Christian Bale on playing Batman one last time
By CINDY PEARLMAN July 12, 2012 6:28PM
No Chicago-area showings of the new Batman movie have been canceled this weekend as of Friday afternoon, and many are sold out.
Updated: August 16, 2012 6:08AM
LOS ANGELES — In the end, Batman is the ultimate loner.
No one knows that better than actor Christian Bale, who began an epic franchise alone. He ended it in the same way.
“The first time I put on the Batman suit, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I was about to have a nervous breakdown and a panic attack,” says the actor. “I told [director] Christopher Nolan, ‘I love the role, but you’re going to have to recast it.’ ”
Then he thought again.
“I asked everyone to leave me alone in the room in the suit. I stood there for 20 minutes all by myself thinking, ‘OK, I’d really like to make this movie. I’d like to be able to get through this moment here, too.’
“I stood there thinking, ‘Be very calm. Maybe you can get through this.’ That’s how claustrophobic I felt in the suit.”
With “The Dark Knight Rises” (opening Friday) marking the end of the latest Batman franchise and the most celebrated one, Bale had another odd reaction when he put on the Batsuit for the very last time.
“It was a very similar feeing, although the suit has been improved and it’s far more comfortable now. I’ve lost the panic attack feeling because in the last suit I could rip it off myself if I started to see stars.”
Bale gets emotional now when discussing his very last moments as the millionaire Bruce Wayne, who takes it upon himself to become Batman.
“My last scene was with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. We were on a roof in New York City,” he recalls. “I wrapped and went back to base camp. I just sat in a room and said, ‘Can you leave me alone for 20 minutes?’ I sat there again thinking, ‘OK, this is it.’ But this time I added, ‘I will never take that cowl off again.’
“It was a real moment of pride too because of what we had achieved,” he says of Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy. “We did what we set out to do. It was a very important character to the fans, and me, which makes me very proud.
“The movies not only changed my life, but my career and I appreciate that very much.”
Bale is notoriously private and almost always serious. Improbably enough, he makes a wisecrack.
“Wait, I have to add that the very first time I ever tried on a Batsuit,” he says with a gleam in his eye, “it was actually at my audition with Chris Nolan. All he had was Val Kilmer’s costume and it didn’t fit very well. … I could make a bad joke here …”
Of course, he doesn’t. But Bale does laugh.
“The Dark Knight Rises” has very few laugh-worthy moments. It’s all on the line for Bruce Wayne, who has become a recluse for the last eight years since his alter ego Batman vanished.
Batman is a fugitive now who has been assigned the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent. When a terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) decides to come to Gotham City and a certain feline female named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) goes on a bit of a rampage, he must come out of self-imposed retirement.
Bane advocates occupying Gotham and destroying the rich — not to mention the entire city. He has a nuke that’s ready to go off at any moment.
“Chris Nolan has an uncanny ability to make movies topical,” Bale says of the occupy theme that includes destroying Wall Street and storming the mansions of those who have lived way above the rest. “When the script for this final film was written in 2008, he had no idea that there would be Occupy Wall Street. When we were filming those scenes, I looked at him and said, ‘How did you know?’ ”
Bale appreciated that “The Dark Knight Rises” was entrenched in Bat lore.
“The character was created in 1939 during World War II. It was an answer to the uselessness individuals felt during this horrific time in the world,” Bale says. “He was always a very topical character, and Chris returned it to that.”
Of course, it’s not all message. Bale had to do some of the most brutal hand-to-hand and knee-to-spine combat of any of the Batman films. “We had one final fight scene between Bane and Batman that started on location in Pittsburgh and finished in New York City. It took forever. We just kept punching each other out.
“There was also the excitement of about 1,000 extras around us. Everyone was punching each other. It invigorated Tom Hardy and me,” he says.
The native of Wales has had a celebrated career doing other films including “Empire of the Sun” as a teen and then “The Portrait of a Lady,” “American Psycho,” “Rescue Dawn,” “Public Enemies” and “The Fighter.” He’s currently working with Terrence Malick in “Knight of Cups.”
He relishes his superhero cred.
“I tried doing a couple of big movies that didn’t manage what Chris has managed with this genre,” he says. “I think these movies can be pure entertainment roller coasters. But people can go home and think about them.
“It’s more than entertainment.”
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