it? I think that was more me than Gary because every time he did catch it somebody else was throwing it. [Gary Oldamn told us later in the day that he caught it only when there was a close up of him to ensure he‘d get the screen time! – Jett] So I guess it was the thrower. What do you know about the scene because I’m trying to gauge how much I should say.”
It seems as if you were in the vault talking about The Joker.
CB: “So you’re guessing all of these things, right? They haven’t told you anything. Well you’ve pretty much got it then.”
In BATMAN BEGINS, Bruce Wayne is trying to find a balance between revenge and justice. How is that sort of challenged in this film, or what has he came to terms with in regards to this film?”
CB: Well I won’t tell you everything, but it’s an evolution. There’s a lot involving ethics, if you wish. And it’s somebody who’s a little older and he’s coming to realize that maybe he’s not quite as in control as he believed himself to be.”
Chris and the producers [Emma Thomas and Charles Roven] talked a lot about the theme of escalation in this film. Is this something that Bruce Wayne had to reconcile with his role in this, is it doing more harm than good?
CB: “Who told you all this?”
CB: “Oh, Chris did. Constantly with these projects you go ‘what are we saying’ or ‘what are we not saying.’ Anyway, yes, he’s having to take a look at himself and while he knows that his motives are good, he certainly has to question if he is part of the problem or the solution, you know?”
What was it like seeing Heath as The Joker for the first time?
CB: It was fantastic really! This kind of anarchic, sort of punk-rock, druggy take on The Joker, which I think is definitely the best one I’ve ever seen.”
Does Heath ad lib…to throw you off?
CB: “Well he’s not making an effort to throw me off. I like that and he knows that and likewise. We’re both actors who are completely happy with adlibbing and throwing me off and I think those moments are usually the best in movies when accidents happen.”
Was it a challenge to keep it interesting to you [reprising the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne] as an actor?
CB: “I wasn’t timid at all in the first place because I had a very strong idea with the first one of what I wanted to do and I really wasn’t interested in doing anything else and I knew that either we’d be laughed at or it would work. I think it’s less that I have more confidence in what we are doing and more that I can see other people have more confidence.”
You’re playing basically three characters in this: You’re Batman, you’re billionaire Bruce Wayne, and then you’re the real Bruce Wayne. Who do you feel most comfortable with?
CB: “Well, it’s the first time that I’ve ever had to…reprise a role and so I’m very comfortable with all of them and it just keeps it much more interesting for me having the different levels that I can play with.”
What’s the coolest thing about being “Batman?”
CB: I…uh…(long pause). Well it is when you — because I’m very used to it and I wasn’t a fan of comic books growing up. It is just a character to me that I’m playing and I do on occasions take a look at the graphic novels or whatever or see how other people react to it. And in most instances, I kind of allow myself to get a kick out of the fact that he is such an iconic character. Well the things that I like doing — if you’re talking like day to day. I do actually love the hazardous situations that can find yourself in, in many movies, but with this film we see it as well. And I try to do as much of the stunt work that I can myself. I’ve got a fantastic stunt double and I couldn’t even begin to do the things he can do but if I can give it a shot I always will. And that has been some great experiences, stunt experiences, dangerous situations which I love. I do get a kick out of that, I do love the adrenaline rush.”
Is there more “Bruce Wayne” and his life as a playboy billionaire?
CB: “Well, that’s always his cover you know. It’s something which has to be there to make people never suspect that he’s somebody that would have the desire, belief, passion, intelligence, capability to be Batman. He has to be this kind of ridiculous cliché of a playboy.”
What’s it like working with Chris Nolan?
CB: “Well, I mean it is our third movie now and I’m very bloody happy. I think we’ve made some great movies. It does get easier when you know each other so well, and this kind of includes other actors — Gary and Michael and Morgan and crew as well. It is just this kind of shorthand that you get — Chris and I actually just sort of have to grunt at each other now or he looks a certain way and I know what he means. He doesn’t have to explain himself a whole lot and neither do I.”
Can you tell us about Bruce Wayne’s new digs? We know that Wayne Manor is being rebuilt and all.
CB: “Digs that anybody would be jealous of and that only a billionaire could manage (laughs)!”
Can you talk about the new characters and actors (that are in THE DARK KNIGHT?)
CB: “Well we just sit around and go, ‘Bloody hell, they’re never going to figure it out’ (laughs).” They’re all very good actors that Chris has hired, you know, with Heath, Aaron, and Maggie. Usually, I’ve always found in my experience with good actors that don‘t… they don’t waste a lot of time with nonsense. They get on with it and all of them are very into the movie. And I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far with the three of them.”
Did you get to drive the Batpod yourself ?
CB: “Well, you know it’s still early days on the film yet. I haven’t yet but I will! I don’t want to embarrass myself with having to admit that I never even got on it (laughs)!”
What’s your favorite gadget?
CB: “I’ve got to say it’s not really a single gadget. I do enjoy, like you were saying, I do enjoy, actually I love the gauntlets. I love the fighting scenes and beating the crap out of people! Yeah that, and otherwise for me it’s not so much the gadgets as the Batpod or the Batmobile itself — a bit of the focus on speed.”
Lindy Henning said you put on a lot of muscle.
CB: Who said that?
The costume designer…
CB: “Oh Lindy! Well, it’s part of the evolution and why he’s choosing a different suit. He wants to be able to move quicker. It’s all about speed. It’s about him needing to be faster than he was before, so I just thought it was appropriate for me to behave likewise.”
Have you had any interesting encounters with Batman fans?
CB: “I’ve read an awful lot of crap on the internet about things that have happened to me and things that I have said and stuff which is absolutely untrue. And I’ve got to say I really haven’t had the reactions I was expecting and maybe it’s because coming from England where we don’t quite have the same kind of — well I guess — the love of winners that America has. I honestly thought that my life was going to be full of like, bar fights and things after playing Batman. I really did. When I was doing BATMAN BEGINS, I would say to the martial arts guys, ‘I need to learn this for the movie but for my life as well because I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who are going to get a kick out of saying they took out Batman.’ And I’ve had nothing but people being very polite and saying nice and flattering things. And everybody — there must be people who don’t — but everybody that I’ve spoken with seems to really enjoy it and like it and appreciate it. I was a little surprised at how few people believed that we were going to be able to resurrect it because I had complete confidence in it — maybe it was just me being in denial. I just refused to accept that we weren’t going to do it very successfully. But there’s a lot of people who do seem to be real happy that [the BATMAN film franchise] has risen again. But no, I’ve not had any crazies! I know that’s probably what you were hoping for but I’ve not had any crazies (laughs)!”
Do kids recognize you as Batman?
CB: “No, no that’s it because it’s all in the mask. All that happens is they tend to look a little confused and disappointed (laughs) when people say, ‘This is Batman.’ Because they look at me like, ‘No it’s not.’ They either think their mom or dad have gone nuts and that I’m some kind of a fool (laughs)!”
What excites you most about coming back? Is it the script, the actors, the characters?
CB: “Well, it should be the whole package. With it being the third movie with myself and Chris, I don’t have any questions about his ability to make a great movie. He always casts really well and he always puts the emphasis on going with a good actor rather than with the bloke of the month. He has a lot of integrity and it’s about being able to reprise a role for the first time for me personally.”