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July 13, 2012
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'Dark Knight Rises' goes full circle
In an exclusive Canadian interview, actor leaves open possibility of reprising Batman for a fourth time
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency




LOS ANGELES - Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is now complete with The Dark Knight Rises, a mega-movie with a staggering $250-million budget. This is it, the end, the final time Christian Bale dons the batsuit and sweats under the cowl that so suffocated him on the first film. Never again...

But is it really the end?

"In terms of Chris," Bale says in an exclusive one-on-one interview, "I think he's made it pretty clear -- which is unusual for Chris -- that this would be the last one. And I'm really the wrong person to ask because it's never been something that I've been involved with, talking about, shall we or shan't we."

But Bale leaves a window open, a glimmer of light suggesting he would play the character again if Nolan asked.

"I just want for Chris to tell me he's got a story and I go read it and it's: 'Oh great, let's go do it!' If he comes up with a great story ... I'm just the wrong guy to be asking about that. It's all down to Chris.

"But my understanding is that he's pretty clear. In my conversations with him, this is it, this is how it was meant to be. But there's always the temptation: How far can you push it? Then there's: No, if it's good, leave it, walk away at that moment. Don't wait until you start making mistakes."

The Dark Knight Rises is set to challenge The Avengers for pop culture supremacy in 2012. The new story is open-ended. Fresh characters are introduced, including Anne Hathaway's sensational and sexy Catwoman (although her cat burglar is never actually given that nickname). Meanwhile, Tom Hardy's uber-villain Bane is Batman's most physically punishing enemy ever, at least in Nolan's trilogy. There is another big reveal involving another character, although it would be a spoiler to describe it.

"I've got no idea if that is actually going to go anywhere, you know, or not," Bale says of the possibility of a spin-off franchise. "It's got nothing to do with me at all. But certainly it teases, doesn't it?"

Then there is speculation that Nolan could eventually oversee a combined Superman/Batman movie, a wet dream for Warner Bros. from two decades ago. If Nolan did that, Bale might play the Caped Crusader again. The truth is Nolan has already delivered the goods. Batman Begins, which cost $150 million, earned just $373 million in worldwide box office in 2008, according to Box Office Mojo. But it set the table, winning Oscars and selling millions of DVDs and Blu-rays. The Dark Knight, which cost $185 million, then generated $1 billion in worldwide box office. The Dark Knight Rises is expected to match that.

Bale, a 38-year-old British actor, says he now enjoys some measure of satisfaction from the trilogy, rare for a tempestuous type known for his intensity and self-doubt.

"I remember the first time I ever met with Chris, before he decided he wanted me to audition for the role, and my comment to him was: 'Look, I've just never been into Batman comic books at all because I always felt like the villains were the much more interesting characters. So, is there a way we can make this where we are equally interested in Batman himself?' "

They found that way together. The Bruce Wayne/Batman duality has been explored as a dream-nightmare. That was true in the origins story, once more in the sequel and again in The Dark Knight Rises.

"In many ways," Bale explains, "this one was about taking the best of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and combining them and going full circle."

Among plot points, we see Bale's Bruce Wayne lost in personal torment. The story is set eight years after the end of The Dark Knight. Batman is both disgraced and retired. Wayne is a recluse. Crime has been contained. But Bane's bombastic arrival in Gotham City suddenly initiates a new reign of terror.

Bale is allowed to wallow in grief and self-pity, but only for so long. Bale laughs about it.

"Probably, if I had been directing it, everyone would have just been bored stupid from the character just wallowing in his own pain, wandering around his mansion for two hours."

Instead, Nolan juxtaposes those segments with action, character development, sex appeal (thank you Catwoman) and even spikes of humour. "Chris understands more than I ever will," Bale says of how cinema works on audiences. "Chris just seems to know where the right balance is."

Bale, however, has yet to see The Dark Knight Rises. He is currently shooting again with Terrence Malick, this time on Knight of Cups.

"I don't multi-task very well," he says. So he is saving himself either for a forthcoming premiere or for a public IMAX screening after opening day on Thursday.

"This is the last one and it's important to me and I'm slightly nervous about having done the job correctly and I just want to have the proper time (to absorb the spectacle), which I don't right now because I'm working."

Nolan: IMAX helps make Batman larger than life

Christopher Nolan shot about 50% of The Dark Knight Rises with IMAX cameras, all the better to thrill audiences and please himself with the clarity of the images that this technology offers.

"For me," Nolan tells a Hollywood press conference about the large format IMAX system, "it's the best quality image when you film with their cameras and you project that in their theatres on their huge screens."

When The Dark Knight Rises opens Thursday night, IMAX theatres will showcase his third Batman opus. The same was true for The Dark Knight in 2008, although a smaller percentage was done with the bulky IMAX cameras (a Canadian invention originally developed in the late 1960s). Nolan continues to prefer IMAX over 3D, although both give major films an "event" aura for their debuts, he says.

That worked for The Dark Knight: "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 did in the '50s and '60s with 70 mm projection." For the new film, Nolan authorized Warner Bros. to release his prologue, featuring Tom Hardy as villain Bane, six months in advance. Audiences, however, grumbled that Hardy was unintelligible. Hardy's dialogue in the prologue, and in most of the rest of the film, has now been made clearer by Nolan's sound team.

Meanwhile, the director's preference for IMAX is related to the mythic quality he says he is trying to attain with his trilogy. "What I like about it, as opposed to 3D, is that it creates a larger-than-life image." In contrast, 3D technology "shrinks the image," Nolan explains.

"I like to see Batman larger-than-life on that enormous screen. The clarity of the image really draws me into the film -- and I enjoy that.



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