Interview: Michael Caine Talks 'The Dark Knight' and Heath Ledger's Joker

'Sleuth' Star Michael Caine Talks About His Second Batman Movie

Michael Caine as Alfred in the 2005 hit, Batman Begins.
© Warner Bros

During the press junket for the 2007 dramatic thriller Sleuth, acting legend Michael Caine provided an update on one of the most anticipated movies of 2008, The Dark Knight. Caine expressed his excitement about being a part of the second Batman film starring Christian Bale and directed by Christopher Nolan, although he initially found one of his new co-stars a little creepy -- the late, great Heath Ledger, who died shortly after filming his Oscar-winning role in the movie. Caine made these comments about Ledger just weeks before Ledger was found dead of an accidental drug overdose in his New York City apartment in January 2008.

Though The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan typically expects his actors to remain mum on their roles in his films, Caine couldn't hold back his excitement about playing Batman's loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth for the second time and spilled a little information on the blockbuster sequel while promoting Sleuth. It was one of the first things anxious Batman fans heard about the film -- many of whom didn't initially think that Ledger was the right choice to play Batman's greatest foe (but were happy to be proven wrong once they finally saw the film).

Caine on Playing Alfred Again and Why The Dark Knight is Better than Batman Begins:

"I was the butler in the first one, Batman Begins, which I thought was the best Batman ever -- and this one will be better, The big surprise out of this will be what we thought was a big problem inasmuch as we're doing, although it's called The Dark Knight with a ‘kn’, it was the Joker. There, you've got the shadow of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, which is an incredible performance. Then we've got Heath Ledger who's gone in a completely and terrifyingly different direction and is extraordinary. He'll be the big surprise in that.

He'll frighten the life out of you. He did me the first time I saw him, because we did a rehearsal on the first day and we hadn't met or anything. He had to come up in an elevator to our home, Batman's home. I'm thinking I'm letting friends in, instead of which he's killed them all and he's coming up in the lift. So on the first rehearsal, I've never seen him. He has like seven dwarfs with him, like Snow White, only it's not like that. When the bloody door opened on that lift, he came tearing out. I forgot every line. Terrifying.”

Why Caine Believes that Christian Bale is the Best Batman Ever:

"Oh yeah, I've seen all the Batman, mens, men. I've seen them all. I think by a long way, Christian is the best Batman I've ever seen. He certainly is the best actor, a wonderful actor, as he's proven in Yuma now, and in The Machinist. What was the other one he was in between, where he played [the POW]? Rescue Dawn, that's the one. That's a wonderful performance.”

Caine's high praise on the film proved to be true -- The Dark Knight grossed $1 billion worldwide, received almost universally positive reviews, and eight Oscar nominations -- a record for a comic book film. Along with Ledger's Best Supporting Actor Oscar, The Dark Knight also won for Best Sound Editing. Ledger was only the second posthumous winner of an acting Oscar (the first was Peter Finch, who received the Best Actor Award for 1976's Network). In addition, Ledger remains the only actor in a comic book movie to win an acting Oscar for his performance.

If Ledger's performance was so terrifying that it actually scared Caine in real life, then the honors and praise are clearly well-deserved!

Edited by Christopher McKittrick