Interview: Christopher Nolan of 'The Dark Knight Rises'
'I'm trying to make a film that I would want to go see on a Friday night ...'
With his clipped, cool British diction and his Hollywood-inflected enthusiasm -- and an amazing suit which combines the best of both American and European tailoring -- Christopher Nolan is the model of a modern megascale director. We spoke with Nolan in Los Angeles about pressure to perform, keeping Batman and his action bloodless and how he knows what will and won't fly in the Bat-verse ...
MSN Movies: You knew you were doing a third film. Is the pressure to do things bigger, better -- is that from the studio? Is it from the audience? Or is it that all from you? Are you the person saying, "Let's do more with this"?
Christopher Nolan: Well, I was trying to push filmmaking from the point of view of the audience. I'm trying to make a film that I would want to go see on a Friday night and lay down ten dollars or what have you and be thrilled and moved by or whatever. And that's what was the impulse, and so when you know you're dealing with characters the audience have a relationship with, you're asking the audience to come back to Gotham City. So you feel a huge creative responsibility to give them a reason to come back to Gotham City. You feel that pressure enormously at the beginning of the process once the stories come together and you know what that story is. Then you just get excited about making it like any other movie. Now, of course, we come back to the idea of the pressure, we have to put the film out there and the audience will tell us what we've done. But I'm nervous about that, but I'm excited that we've told a story that we set out to tell. That's all we can do, really.
I'm curious because a lot of the cinematic template for "The Dark Knight" for hard-boiled crime cinema. And I'm wondering how hard is it to do a gritty, involving crime story but not being able to show any blood because of the PG-13 rating. Is that problematic, or is it something you accept and move on from?
It's not problematic. It challenges you to do things in a different way just as not being able to have characters use a lot of swear words and stuff, which you can't in a PG-13 challenges you a different way. And I think there's a huge advantage to it for a filmmaker because it just pushes you to be a little more creative about how you convey certain ideas and certain intensities and when you're dealing with characters as extreme as Batman and Bane and so forth. It's a challenge, but I think it's a very useful challenge, absolutely.
I was thinking about this film, and I was thinking about the Batsuit itself - how it has to be flexible enough you can move in it but rigid enough to stop bullets. And these movies have to be flexible enough to have action and excitement but rigid enough to obey the laws of physics and be plausible. How hard is your editing process when you're writing these films is to make sure that the laws of physics are bent but not broken and nothing too terribly implausible happens?
I have a huge advantage in being a writer-director. I write with David Goyer on the story and then with my brother Jonah, you know, he does the first draft, I take over from there, we go back and forth. Ultimately, I usually wind up doing the last draft myself or I did it in this case because he was busy with personal interests. Really for me then, I'm able to say, "Can I do this as a director credibly?" And at that stage on paper I'm able to say, "Okay, that, I'm never going to believe that, and as a director on the floor that's not going to work for me," so I'll scale it differently or change it into something else. And that's a huge advantage that a writer-director has.
Did you feel like on the previous film you learned so much from using the IMAX cameras that it was easier to use them for more sequences this time around?
It was definitely easier working the IMAX format having had the experience of using it on "The Dark Knight," and we found it to be a really fulfilling experience that really pays off, so it was a thrill to get those cameras back out and really try to expand what we did with the format on this film ...
("The Dark Knight Rises" opens tomorrow.)