LOS ANGELES – For Christopher Nolan it’s “just the beginning of a couple of weeks of mayhem.”
He wasn’t talking about the jostling in the expected lines for his latest film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” which opens today, or even those scenes of chaos in the film in which Gotham, the home of Batman/Bruce Wayne, is falling apart.
No, he was referring to the worldwide press tour for the movie, estimated to have cost about $250 million.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is the third – and Nolan swears the last – Batman film he’ll make, and the anticipation and expectations, not to mention the secrecy, are high.
Upon seeing the film, journalists were sworn not to reveal certain plotlines or the ending. At a news conference, a reporter asked him a point that was indirectly related to the ending and the director quickly but politely squashed that conversation.
One thing that is easy to say about “The Dark Knight Rises” is that it’s big in every way – from the stunts to the way it was shot, about half of it in IMAX.
As with Nolan’s other films, his brother, Jonathan, is one of the writers while his wife, Emma Thomas, is one of the producers.
So what’s Nolan’s secret to working with family?
“We have plenty of fights, but we get it done,” says the father of four. “They’re just the best people for the job. I am very fortunate.
“My brother is just a terrific writer, and my wife is a terrific producer, and we always just work together. You find a way to make the family dynamics work, and it benefits enormously from working with people – whether they’re family or not – who have no agenda, who can be honest and open with you about their feelings about what you’re doing.”
All the familiar faces from Nolan’s first two “Batmans” have returned to “The Dark Knight Rises.” Christian Bale is again the Dark Knight, Michael Caine his butler Alfred. Gary Oldman is police commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox, leader of Wayne’s empire and supplier of the superhero’s nifty gadgets.
Joining them are Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young policeman, Marion Cotillard as a wealthy do-gooder, and Tom Hardy as a terrifying nemesis named Bane, who wears a mask throughout the film.
“When I called Tom I basically said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news: I’ve got a terrific character for you,’” says Nolan, who worked with the actor on “Inception.” “‘The bad news: Your face is going to be covered the entire film; so you’ll have to get everything across with just your eyes and voice’.”
What Nolan wanted in Bane was someone who could pose a real physical threat to Batman.
“The first time I saw Tom perform a scene with Christian, I’d never seen anything like it before,” says the director. “There’s an incredible discrepancy between his eyes, which have this very still quality, and his voice. It was a total characterization.”
Bale adds that “Tom was obviously a formidable character and a great acting partner,” and through the battles between the characters you learn something about them. “That’s really what you’re looking for,” he says. “You see so many people punching each other – who cares? What you’re looking for are the weaknesses and strengths of each character.”
And while no one would talk about the ending of the movie, Bale at least described his feelings about his final appearance in the cowl.
When auditioning for the role for the 2005 “Batman Begins” – Nolan’s reboot of the franchise – the actor had to wear Val Kilmer’s old suit from the 1995 “Batman Forever.” Bale found the outfit claustrophobic and had a panic attack and asked for 20 minutes to be alone.
“I just stood there and I thought, ‘I’d really like to make this movie; I’d like to be able to get through this,’” he recalls.
After filming his final scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” he found himself again asking for 20 minutes, this time so he could sit in the suit and think about “everything we had done, and with a real pride of having achieved what we had set out to.
“It was a very important moment to me.”
For Hathaway, a newcomer to the story, her outfits as Selina Kyle are less constrictive than previous Catwoman attire, although she does spend a lot of time running and fighting in high heels.
“It’s part of being a woman, you just figure it out,” says the actress. She adds that “The Devil Wears Prada” was really good training for being an action figure in stilettos.