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Q&A with 'The Dark Knight Rises' director Christopher Nolan (Part 2)

By InCinemas  /  15 Nov 2012 (Thursday)
Source: Warner Bros
(Continue from Part 1's Q&A)

Q: Chris, it’s a little jarring for a New Yorker to see so much destruction in Gotham, when it looks so much like New York. Was there any trepidation in showing that sort of visual and was it cathartic to explore those fears that all of us have?
  • Christopher:  Bear in mind that this is not a real city we’re dealing with.  It’s Gotham.  We did a lot of our play photography in Manhattan.  We also did a lot in Pittsburgh and so forth and every shot in the film is changed in some way, and yet Gotham has always been a substantive stand-in for New York. So obviously there are resonances there.

    For me, it feels important to make films, even the films that we go to for escape as an entertainment, that they in some way be moving us in a real way and, as you say, about catharsis in its dramatic term about the purpose of drama and why we go to the movies and so forth.  So, I would agree with that, but it is also important to bear in mind that Gotham is not a real city and we’ve changed it every time it’s portrayed and every way we’ve manipulated something so that hopefully there’s a little reminder in there for people as they watch the film that it is an unreal city.
Q: For castmembers who are from New York or spent time there, what was it like for you to watch the film?
  • Christopher:  I think people are very proud that their city is standing in for Gotham, and we also had that community of people of Pittsburgh who are very proud that the film was shooting there.  This time, with New York and then two times with Chicago, they are sort of proud that their city is standing in for Gotham.
(Image - The Dark Knight Rises: Batman "exhausted". If you know what I mean.)

Q:  Speaking of cities, there are quite a few parallels to 'A Tale of Two Cities', to the point that it’s actually referenced at one point.  How early did that enter the writing stage and did it inspire you to a significant degree?
  • Christopher:  From my point of view, when Jonah showed me his first draft of the screenplay and it was 400 pages long or something, it had all this crazy stuff in it.  It was sort of part of a primer, if you like it.  When he handed it to me, he was like, ‘Oh, and you’ve got to think of A Tale of Two Cities, which of course you’ve read.’  So, I absolutely read the script.

    I was a little baffled by a few things and then realized I’d never read 'A Tale of Two Cities'.  It was just one of those things I thought I’d done or whatever.  So I then got the book, read it, absolutely loved it, got completely what he was talking about, and he’ll have to answer as to when it entered his process.

    But for me, then, when I did my draft on the script, it was all about 'A Tale of Two Cities' and really just trying to follow that because it just felt exactly the right thing for the world we were dealing with.  And what Dickens does in that book in terms of having all these different characters come together in one unified story with all of these great thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama, it felt like exactly the term that we were looking for.

(Image - The Dark Knight Rises: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle)

Q:  Chris, your film looks fantastic on IMAX as the previous ones have. Can you expand on your motivation for using that format, as opposed to digital and 3-D?
  • Christopher: What we did on The Dark Knight, which I think was a very important movie in terms of getting across the idea of eventizing movies in a theatrical experience, it was prior to the 3-D that’s come since.  But we got a lot of mileage out of really making a big deal out of our premiere engagements in a very old-fashioned way like they used to do in the ‘50s and ‘60s with 70 millimeter projection.

    We put the prologue out six months ahead of time, that kind of thing.  For me, IMAX is the best possible quality image when you film with their cameras and you project that film in their theaters with those huge screens.  There’s really no other way to do that with any other imaging technology.  What I love about it, as opposed to 3-D, is it creates a much larger-than-life image.  When you watch a 3-D film, the parallax makes it more intimate.  It shrinks the imagery that you’re looking at.  I actually really like for these characters in these movies to see Batman larger than life on that enormous screen.  The clarity of the image really draws me into the movie and I enjoy that.
Q: Chris, can you talk about the challenges of having Tom Hardy wear the mouthpiece as Bane. 
  • Christopher: If Tom were here, I think what he would be talking about is when I called him up and I basically said to him, ‘Look, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.  The good news is that I have a terrific part for you.  The bad news is that your face is going to be completely covered for the whole film, so you’re going to have to get across whatever it is you want to get across with this character through just your eyes and your voice.’

    And what Tom did, which I completely love, but it takes audiences time to get used to, is this incredible disjoint between what he’s doing with his voice and what he’s doing with his eyes.  His eyes have this extremely threatening stillness to them.  His voice is this extremely expressive and different voice.  And I’ve never really seen anything like that.

    The first time I saw him perform a scene with Christian, I was shocked by it.  I really was thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve just never seen this.’  That’s what you get from a great actor like Tom Hardy, and that’s what I’ve got from all these guys.  Working with them is a total characterization.  They’re just there giving you something you’ve never seen before and something that’s beyond what you’ve put on the page.  And, for me, that’s really the joy of working with great actors.  And I’m sorry Tom can’t be here to answer that question for himself, but he’s working.
Q: Can you talk about doing ADR, where you’re looping the dialog after actually shooting the scenes?  Did you have to do that a lot because of the IMAX cameras?

(Read our review for The Dark Knight Rises - By Eternality Tan)
  • Christopher:  This ADR you do with every character as you go.  It takes us about two months to mix the film from beginning to end, and so some things are clarified and cleaned up, but we try to be true.  I’m not really a big fan of ADR, so we try to be as true as possible to the recordings we do at the time.  As these guys will know, I don’t generally get them to loop a lot because I think you always lose a little something.

    So, for the IMAX scenes, because the IMAX cameras are incredibly noisy, you’re then really in a position where what we would do on set is immediately do a take without running the camera.  That way you get a fresh performance.  Everyone’s still in costume.  They’re in the physical positions that they’re actually in when they perform the scene.  And those you can sync up very well to pictures.  So, even with the IMAX cameras, we didn’t have to do too much ADR.

Q: Chris, this question’s for you. You’ve had quite the ride from indie films to blockbusters, bottom to top. Can you talk about that a little bit and what might be next for you?  Is it back to basics?
  • Christopher: To start with, the end of the question, I have no idea what’s next.  I’m going to go on holiday and just relax and I’m quite enjoying not knowing what I’m going to go next, which is fun.  As far as the ride from doing the smallest level of filmmaking, which is where we started, and these big films, what I’d like to say about it is the process has always been reassuringly familiar to me.

    It’s always been this thing of you’re there on set but really your job as a director is to ignore the scale of things and really just try and look at the shot that you’re going to put on screen, and how is that going to further the story.  And I found that process to be more similar on different scale films than it is different, if you know what I mean.
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