Films

Here’s How Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy Reset The Super Hero Film

Archita Kashyap - 30 weeks ago

11 years on, as Robert Pattinson is set to cape up for Gotham City, we bring intriguing details of the benchmark setting re-interpretation of the darkest super hero. We draw from the fascinating book Art and Making of The Dark Knight by Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy to bring you some fun bits.

(Christian Bale, Wally Pfister, Tom Hardy, and Christopher Nolan during the filming of The Dark Knight Rises)

1. Christopher Nolan is known to be super secretive about his scripts. He called Sir Michael Caine, Alfred at 74, on a Sunday morning, asking to come over to his manor in Surrey, England to discuss a part. While Caine read through the script of Batman Begins, Nolan waited for him to finish. He chatted with his wife, Shakira, making light conversation, and only leaving when the script was returned to him. While developing the universe and characters for the Batman films, co-writer David Goyer and Nolan called their script The Intimidation Game, just to avert suspicion that they might be working on the next Batman film. 

(Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan during the shooting of The Dark Knight)

2. Each draft and every other bit of literature related to this script used this fake title - The Intimidation Game. Once the script was complete, no photocopies were made, neither were email attachments shared around the studio backing the movie, Warner Bros. Giving in to their determined filmmaker’s demand, executives from the studio had to trek down to his garage at Nolan’s home to read the script. Once they began reading, they didn’t mind the secretive nature one bit for this was a super hero movie that rose far ahead of action and VFX fluff. It was human drama, compelling and grounded in reality. Warner Bros knew that they had a potential gold mine in their hands. 

(Christopher Nolan, Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale at the location of The Dark Knight Rises)

3. Initially, David Goyer almost didn’t sign up to co-write this film. He had always dreamt of making a Batman film as a young boy. But when Nolan’s agent called, he was preparing to direct the Blade: Trinity movie. It took a couple of calls and some persuasion from Christopher Nolan for him to come on-board. David Goyer and Christopher Nolan based the evolution of Bruce Wayne from the moving photograph of a 3-year-old John F Kennedy Junior saluting his father’s grave. This photograph from President Kennedy’s funeral remains iconic. To Nolan and Goyer, Bruce Wayne was a prince regent; in their own words, ‘the loneliest boy in the world’ after his parents are murdered, and he becomes heir to a multibillion dollar corporation, Wayne Enterprises. 

(Heath Ledger in a still from The Dark Knight)

4. Heath Ledger made this Joker the stuff of legends. While stories of him unravelling or going too deep in character have done rounds on the Internet ever since his death, some facts offer an idea of his dedication and commitment to this part. Ledger had to continuously lick his lips to keep the prosthetic make-up in place. So he developed this into a tic of his character. In the sequence where Gotham General hospital blows up, Ledger brought in unscripted antics with his gestures. He also directed both home-made videos that the Joker uses to send messages. Nolan was so impressed with his first attempt at directing these videos that he felt no need to interfere in Ledger’s work. As Christian Bale has stated, in the interrogation scene, Ledger asked Bale to hit him as hard as he possibly could, so that he could feel what his character goes through. Bale, of course, hesitated to adhere to his request. 

5. Nolan and Goyer decided to adapt and develop elements from DC Comics to give Batman an origin story. So far, in Batman movies, Bruce Wayne is always a grown up, suave young man who seems poised to take upon the burden and responsibility of being a super hero. Goyer and Nolan developed what was originally written in a story, The Man Who Falls by Dennis O’Neill and illustrated by Dick Giordano for Secret Origins, published by DC in 1990. In this story, Bruce Wayne travels the world for seven years, learning skills to become Batman. Nolan and Goyer picked up on this strand and took Batman outside the city limits of Gotham, taking him to remote terrain like Bhutan and Tibet. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is shown as an adult in the midst of a fist fight in a prison, one that resembles a hell hole. From here he is rescued and trained in martial arts. 

(Christian Bale in a still from The Dark Knight Rises)

6. Giving Bruce Wayne the origin story meant building a deeper, more intricate connect with bats. In Batman Begins, an eight-year-old Bruce falls down a hole in the ground while playing at Wayne Manor. Hundreds of bats fly in, some scratching him while others fly out of the hole, frightening the young Bruce and leaving him traumatised. His father consoles him with the famous “Why do we fall”? And then the Wayne family is watching Mephistopheles, an opera where massive bat like creatures appear onstage. Just a child who remains traumatised by his encounter with bats, Bruce wants his parents to leave. On their way out, both get shot and killed. Nolan and Goyer wanted to build complex feelings of guilt and childhood fear for Bruce Wayne, influencing him to choose Batman as his disguise. Why does he disguise himself to fight criminals? According to Nolan, Batman is a symbol that uses fear to battle those who prey on common people’s fears. Bruce Wayne is human, but the Batman is a symbol of fighting evil. And a symbol outlasts a lifetime. 

(Anne Hathaway in a still from The Dark Knight Rises)

7. Shooting with IMAX cameras means extreme visual clarity and heightened ability to capture detail. This made becoming Catwoman all the more challenging for the svelte Anne Hathaway. Working extremely hard within the time span of just a month, Hathaway switched to a near vegan anti-inflammatory diet of 50 per cent vegetables, miso soup and tempeh, vegetarian proteins and limited carbohydrates. Eating became a source of worry, as she would often wonder if she could slip into the skin tight costume before every day of shoot, looking perfect for these cameras. She trained in mixed martial arts and kick boxing, mastering her round about kick with her stunt woman. Hathaway admitted to ‘feeling sick’ while playing the iconic anti-hero, but despite mixed reactions to her look and outfit, she swung the performance by slipping between a vulnerable pretty girl, to a smooth thief and hardened survivor in The Dark Knight Rises. Hathaway has expressed interest in reprising this character again. 

(Christian Bale and Michael Caine in a still from Batman Begins)

8. Sir Michael Caine considers Christopher Nolan a filmmaker in the legacy of genre defining directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Lumet. While shooting for the first film, Batman Begins, he entered the set one morning to find multiple bats outside a bat cave. Sauntering in, he got a jolt when Nolan told him that the bats were real; which some were. Caine’s most vivid memory of Heath Ledger in costume and make up is from the elevator sequence of Wayne Manor. When Ledger enters Wayne’s cocktail fund raiser for Harvey Dent, Caine’s character, Alfred, was supposed to say something. But he forgot his line when he saw Ledger for the first time in costume and make up as the Joker. He was terrified, and cameras capture this moment with fine detail in the film. Caine mentions that he felt a deep sense of worry about Ledger while shooting for this film, particularly his state of mind, in his autobiography, From Elephant to Hollywood

(A still from The Dark Knight Rises which showed ultra modern buildings of Chicago)

9. To film The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer decided to move away from set construction. To them, Batman had changed as a person. As the second film was aimed to be closer to an urban crime drama, a cityscape with ultra-modern buildings and settings was ideal. After some research and recess, they locked down on Chicago. In this film, the Bat cave, where Bruce Wayne stores his gadgets and his swanky new Wayne Manor downtown is a real building. During the filming of an action sequence on Chicago streets, local police got multiple calls from residents that some fighting was going on, with a man riding a weird black vehicle. Not many knew that the next Batman movie was being filmed in the middle of their streets.

Tags

Christopher Nolan / Batman Begins / The Dark Knight / The Dark Knight Rises / Michael Caine / Anne Hathaway / Tom Hardy / Christian Bale / Heath Ledger / Aaron Eckhart / David Goyer / Morgan Freeman / Maggie Gyllenhaal / Gary Oldman / Cillian Murphy / Chicago / Gotham City / Warner Bros.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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