It’s easy to see how The Dark Knight Rises star Christian Bale can be nostalgic as his Batman series comes to a close. When the actor sat down to talk about his and Christopher Nolan’s final journey into Gotham, Bale recalled when he first donned the batsuit.
“I think the very first time I had the costume on was at the audition. I think it was Val Kilmer’s,” Bale said and laughed. “It didn’t fit very well.”
The truth is once he did get fully into the suit, Bale believed Nolan had made a mistake.
“The first time that I ever truly put on the actual one myself, I thought, ‘Oh, Chris has to recast.’ The claustrophobia was just unbelievable. I stood there and I thought, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t think. This is too tight. This is squeezing my head. I’m going to panic. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown. I’m about to have a panic attack,’” Bale recalled.
“I asked for 20 minutes by myself because people are around you asking, ‘What’s it feel like?’ They left and I just stood there and I thought, ‘I'd really like to make this movie. I'd really like to be able to get through this moment here.' Then I called them back in and said, ‘Okay, let's just talk very calmly and quietly and maybe I can get through this.’ And I learned to.”
As Bruce Wayne makes adjustments to his suit, do did Bale. “We improved the suit for ourselves and it became actually far more comfortable,” he said. “Primarily also that panic attack aspect was lost, because I was able to rip it off myself if I ever did start seeing stars and couldn't breathe.”
The next natural question is then for Bale to share what it was like the last time he put on the suit.
“It was a very similar thing. We were doing this scene as Batman. It was with Anne (Hathaway) as Catwoman on a roof in New York, in Manhattan. And I was wrapped and the whole movie was a wrap. I just went down and sat in a room and I realized… this is it. I'm never going to be taking this cowl off again. So again, I said, ‘Can you please leave me alone for 20 minutes?’ With that moment it was with the realization of everything we'd done and a real pride of having achieved what we had set out to do.”
The actor has much to be proud of in his stellar career, one that includes a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work on The Fighter. And Bale knows much of it has to do with the opportunity that playing Batman has brought him.
“It was a very important moment for me. It's been a very important character. It's the only time I've played a character three times. And the movies themselves have changed my life and changed my career, so I wanted to just appreciate that for a little while.”
Talking Batman with Bale, one cannot help but drift the conversation into the sea of brilliance that is Nolan -- as noted in our The Dark Knight Rises review. “I’ve always found it uncanny with Chris’ ability to make movies very topical,” Bale said.
“There was something that happened with Occupy Wall Street, which actually happened a couple of blocks away from where we were filming in New York. He had no way of knowing that was going to happen when he wrote the script and when we started. But by the time it was happening, I was looking at him going, ‘What the hell? How did you know?’”
In The Dark Knight Rises Bane is the villain, and as such Bale believes he is an impeccable choice given what the baddie does physically and emotionally to Bruce Wayne/Batman. “This is the first time it appears highly unlikely that Batman will come out on top in a physical altercation. He has been dormant for years, so he’s in a weakened condition to begin with,” Bale said.
“And Bane is not only incredibly strong, but ruthless in terms of his sheer militancy and the ideology that drives him.”
Given what happened to him in The Dark Knight, it is understandable that Nolan’s third film would involve such deep soul searching on the part of our hero. “Bruce feels absolutely isolated since the tragedy of losing the woman he loved, Rachel, and the terrible turn of events with what happened to Harvey Dent,” Bale said.
“He carries a certain amount of guilt that if he had not chosen the course of becoming Batman, none of that would have happened. His belief has been rocked and that has caught up with him, physically and emotionally.”
Bale believes that he and the franchise have come full circle with The Dark Knight Rises.
“In Batman Begins, you see the tragedy and the pain that motivates this angry young man, who feels useless and is searching for a path -- who wants to find out who he is and what he can become,” Bale said.
“Then, in The Dark Knight, he’s discovered that path. He is useful. He is doing what he imagines is the best thing for him to be doing in his life. Now, we are eight years on and he has lost the one thing that gave him a purpose… until he is forced to deal with a new threat to the city and to himself.”