Hollywood.com: Did you envision the film’s opening based on IMAX considering the scope and scale of that scene as the music hits? People around me were going “wow”.
Chris Nolan: I love the idea of creating cinema on the grandest possible scale. I think I am always trying to get back to that feeling you have when you are little kid and you’re just watching a much larger than life escapist entertainment. I really wanted to get that visceral thrill into this film since it is a sequel to a film we’ve made; it is something we were trying to expand the impact of the film.
HW: As much as this is an action movie is it also a cautionary tale about the masks people wear? The two sides we all have inside of us. Is that equally important as the action part of it?
CN: [Batman]’s driven by anger and rage and a desire for vengeance against the criminals of Gotham. But he attempts to channel that into something positive. He attempts to harness that energy and use it for something good and he’s central dilemma is how far can he go in using intimidation and violence to achieve good. I think that is a very human dilemma. I think that is something society deals with.
HW: How much room do you give your actors?
CN: We tried to give Christian [Bale] as much information to work with on the page. He is a very precise actor, he’s much like Heath Ledger actually, he’s somebody who will go away and construct the basics of what it is he is going to do with a character and bring that to set. He’ll have a very precise idea of how he is going to work. Michael Caine is exactly the same. These are actors who are capable of being directed, they’re capable of doing anything you want them to do, but they do come to set with a very specific idea of how they should be doing their job and I think they see it as their responsibility.
HW: What was it like working with Heath?
CN: Well, working with Heath was terrific. I needed somebody truly fearless to take on such an iconic role and Heath was an extraordinary actor, but he is also very bold with his choices and had been in the past. When I saw him in Brokeback Mountain, for example, that’s an extremely moving performance that is very, very dangerous for an actor. That is to say he plays an introvert, he plays a lonely person that gives nothing to the people around him and he risks doing that to the audience. He risks closing himself from the audience. Nothing in that performance is done from vanity, nothing is done to open out the character to the audience and yet it works. I think that was a very bold choice for that.
HW: How much of the Joker did Heath actually bring to the character outside of what you had on the page?
CN: I think he brought an immeasurable amount. What was on the page was a very clear indication of the way in which the Joker’s energy would be directed and the way in which he presented himself to the people around him. In terms of being the life of that character that’s something that had to come from Heath. He had to figure out a logical basis for the way in which the Joker does everything and he applied that uniformly to each aspect of the Joker, from the way he moves, the way he moves his hands, the way his face moves, what the voice was. He was very careful to construct an iconic performance and he always knew it would have to be iconic, but never losing sight of the reality of it. He plays the guy as a human being the whole time and the Joker’s form of evil is a very human form of evil and I think it is very important you believe in him as a human being as well as a monster.
HW: Can you talk about recasting the part of Rachel Dawes and why Maggie Gyllenhaal was the right choice?
CN: When Katie [Holmes] couldn’t do the role I was delighted to find that Maggie was willing to take it over because she is somebody I had wanted to work with for a long time, I admired her work in other films greatly. She seemed to me to be the perfect person to bring the mixture of warmth and credibility the character needed in moving on into this story. She’s somebody who is in a relationship with these two very different men and you have to understand why these men are really looking to her for something outside themselves and outside the lives they’re leading. It’s an active character she has, it’s not a passive. She has to be very active in that triangular relationship, she has to be a force in it. Maggie is somebody who is able to create a very credible characterization, it’s a very recognizable, every day sort of person, but with a great warmth and attractiveness.
HW: You have said how much you wanted to have practical effects instead of CG. How much CG is there in the movie?
CN: I feel quite strongly the audience can tell the difference on some level between things that are animated and things that are created in the computer and things that are photographed, even if your photography is then somehow manipulated or you have wire removals. I think in the film we have about 650 visual effects shots of which a lot of them are simple rig removals and things. Typically these films will have between 1,000 and 2,000 effects shots. So, it’s a pretty low number of shots for this scale of film, very similar to Batman Begins. We start from point of view of breaking down the script and looking at all of the action sequences and figuring out what we can do for real and striving to do everything for real. The things we can’t achieve for reasons of cost or safety or what-have-you, those gaps are filled in with visual effects.
HW: You’ve always been cautious in speaking about the future of this franchise, but do you intend on making a third film and is there ever a concern your career may become dictated by one specific character or franchise?
CN: I honestly [have] no concept of what I would do next. I finished the film last week really. So, really I am putting it out there with that sense of nervous anticipation and we have to see what the audience thinks of it. What I can say is in deciding to do a second film, and seeing how few good second films there ever are, we certainly didn’t want to hamper ourselves by saving anything for future films or anything like that. We put everything we could into this film.
The Dark Knight opens in theaters July 18, 2008