Light Mode

Behind The Mask of “Batman Begins”: Director Christopher Nolan

Did you have any thoughts about what you wanted to do with this film, based on what you’ve seen in other comic book inspired movies?

Nolan: “I’m not really a big fan of comic book movies generally, because I felt like what I really wanted to see was a film that conveyed the experience of reading a comic book. That is to say, the mental process you go through when you get into the story. You’re not looking at the page as a flat surface; you’re actually in the action of it. And that’s what I was trying to do in this film. The only time I’ve really it done before, I think, is probably the 1978 Superman. I was a big fan of the Dick Donner film, where they really treated Superman to an epic scale film and had this amazing cast. Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty and Glenn Ford and all that. I thought that was a spectacular film, and I thought Batman deserved that type of storytelling. And I think even compared to that movie we tried to be more serious about things.”

Your casting, as in Superman, makes a strong statement that this is a pretty serious film.

- Advertisement -

Nolan: “Yeah, definitely. We wanted to, as I say, give Batman the film that I felt he deserved, as epic as we could make it. To me, when you speak of the word epic, it’s not just the size of sets or the size of explosions. It’s about the characters and humanity on screen, getting a great together.”

What made Christian Bale the perfect Batman in your mind?

Nolan: “In talking on the idea of a realistic telling of this story, I needed someone who could play Bruce Wayne. Somebody whose eyes the audience could look into and believe that there is this absolute dedication, self discipline, this drive towards making himself into this extraordinary icon. He has no super powers. He’s just a human being who simply through the rage inside himself and this desire to do something with all of this emotion in him and simply dedicates himself to becoming something extraordinary, and makes himself do that. And I can’t think of anyone but Christian who has sufficient fire in his eyes, really, to present that.”

Why did was Ra’s al Ghul right as the central adversary in this film, as opposed to the other, more well-known villains?

Nolan: “It really came about as a result of talking to David Goyer, my co-writer, about which villains would fit the tone and themes of what we were doing. Scarecrow, because of his use of the fear toxin, his use of fear as a weapon, I think presents a very interesting parallel to Bruce Wayne’s use of fear as a weapon in the Batman persona. Ra’s al Ghul felt like a very appropriate villain for us–not just in his aims and his motivations, which feel contemporary and very relevant right now, but it’s also the tone of him as a fictional character. He’s based very much on the Bond villains of the 70s period that he sort of rose in the comics from. That felt like the kind of villain we needed, a memorable, interesting, frightening villain, not one who overshadows the hero…Ra’s al Ghul in the comics is often described as an eco-terrorist. I would put it down to an extremist. What was important to me in creating a credible and frightening villain is that everything he says is true and at some level reasonable, and makes sense. It’s the extremity with which he’s prepared to go to achieve what he believes that is very, very threatening and very frightening. And I think that extremism in our world is one of the most frightening things.”

What did Katie Holmes bring to the table as the love interest?

- Advertisement -

Nolan: “I think Katie’s got a marvelous combination of this girl-next-door quality, this very beautiful, very attractive presence that can stand for the warm life, the real life that Bruce Wayne has denied himself essentially–has lost, or has been denied him, I should say. But she also has this maturity beyond her years that the character of Rachel requires because she has to serve as his conscience, really–his moral conscience. And I think Katie has all of those qualities in spades. I think she’s a tremendous actress.”

Do you think Katie’s real-life romance distract at all from the movie?

Nolan: “Sorry, what romance? [laughs] No, I don’t think so. I think the film stands on its own.”

Too many ill-advised attempts at humor have derailed some of the earlier Batfilms. Were you at all concerned about adding occasional amusing touches here and there?

Nolan: “No, I wasn’t concerned about going over the edge with it, because I had sort of stripped it all away to begin with, and then what I had said to the studio and everybody–because everybody is always looking for a bit of lightness to balance the darkness. I said I wanted to arise naturally from the situations and the performers and the way they interpret these things. And once you cast people like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, you get a great level of humor and warmth from their performances. They build on the script and make it much more.”

You’ve foregone the über-set-designed Gotham City for real-world locations. What made Chicago the ideal stand-in for Gotham?

- Advertisement -

Nolan: “I lived in Chicago as a kid and half my family’s from Chicago, so I know the geography of the place very well. And the subterranean streets, they presented exactly what we needed in terms of our idea of Gotham being this very stratified city with different castes living on different levels, and this subterranean aspect of the city. I knew the place would be perfect for us.”

This was Batman Begins for Christopher Nolan. But is this “Batman Ends” as well?

Nolan: “No. I’ve enjoyed making this film very much and we’ve tried to leave the film very open, with a real sense of possibilities in the audience’s minds as they leave the theater. As far as would I do more, I think that will probably mostly be defined by how people react to this one…I definitely intend to do something else first and move on to do possibly something smaller, having done such a big film.”

There’s a nice little winking allusion at the end of the film to one of Batman’s most popular enemies. Do you have him in mind for the sequel?

Nolan: “I didn’t want to get into specifics, but the truth is he IS one of the great characters.”

- Advertisement -