Christian Bale Talks About "Batman Begins"

Bale on How This "Batman" Movie Differs from Previous Films

Christian Bale Batman Begins
Christian Bale stars in "Batman Begins". © Warner Bros. Pictures

In addition to answering questions regarding stunt work, fighting, and getting to tool around in the Batmobile in Batman Begins, Bale told the fans he and director Christopher Nolan were committed to giving audiences what they deserve but havent received in past Batman incarnations. The fans were overwhelmingly positive about the new approach to Batman on film and after getting to see new clips (including a little bit of the backstory and a scene with Scarecrow facing off with Batman), the mood of the crowd overall was definitely upbeat and positive.

Prior to answering probing Batman Begins questions from devoted Bale and/or Batman fans, the star of Batman Begins sat down with a small group of journalists to discuss the heavily anticipated rebirth of the Batman movie franchise.


How did Christopher Nolan help to shepherd you through "Batman Begins?"
Christophers really the reason I wanted to do it. I had first read a graphic novel - Im not a comic book fan at all, I never have been - but had, I kind of forget how I actually ended up getting this, but somehow I got offered Asylum and read it and was really intrigued by it because it was nothing like it seemed in the "Batman" TV series, nothing like it seemed in the "Batman" movies either. I thought it was so much more interesting. I read "Batman Year One" and like the "Dark Victory" and stuff, and I thought, This is good stuff. Theres a really great character here. The way that they play it is fantastic. Why has there never been a movie done?

I had heard that Darren Aronofsky was planning on doing a version, which fell apart for reasons Im not sure why. But then Chris Nolan comes on board, another really interesting director, somebody who [with] just the fact that they asked him to do it meant that they didnt want the same thing wed seen before, which is what I was interested in, creating something completely new.

We just had our first conversation and really Chris very much wanted to focus on those graphic novels, on "Batman Year One," on "The Long Halloween," etc. And he seemed to just like what I was coming up with, you know? It was a long shoot but it was very rare that we kind of actually stopped and had to work something out because it was going terribly wrong. He usually enjoyed sitting back and seeing what I was going to come up with. And, you know, generally we communicated enough beforehand that he liked it, that he enjoyed it throughout.

The main thing he had to guide me on was just about the physicality because I was coming into the part being extremely scrawny and skinny and he was just kind of terrified that I wasnt going to be able to look believable playing the Dark Knight, but we got that worked out.

Have you seen a rough cut of the film yet?
Well, Ive been told Id get shot or something if I said that (laughing). But yeah, no, I expect very good things.

Does it look like how you thought it would look like?
Yes. Im not sure how much I should go into…

You can tell us anything. All of it.
First of all, it is obviously the genesis and its not referring to any of the other movies. Its not a prequel. Its not a sequel. None of that. Its just the beginning. We werent referring to any of the other movies whatsoever. Its far more human than any of the others.

You know, were taking advantage of using the great story of how he came to invent Batman so [it's] his early days, the beginnings of Bruce Wayne. A very large part of the movie is taken up with that before you even see any ears at all. But then also I think that one very big difference, at least in my eyes, is just the way that we chose to portray the Batman himself. Just because I realized that the TV series was a spoof on what the original Bob Kane intentions had been. I never felt that Id seen it adequately done in any of the other movies either, in that I really attempted to become a different creature that just kind of ceases to be human at that point. And frankly I had to do that out of necessity just because I felt like an idiot when I was just standing in the Batsuit and being a guy. You just cant. You cant hang out in that suit. You have to be in control. You have to be focused.

Page 2: Christian Bale on Obsessive Characters and His Approach to Batman versus His Approach to Playing Bruce Wayne

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I would always remember about the fact that this is somebody who is fanatical, you know? If you think about the obsession that somebody must have to retain the pain and anger from an incident that happened 20 years previously and is still in the forefront of his mind. You know thats an incredible obsession. I mean, thats an unhealthy obsession. So concentrating on the fact that hes attempting to take his pain and his guilt and his anger and the rage and do something good with it, even though his impulses are that he does just want to rage and break bones and do damage. So theres always that conflict. And so, for me, it was very much about remembering that. I would refer to the different graphic novels. I had them on the set with me all the time just because I loved the imagery of it so much. And remembering that I never wanted to appear to be Bruce Wayne in a Batsuit when I was playing the Batman. That he just becomes - that it is an alter ego completely.

With Patrick Bateman from "American Psycho," Trevor Reznik in "The Machinist," and this, you seem to have this attraction to obsessive characters.
Ive done many other different characters that arent so obsessive as well, but I think I would imagine to everybody here Id be very surprised if anybody here wouldnt say that an obsessive character is not illuminating in some way. That they are people who you wouldnt necessarily want to have in your life, but you certainly enjoy hearing about them and watching them. I mean, pretty much anybody you look at throughout history whos achieved great things, they were obsessive about it. And it also means that with characters who are as obsessive as that, you can kind of make up your own rules because theyre not playing by societys rules that we all kind of know and acknowledge each and every day of how to get through life without upsetting everybody around you at any given moment. And you can kind of chuck all that out of the window when youre playing those kind of characters, so they are enjoyable.

There is a legacy of "Batman" and the actors who've played him. How does your approach differ?
I think that you have with the Tim Burton ones a great stylized version. But to me, whilst I enjoyed those ones, it was more the stylization of the villains than Batman himself. I didnt see a whole lot going on in Batman. The other ones just werent my thing at all. And I just felt that I wanted to attempt to base it in reality, starting from a realistic point of view of the pain and the trauma that a child has been through, and really looking at it as that instead of just [he's] this incredibly theatrical character that jumps around in a Batsuit, which to me would be kind of stupid if I met him in the street. You know, I dont think I would be intimidated. I would laugh at him.

You had to get to a point where the audience would be drawn in enough to believe that this guy has gone through so much pain and anger, and then we have a really nice backstory about how he creates the Batman. And also, theres a very nice practical backstory to every gadget, and to the Batsuit and to everything. Everything is explained in the movie. Nothing was taken for granted at all. Theres no assumptions that the audience would just understand it immediately. We wanted to show how did this happen and why did he choose everything. And its all explained very, very well and in detail. And in making that kind of approach, I think it couldnt help but appear different because you got a real character, you know?

We were focusing on Bruce Wayne and Batman, whereas what I would find in watching most of the other movies, and also the TV series and things, I always found the villains much more interesting. And that was the main revelation to me in reading one of the graphic novels. Batman is the most interesting of them all, you know? I mean, hes the really on-the-edge one because hes the guy that, okay, hes doing good but hes the Dark Knight. I mean, a knight is meant to be in shining armor and hes the Dark Knight. He could do good things but man, he could just as easily flip over and become like the ultimate villain. Hopefully weve been able to portray that in a more character-based way than has been shown before.

Page 3: Christian Bale on the Batmobile and Acting in the Batsuit

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Whats your favorite gadget from the film?
The car. It has to be because theyve done such a radically different thing with it. What I love about it is that aesthetically it kicks ass. It looks f***ing stunning.

There were a couple of times driving down the street in Chicago where its like, We can load it on the truck or just drive 5 minutes down there, and they just drove 5 minutes down there. And you see that thing just going down the street and everybody is stopping and looking. What the hell is this? There was even this guy who crashed into it. This poor drunken guy who didnt have a license, who said he got so panicked when he saw the car he thought aliens were landing and he put the pedal to the metal. I wasnt in it – it was the stunt driver driving it at the time. He put the pedal to the metal and sideswiped the Batmobile. So, you know, it has this affect upon people.

I just loved how its indicative of the way that we are making the movie as a whole. It looks nothing like any Batmobile that has come before it. And it completely has practical applications which are explained and are very smart, and make complete sense. Thats indicative of what weve done with everything that has to do with the movie, including the explanation of the suit, the cowl, all the different gadgets that he comes up with and where he comes to them.

How did the Batmobile handle?
Stunning. Fantastic. I wish I got to drive it more, you know? The guy with the coolest job on the set was the stunt driver. I got a lot of attention the first few days I had the Batsuit on and then after a while you get used to me sitting around in a Batsuit. The stunt driver, every time he came on the set everyone was just in awe. (Laughing) Here comes the man. This is the guy whos really going to make the movie." And it is stunning. The things that they did with it. The actual engineering of it is stunning. I dont know an awful lot about cars, but apparently its the first car ever designed without any kind of front axle. It really can do the things that you see in the movie. The actual cars really did do them. They built like 12 or 13 of them.

Did you get to keep one?
That was the first question [I asked]. They looked at me and they went, You f***ing kidding? So I didnt get to keep one of them. But it is a fantastic drive. Ive always been a fan of motorbikes and not so much of cars. You get in that and you just cant help but love cars because you see all of the inner workings inside of it. You can see the functionality of everything thats going on. And it screams when you get it up to a high speed.

It really flies. They couldnt keep up with it – the camera cars. They were having trouble keeping up with it. They were having to ask, Can you please slow down a little bit because we just cant keep up with the thing? But it screams in your ear and youve got this smell and everything inside of it. Its elating. My heart was pounding every time I stepped out of that thing.

Some of the other actors have had a tough time acting in the suit. Was that a problem?
It wasnt. I think some of them were talking about just the physical stamina that you kind of need for being in that. When you first put it on, you feel like youre scuba diving or something, and it feels kind of claustrophobic. But you know, I just sat with it for a while and like I said, I could not wear that suit without making myself feel like some kind of beast. And so I found it just happened really kind of organically and I just went with as much aggression and rage as I could, bordering on appearing like a bad guy when hes got the suit on. That you should be unsure when youre faced with him.

First of all, I wanted it to be that he was never somebody that kind of just stood still saying, Hi, Im Mr. Batman. How are you? That it should always be almost as if youre witnessing a very rare and dangerous creature in the jungle or something. Like somebody that you just glimpse momentarily. And also I think that they made a lot of advances in the actual makeup of the suit. It was kind of like they cooked it, really. It was like a kitchen where they were boiling up all these different ingredients to try and get just the perfect level of mobility and rigidity in certain areas, etc. So I think I, by far, have had the easiest time of anybody short of probably Adam West who I think was trotting around in some kind of cotton get-up or something. They really came up with some good stuff. Its much more mobile than any of the other suits have been.

Page 4: Christian Bale on Other Actors Who've Played Batman and Whether Batman is Mentally Ill

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How heavy was the suit and what was your first reaction when you saw yourself in it?
Actual poundage, Im not sure of how heavy it really was. And my first reaction in seeing it... I remember I tried on one of the old ones for the screen test they had to do, but, you know, it didnt fit exactly. It hadnt been made for me. The first time I put on the one that actually was made for me, it was like I said. It was like looking at a creature. It kind of wasnt me in there at all, and thats how I liked it. I didnt want to have any kind of recognition of myself or Bruce Wayne, once hes inside of it at all.

But it was kick as well as a high. Youre getting into that suit and youre looking in the mirror and seeing it, and staring back at yourself. And, you know, its a long shoot. It was about seven months. You can start to get kind of blasé about it. Well, you know, Ive got a Batsuit on… That was why I kept the images around me all the time, to remind myself of that initial feeling. Because it was a very strong feeling when I first put that on of feeling like a very dangerous creature to be around.

Batman and Bruce Wayne each have interesting foils including Alfred, James Gordon, Scarecrow, etc. Which character that you played off of told you the most about your own character?
I think certainly Michael Caine as Alfred in terms of the past. I think that he certainly was the most informative of the characters because, first of all, he plays it brilliantly. Hes so good. Hes funny but you know you really get to feel and witness the pain that this guy has been through, and that the ones who love him have had to sit back and see him go through, being tortured through his teenage years and everything, and not really being able to reach out and help him. Everybody else kind of is controlled more by Batman, whereas the Alfred character is the only one whos able to get behind that mask and know exactly who Bruce is and knows his weak points and can push any buttons that he wants, because hes his surrogate father.

Of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney – which one of the previous Batmans added the most amount of credibility to the role?
You know, they did it in different ways. I think what Adam West did was great. I just didnt realize when I was watching it as a kid that it was a spoof, you know? It was a very campy kind of thing, performance that he was doing. After that, I would say Michael Keaton because of Tim Burton and the way that he approached the movie. However we didnt want to do anything like that either. To me, that isnt what I was seeing in the graphic novels at all. And Id never really felt the danger of Batman that I felt should be appropriate.

It was also in reading a forward by Frank Miller that I believe is in "Batman Year One" about when he first saw Batman and how he says to him Batman was never funny. And I liked that because thats what I had always thought. That this should not be that there can be a lot of comedy through it, but coming from other people. But the actual Batman himself, you know, I think had gotten lost in a lot of little one liners and quips that reduced the edge and the reason that he had become this Batman in the first place, which was this incredible pain, anger, guilt and rage that he had within.

Is he mentally ill?
I think probably some psychiatrists would say yes for hanging on to that pain intentionally, keeping hold of it and letting it rule much of his life. I wouldnt say hes schizophrenic or something, like its an actual – or multiple personalities where hes unable to control. He can control it, but its intense discipline that hes learned to be able to function in everyday life. And in many ways, the Bruce Wayne character, the playboy, the cad, etc., the business man, hes actually the mask. He is the performance. Nobody would say it would be a healthy state of mind to be in, but Im not suggesting that hes actually got multiple personality disorder or anything like that. Although, personally, I think thatd be quite an interesting way to take it if you wanted to really go to extremes with him.