We're now getting into the final stretch before "The Dark Knight Rises," probably the most anticipated film of a year that's had plenty of hotly anticipated pictures. After a main trailer a month or so back, we got another sneak peek of footage at Sunday's MTV Movie Awards, as well as a steady drip of posters and images that have managed to tease without giving away the whole shop.
One of the most revelatory glimpses has come from the outstanding latest issue of Empire Magazine, which carries an epic look at the making of all three of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, including interviews with most of the key personnel involved, including the director, his co-writer and brother Jonathan Nolan, stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, and more. Below, you'll find some of the key highlights of the piece, but there's much more available from the magazine itself, which is on newsstands or on the iPad now.
Christopher Nolan hand delivered the script for "Batman Begins" to Michael Caine, and waited for him to read it.
Nolan has maintained a reputation for secrecy over his last few films, with remarkably few accurate leaks coming out of his production company Syncopy. And there's a reason for that: the director keeps his script on a tight, tight leash. So much so that being an acting legend with a 50-year career doesn't mean you get sent the goods. Michael Caine relates that the first time he met Nolan was when he got a knock on his door, and found the director (whose work Caine was a fan of) on his doorstep. Nolan handed him a script, and said he'd wait for the actor to read it. As Caine then relates. "He sat and had a cup of tea with my missus whilst I went to my office for about half an hour and read it. I was expecting a 'Memento'/'Insomnia'-type thriller. And I got 'Batman Begins.' Which completely took me by surprise. I thought that this was a big risk by Warner Bros. Giving this massive, expensive movie to a guy that directed two very small-budget thrillers. But I needn't have worried." Indeed.
Nolan says this is the biggest film since the silent era.
If you've ever read or seen an interview with Christopher Nolan, you know he's not a man given to boastful remarks. Quite the opposite, in fact. But it sounds like even he is a little impressed by what he's achieved with the new film. Nolan is, as ever, keen to do as much of the film practically, without CGI, and believes he's doing something on a scale that hasn't been seen since Al Jolson started crooning to movie audiences. "I think this is the biggest one I've done," he tells Empire, "The biggest one anyone's done since the silent era, in technical terms. Shooting on IMAX, you wanna justify that we've put our resources more into what we were shooting on the day than computer graphics. It's not what you're used to seeing. I don't know when someone last did a film with 11,000 extras in a real environment. It is an escalation. You want things to be justifiably bigger and more extreme than what you've done in the last film. As long as the story supports that."
Nolan's influences on the film include "A Tale of Two Cities" and Fritz Lang.
The first film was an adventure movie, in many ways, and the second was a crime picture. According to Nolan, the third is a true epic, with some pretty sweeping influences. "It's all about historical epics in conception. It's a war film. It's a revolutionary epic. It's looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me that goes as far back as silent films. I've been watching a lot of silent films with my kids on Blu-Ray. We've shot over a third of the movie on the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It's my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could. It's also more in the mould of 'Doctor Zhivago,' or 'A Tale Of Two Cities,' which is a historical epic with all kinds of great storytelling taking place during the French Revolution. There's an attempt to visualise certain things in this film on this large scale that are troubling and genuinely to the idea of an American city. Or, to put it another way: revolutions and the destabilising of society have happened everywhere in the world, so why not here?"
That flying batmobile from the trailer? It's known simply as 'The Bat.'
For all the artistry of the films, it does have to sell some toys as well, and each series entry has seen Batman get to play with a new bit of kit. "Batman Begins" saw the 'tumbler' Batmobile (which is seemingly replicated by Bane in the new film), and "The Dark Knight" saw that split off into the motorcycle-like Batpod. This time around, trailers have shown glimpses of a new flying craft piloted by Bruce Wayne, which Nolan says is known by a simple name. "It is called The Bat. I spent a long time trying to figure out clever names for 'bat-something-that-would fly,' then you go: 'Oh, it's a bat.' It's very much based on a double-bladed helicopter idea, once again a realistic approach to military hardware. We had [visual effects supervisor Chris] Corbould and his guys build it full-scale and come up with this great driving rig for it so we could photograph it in real streets, and there's a big computer-graphics component to it as well. It's fun to take Batman to the next level in terms of his transportation and weaponry — in terms of his ability to fight people." Production designer Nathan Crowley adds "There is a story reason why Batman needed an Osprey-Jump-Jet-Harrier-Apache beast! It doesn't really fly, but we felt the technology had finally caught up to the point where we could pull it off between FX and practical."
The Joker won't even be referenced in the film.
Sadly, the death of Heath Ledger means that we'll never know if The Joker would have figured into Nolan's plans for a third film. But despite some speculating that the director would nod to the character, he says there won't be a single reference to the clownish criminal. "We're not addressing The Joker at all. That is something I felt very strongly about in terms of my relationship with Heath and the experience I went through with him on The Dark Knight. I didn't want to in any way try and account for a real-life tragedy. that seemed inappropriate to me. We just have a new set of characters and a continuation of Bruce Wayne's story. Not involving The Joker." Probably the right call to make, all in all.
Everyone involved insists it's the end, but Christian Bale doesn't rule out further installments.
Much of the marketing and pre-release hype have focused on the film being the end to Nolan's trilogy. Indeed, Goyer says that the film started with a germ of an idea for the ending, one that remains intact in the finished film, and which the writer, when he saw it, "got a complete lump in my throat." Most involved are adamant that this is the big finale, drawing a line on the story with a definitive finale: "It's the right way to end it — to blow the whole thing up" says Jonah Nolan. "I think with almost every other franchise it's a mistake to try and keep those plates spinning. You want stakes. You want tectonic plates to shift. And as a writer you wanna feel like you've worked on a complete story, with a beginning, a middle and an end." And the director certainly seems to be cutting his ties with the series, saying "It's an incredibly fun arena to work in and incredibly rewarding, so I will look back on it very fondly. But I'm done with it." That being said, all involved are realistic about Warner's future plans for the character: David Goyer says "It would be ridiculous to expect that Warner Bros. wouldn't attempt to do something." And Christian Bale says that, while his experience on "Terminator: Salvation" makes him cautious, he'd be game for a fourth if Nolan was: "My understanding is that this is the last one… I've had that experience with another thing of thinking a fourth one could work and it didn't really happen — and that's a thorn in my side. So if Chris came to me with a script and said, 'You know what? There is another story,' then I would love the challenge of making a fourth one work."
"The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters on July 20th. Tickets go on sale Monday, we believe.