Movie Interviews
5:44 pm
Sun July 15, 2012

'Dark Knight Rises,' But Saga Ends For Director Nolan

Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 8:05 pm

The new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, is perhaps the most anticipated movie of the summer. It's the last film in the Batman trilogy that writer-director Christopher Nolan has crafted over the past 7 years.

Nolan wanted The Dark Knight Rises, which will be released in theaters July 20, to feel like a historical epic. As he tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, he looked to films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, David Lean's Dr. Zhivago, and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.


INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On what inspired him to be a film director

"The films of Ridley Scott, particularly Alien and Blade Runner. Watching those films and realizing that even though the stories were different, the actors were different, something was connecting these films, the same mind was behind them. And realizing that, 'Oh, that's this guy, Ridley Scott, he's the director. He's getting to really define those movies.' I think that really inspired me to want to specifically be a director."

On why Batman is his favorite superhero

"For me the character of Batman is the most human and relatable of superheros. He doesn't have super powers — base level he's just a guy who likes to do a lot of push-ups. He's a self-created hero."

On the state of Bruce Wayne and Gotham at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises

We have to be seeing a Gotham where — at least superficially — Batman's not needed. Because the sacrifice that Gordon helps him make at the end of The Dark Knight has to mean something. So we're finding a Bruce Wayne who's living in self-imposed isolation for eight years, he's locked himself up in a wing of Wayne Manor, very much in the manner of Howard Hughes in his sort of Las Vegas period.

On the villain, Bane

"He represents almost a flip-side of Bruce Wayne, somebody Bruce Wayne might have become in a parallel universe or something."

On what he will miss most about ending his Batman run

"The thing I'm going to miss the most about the great privilege of working with these characters is the built-in connection they have with the audience. That lets you tell a story in this incredibly-heightened fashion, what I call this "operatic-style," and I will miss that enormously because you can't do that with characters you make up, you can't assume that investment on the part of the audience."




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Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. The new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," is probably the most anticipated movie of the summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

ANNE HATHAWAY: (as Selina Kyle) There's a storm coming.

CHRISTIAN BALE: (as Bruce Wayne) You sound like you're looking forward to it.

HATHAWAY: (as Selina Kyle) I'm adaptable.

RAZ: It's the last film in the Batman trilogy that writer/director Christopher Nolan has crafted over the past seven years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

HATHAWAY: (as Catwoman) You don't owe these people anymore. You've given them everything.

BALE: (as Batman) Not everything. Not yet.

RAZ: Christopher Nolan wanted "The Dark Knight Rises" to feel like an historical epic, to have the feel of films like "Metropolis," "Doctor Zhivago" and "Blade Runner." When he first tackled the Batman character almost a decade ago, Nolan was a controversial choice. He was better known as an art house film director. But since childhood, Christopher Nolan dreamed of reinterpreting this iconic character, a superhero who isn't one dimensional.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: For me, the character of Batman is the most human and relatable of superheroes. He doesn't have superpowers. Base level, he's just a guy who likes to do a lot of push-ups. He is a self-created hero. You know, this is a character who suffers terrible trauma as a child. He sees his parents gunned down in front of him.

And, really, all three of these films, the whole trilogy has been following that attempt of that character to try and do something positive with this terrible thing that's happened to him.

RAZ: "The Dark Knight Rises" picks up eight years after "The Dark Knight." That's when we last saw Batman, and he was taking the fall for the murder of the DA Harvey Dent. So essentially, that Dent's image as a hero would remain intact.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DARK KNIGHT")

BALE: (as Batman) You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things because I'm not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That's what I can be.

GARY OLDMAN: (as Lt. Jim Gordon) No, no. You can't. You're not.

BALE: (as Batman) I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be.

RAZ: Give us a sense of how we first encounter Bruce Wayne in this film and what we're about to see.

NOLAN: We were really adamant about continuing the story of the Dark Knight, not delivering, you know, just another episode in a series about my films, or something like that. We really wanted to craft a conclusion to our trilogy. And so the consequences of what the protagonists do at the end of "The Dark Knight" were very important.

It was important to follow that through and really sit there and go: OK, what would that lead to? And so immediately, you say: OK, there's got to be a period of time - we have to be seeing a Gotham where at least superficially Batman's not needed, because the sacrifice that Gordon helps him make at the end of "The Dark Knight" has to mean something.

So for it to mean something, it has to have worked on some level. So we're finding a Bruce Wayne who's living in self-imposed isolation for eight years. He's locked himself up in a wing of Wayne Manor, very much in the manner of Howard Hughes in his sort of Las Vegas period.

RAZ: And for quite a while, I was wondering whether he would actually make an appearance in the movie.

(LAUGHTER)

NOLAN: Yeah. We really took the approach with this film of saying we're not going to worry structurally about ticking boxes. We're not going to worry about pushing the audience's buttons at the appropriate moments in terms of their expectations of a genre film. And that's why it does take a while for Batman to return.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (as Character) Do you think he's coming back?

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: (as John Blake) I don't know.

NOLAN: When you look at the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his public face - the public face of this playboy Bruce Wayne and then his other alterego, which is this very dark monster, this Batman creature that he's created - essentially, when he puts on the bat suit, that is an action that has to have meaning.

So you can't just sort of sit there and go: OK, we've seen enough of Bruce Wayne. Now we want to see Batman. When he puts on that bat suit, it has to be appropriate to the story. It has to be an action that he's taking for a particular reason.

And so we tried to be really true to that and trust that we've earned enough interest from the audience in continuing the story that they'll be patient with us and they'll bide their time and follow the logic of the story as we really want them to.

RAZ: This is a character that is owned by millions of people around the world. They have an idea of what Batman should be.

NOLAN: Mm.

RAZ: How much does that weigh on you when you think about how to portray him and how to tell his story?

NOLAN: Batman belongs to all of us. He's been around for 70-plus years, and he's very firmly burned into the popular imagination. So when you take on a character like that, it comes with a huge sense of responsibility. The way I fulfilled my responsibility is to very sincerely make the best attempt I can to make the best possible film I know how to make and not worry about the film that somebody else would make.

RAZ: Christopher, I have seen the film already. And I'm sworn to secrecy, but I will say this: it was an anxiety-filled experience. My heart was racing, you know, throughout much of those two and a half hours.

NOLAN: Well, I'm not sure we'd want to put that quote on the poster...

(LAUGHTER)

NOLAN: Anxiety-filled two hours and 45 minutes. But the film is intended to put people on edge in exactly the fashion you describe, whereby you sit there and you can't take anything for granted. You can't take any characters for granted. You just don't know what's going to happen. And so there's a degree of fear that's present and never really goes away for the entire film.

RAZ: I'm speaking with the writer and director Christopher Nolan. His latest film in his Batman series, "The Dark Knight Rises" will be in theaters later this week. I want to ask you about the villain in this film. His name is Bane. He's played by the actor Tom Hardy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

TOM HARDY: (as Bane) When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.

RAZ: He was actually in a previous Batman film, "Batman and Robin" - directed by Joel Schumacher - but he was almost kind of a forgettable kind of henchman. In this film, he is incredibly terrifying and powerful, but he's also complex and highly intelligent. How did you think about constructing Bane in that way and turning him into that?

NOLAN: Well, to be honest, the character Bane as presented in comics is a fantastic character, and he is extremely intelligent and articulate and represents almost a flip side of Bruce Wayne, somebody Bruce Wayne might have become in a parallel universe or something. And that hadn't been presented in the films before.

And then, of course, what Tom Hardy brings to the character is a total commitment. There's nothing tongue in cheek. There's - nothing is sold out to, oh, I'm, you know, playing a comic book villain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

BALE: (as Batman) Why don't you just kill me?

HARDY: (as Bane) Your punishment must be more severe.

NOLAN: And there are moments where you genuinely hate him the way you hope you would hate somebody in the real world who was doing such appalling things. And I think that's actually a very rare achievement in action movies, you know, to see an antagonist that you genuinely hate.

RAZ: What's amazing about your background is that you actually started making films with Super-8 when you were a kid - 7, I read - with your sort of action man figures. And then you came up with the idea for "Inception" when you were 16. You knew you were going to do this your whole life?

NOLAN: I think from a pretty young age, yeah. I mean, I started making films, as you said, when I was about 7. And I remember when I was about 12 or 13 sort of figuring out that there was a job of being a director and that that was the closest things in terms of people involved with making films to what I'd been doing in just making my own little Super-8 films and so forth.

And then I think the films of Ridley Scott, particularly "Alien" and "Blade Runner." Watching those films and realizing that even though the stories were different, the actors were different, something was connecting these films - the same mind was behind them - and realizing that, oh, that's this guy, Ridley Scott. He's the director. He's getting to really define those movies. And so I think that really inspired me to want to specifically be a director.

RAZ: Christopher, you have said that "The Dark Knight Rises" is going to be your last Batman film, at least as a director.

NOLAN: Yeah.

RAZ: You have lived in this world for almost a decade now in Gotham.

NOLAN: Yeah.

RAZ: What are you going to miss about him the most, and telling his story?

NOLAN: The thing I'm going to miss the most about the great privilege of working with these characters is the built-in connection they have with the audience. That lets you tell a story in this incredibly heightened fashion, what I call this operatic style. And I will miss that enormously, because you can't do that with characters that you make up. You can't assume that investment on the part of the audience. And so it's a different type of filmmaking, and that, I will miss.

RAZ: That's writer-director Christopher Nolan. His new film, "The Dark Knight Rises," will be released this Friday, July 20th. Christopher Nolan, thank you so much.

NOLAN: Well, thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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