"Dark Knight" star Christian Bale talks with the Dish Rag about working with an "uncompromising" Heath Ledger, who brought an anarchic, "Clockwork Orange" edge to the classic character the Joker. And Christian also spills the beans on Batman’s new suit (a movable neck?) and his upcoming role as John Connor in the new "Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins."
DR: What was it like working with Heath Ledger?
CB: There was a great dynamic. You know, the Joker is just gleeful to come up against Batman, because everyone else has been too easy. He’s an intelligent psychopath. He’s bent on chaos and destruction. And if that means self-destruction, so be it. It’s impossible to leverage him, because he’s not looking for anything but living in the moment, living in that anarchy.
He’s completely uncompromising, as is Batman, but Batman does have this one rule of he will not kill. But he’s in conflict often with himself about how far and how violent he can be because he does embrace violence to an extreme degree and he has to counter that with the altruism of do-good, inherited philanthropy of his parents. But absolutely, the Joker comes closer than anybody has to provoking Batman to break that one rule.
DR: Did you have any idea of how Heath Ledger was going to portray the Joker?
CB: Well, I knew the tone of Chris Nolan‘s Gotham was one that we never wanted to have any caricatures. We never wanted to have the actor kind of peeking through and winking at the audience. And showing, "Hey, what a great time I’m having playing this funny, larger than life character."
We wanted to stay serious and dramatic with each of the portrayals of every single character. Heath was wonderful with that. He completely immersed himself and stayed under. When he was the Joker he was the Joker throughout, absolute commitment to that. And he’s portrayed him in a way that hasn’t been portrayed before. He has this kind of anarchic, punk, “Clockwork Orange” approach to it.
He done such a damn good job that if Chris decides to make a third movie, he set himself a real challenge of how do you up the ante with any villain after Heath’s Joker.
DR: What was the first scene you shot with him?
CB: "The first scene we shot was in the interrogation room with the two of us. That was great because we were allowed to be by ourselves, without any crew inside the room. It was just the two of us, inside there with just mirrors, all the way around us. Everywhere we looked, there were these two freaks, sitting at a table, eyeballing each other.
I felt that I was seeing, in Heath, somebody who got the same enjoyment from acting that I do, and just recognized the ridiculousness of what we do as grown men, pretending to be other people, but loving that ridiculousness and loving the job all the more for that, and taking it all the more seriously, precisely because of that, and staying in character whilst we were inside of the garb. It was wonderful.
You get to see, clearly, what an opponent this is going to be, when Batman beats the Joker and recognizes that, with every punch that he’s landing, the Joker’s smile is getting bigger and bigger. How are you going to defeat somebody whose absolute nirvana would be being destroyed himself??
To read more about the batsuit and "Terminator Salvation," go to the jump…
CB: It was much more comfortable. It was heavier, but it was actually much more comfortable. There’s, like, 110 parts to this one, there was 103 to the original. And I could move my head. It was more mobile. For the Casey fighting method that we used, the martial art, the suit actually was compatible for that.
Where in the first one, I was having to fight against the suit in order to be able to do the fight sequences. In every way it was more advanced. And I think also more in keeping with images that the military have of future soldiers and their gear.
DR: So the scene where Morgan Freeman gives Bruce Wayne a better bat suit is art imitating life?
CB: Yes. Exactly, yeah. Obviously, the suit has to evolve. But there were certain personal requests that I’d made and I know Chris had been very adamant about we’ve got to be able to move the head, you know? Batman has never moved his head in any of the movies.
DR: What drew you to play John Connor in another classic film franchise, the new "Terminator Salvation"?
CB: In a similar fashion that “Batman Begins” revitalized and reinvented, even though with “Terminator Salvation” we are, of course, continuing a mythology, we’re not ignoring a mythology as we did with Batman.
I see there being great potential for reinvention and revitalization of the mythology of it. And that’s when I’m aiming to do. That’s what I feel like our responsibility is; otherwise there’s no point in making it.
Photos: Top, Christian Bale at the premiere of "Rescue Dawn" in 2007. WireImage
Insert, Heath Ledger in Joker makeup, courtesy of Warner Bros.
Bottom, Batman Christian Bale and another superhero, Superman Brandon Routh, backstage at the 2006 Kids Choice Awards.