WonderCon Batman Begins Panel Transcript

Christian Bale: He-llo.

Q: Hello, sir. (Laughs.) How are ya?

CB: Good, thank you.

Q: Good deal. I was just wondering what is it like to be in that costume, considering the lineage behind it, and can you be expecting to make another Batman film after this one?

CB: It is—it's one hell of an honor to wear that Batsuit. Y'know? And that being said, it's very hot, it's very dark and sweaty, it gives you a headache. But when I use that for channeling the rage that I felt that the Batman should have—. (Audience laughs and applauds.) And, y'know, we'll wait and see. I have signed up for three of them—. (Gasps and applause.) That'll depend upon you guys, you know? If you like it—if you like what we've done, and if people like what I've done with it.

Q: Thank you.

CB: Thank you.

Q: How you doing?

CB: Good.

Q: First of all, I want to say—excuse my French—you were the shit in American Psycho. (Applause.) In regards to the previous attempts at Batman, who was your personal favorite, and did you reflect as far as how they delivered the character and kind of veer away from that or take elements of what each of them...

CB: You know what? I didn't want to refer to anything that I'd seen before. (Applause.) I wanted to make sure that this truly was, y'know, the genesis. It's not a prequel. It's not a sequel. It's a reinvention of the lore. And it's also something that is sticking to the mood and the atmosphere of Frank Miller's work—. (Enthusiastic applause.) Of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. You know, the artistry of Alex Ross as well. That was my source for it, not the other movies, not the TV series. Great as it was, the TV series, I didn't realize until I first picked up a graphic novel that that was a spoof on what Batman was. And there was something that I read in a forward to one of Frank Miller's graphic novels in which he said that, to him, Batman was never funny. You know, this was a dangerous character. And I loved the sound of that. There's a great deal of comedy in terms of Alfred, in terms of the other characters, but I really felt that I had never had an adequate explanation about why a man would dress up as a bat. (Laughter.) And truly believe that to be intimidating, y'know? And so, very much, with this movie, we wanted to recreate all of that, and make it a far more human experience and also a much darker experience than seen before. (Applause.)

Q: My question is: I was a kid in the '60s when the TV series came out, and I want to know what you thought of Adam West's version of Batman?

CB: Listen. I think he did a great job, but I wanted to do nothing like that for this one, y'know? It was great but as a spoof, and you know, he was camping it up a great deal. And I ain't camping it up in this one.

Q: Hello, Christian. It's great to see you here. I was just wondering—like you do so many dark roles, like I mean American Psycho, Equilibrium, which, by the way, still rocks...(Applause.) I still watch that movie, and it still makes my heart just race. And this—and now Batman, and I mean, how do you do it? Like how do you—where do you go to, like, get all this darkness for the characters that you are?

CB: (Laughs.) I don't know if I can tell you that. You know? (Laughter.) But, uh, regardless of where I go for it, which really is less important than if you look at where Bruce Wayne goes for this. And very much in this movie, we're making it much more character-based. We want to understand the pain, the anger, the guilt that he went through. The obsession and the fanaticism that he must have to maintain those feelings through to adulthood. And, y'know, I think in smaller degrees, we all have certain things that have happened in our lives that we can draw on for that, you know? And I also kind of view Batman—you know, somebody mentioned American Psycho. (Pause.) He's kind of an American psycho. (Laughter.)

Q: Thanks again for showing up. (Applause.)

Q: Hi—how you doing?...My question is: what was it like working with Chris Nolan and Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman?

CB: It's got one hell of a cast.

Q: Yeah.

CB: You know? Yeah, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy—who's playing Scarecrow—. (Applause.) Who did a great job in 28 Days Later.... Um, Gary Oldman, you know, playing Gordon, who—he was always one of my favorite actors growing up, so that was just fantastic to get to work with him. And then, you know, Chris—who obviously did Memento, which was a, I felt, stunning movie—Insomnia. And he just—we just jelled about how we wanted to make Batman. I had to screen-test for it. And I decided that in auditioning for it, that I was going to do it as extreme as I felt that it should be. And—fingers crossed—they would go for it, or they would look at me and think, "The guy is a nut case," y'know? (Laughter.) "Why on earth would we risk this great franchise that Warner Brothers owns with that kind of performance?" But they loved it, y'know? I knew that just the fact that they'd asked Chris to direct that they wanted to take this in a whole different direction. Chris is an incredibly smart guy. He had a great respect, again, for all of the graphic novels. That was his source as well. And we just communicated very well beforehand, so that when we were actually working together, he pretty much let me take it away, y'know? And do whatever I wished.

Q: Hi. I'm a person who has a high metabolism, and when—how did you gain your weight after doing The Machinist? Like, what was your process, and how long did it take? (Laughter.)

CB: Man, I did it too fast. Losing the weight was nothing. It felt fine. But, y'know, I knew that obviously Batman could not look the way that I was looking—. (Laughter.) When I was doing The Machinist. It was something that Chris was very concerned about as well. He'd be speaking to me on the telephone and saying, "Listen," y'know, he's got to try and convince Warner Brothers that I'm the right guy for the job, and you know. It was like that. But it was just pure eating and lifting weights and just, again and again and again. And far too much. And very dull and boring. But, y'know, it's what I had to do to get there.

Q: Thank you.

Q: How's it going? What inspired you to be an actor, and who's your favorite actors or actresses?

CB: I actually got kind of inspired by—I would say that, if I had interest in it, when I was doing—at Wright Little School—comedy sketches and things with a friend of mine, and I just found, y'know, I enjoyed the kind of immersion and obsession that you had to have with the different characters, and I just enjoyed that feeling, you know. It's kind of—it's a very nice sort of concrete feeling when you're playing a character, and you have certainties that you just don't have in your everyday life at all. And for me, in terms of actors that I respect, like I said, I mean Gary would have to be one of them. But for me really, it's anybody who's prepared to really go the distance and be on that fine line of giving a great performance or making a complete fool of yourself.

Audience member: Show the clip! (Laughter.)

Q: Hi. Huge fan for many years. Just saw Equilibrium, like, the other day, and I was blown away. My question is your favorite part about this specific movie, like with the actors and on set?

CB: Y'know, the Batmobile had to be one of the highlights. I loved what they did with it. You know? It's indicative of what we did with the rest of the movie in that it looks nothing like any of the other Batmobiles. There's a great foundation to, y'know, the practicality of everything to do with Batman: the Batmobile, the suit, the cowl, everything is explained in great detail. And that's what I enjoyed most. Then also, they built this phenomenal set of Gotham on a—it wasn't a soundstage, it was an old building that they used to build blimps in. And so they truly could build an actual city within it. And that was just stunning—y'know, getting to drive the Batmobile around there.

Q: Hi, Christian.

CB: Hey.

Q: Looking over, like, your past movies like Newsies,which was an awesome movie—. (Applause.) Newsies, Reign of Fire, American Psycho, and The Machinist—which I thought you were awesome in—did you ever think of yourself as being a superhero, or have ever wished to be one?

CB: Fuck no. No, I mean, never—.

Q: No?

CB: Never imagined that was going to happen. Wished for it, yeah. Had a bizarre bet, actually, with the director of Equilibrium. Out of nowhere one day he came up to me and said, "One day, you're gonna play Batman."

Q: Oh, really? Wow!

CB: And I said, "How much you wanna bet? Because that'd be the easiest money I've ever made," and I bet him five-hundred bucks, which I lost. (Laughter.) (Laughs.) But, uh, I didn't ever think about it because it wasn't until—I guess it was five or six years ago that I read any of the graphic novels, and I saw the potential of this bad-ass Dark Knight character that, you know, to me, just kicks ass compared to any other superhero.

Q: Yeah. (Cheers.)

CB: It wasn't until I read that that I thought, "There is really something here, and I would envy anybody who ever got to play it in that fashion."

Q: Yeah. Were you at all hesitant?

CB: Hesitant? Absolutely not. No.

Q: Good. I'm so glad you're up for this part. You have balls. (Laughs.)

CB: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Hey, Christian, thanks for being here. The three Batman Begins questions I had for you were already taken by three other people ahead of me, so I'll ask you about Empire of the Sun. How was it working with Spielberg?

CB: You know, that was something else, obviously. I was a little young to really truly appreciate it. But they probably want people here for Batman questions, huh? But it was a good thing.

Q: Hey, Christian, thanks for being here. First, I thought you deserved an Oscar for your performance in American Psycho. Then, about American Psycho, I was also wondering if you had an opportunity to revisit the character of Patrick Bateman, would you take it? And also what, in your entire body of work, are you most proud of?

CB: I wouldn't take it unless Bret Easton Ellis had written it. Y'know? You know, They made an American Psycho 2, which—uh, uh, uhh—I didn't see it. (Laughter.) But proudest of? You know, many different things. Many different things. This has got to be one of them. American Psycho as well. The Machinist. All for varying reasons, you know, because each project that you do kind of really becomes your baby and, y'know, you just feel bad about favoring one over the other.

Q: How involved were you in the stunt work and do you have any, like, awkward tales about the stunt work of this film?

CB: You know, I would love to be able to tell you that I did all the stunt work. But they had these great stuntmen—some of whom are like five-times mixed-martial-arts champions, UFC kind-of guys—all that, you know? (Laughs.) You know, I couldn't compete with them. But, we came up with a—but we found a great fighting style called Kaycee, which is a relatively new fighting style, which is very, very brutal and worked extremely well with the whole Batsuit. And I did as much as I could. They taught me everything. I did a lot of wire work, primarily before the movie started. Then we had an accident where somebody landed straight on their face (audience gasps) from an eighty-foot fall, and they suddenly didn't want me to do it so much. (Laughter.) But I would do—I did every single fight that you see in the movie. However, when I was starting to get tired—you could see me flagging—then Buster, his name is, would step in and frankly do it a whole lot better than I was doing anyway.

Q: Hi again, Christian. A lot of us that have seen the Batman movies in the past have walked out of the movie theatres shaking heads, going "Noooo."

CB: "Heeey."

Q: And now, we get you. And we've been looking on the internet, and we're like, "Yes, this is finally it." You're the new Batman, and you get a whole new Batmobile. Tell us what that's like.

CB: Yeah, everything should be new. Listen, if you guys are not leaving feeling satisfied afterwards, then, y'know, we've failed because that's the whole point of this. You know, we looked at it and said, "There is an audience out there that has just not been given what they should have been given, and what we want to see." (Applause.) So for you guys, y'know, you're kind of the hard-core fans. You know all about it. You know what it should have been all these years. Hopefully, you guys are gonna be satisfied, and for everybody else, they are going to be surprised and satisfied at quite how good, y'know, this movie could be. And the Batmobile—the thing—driving the Batmobile is kinda like, uh, having Ozzy Osbourne when he was in Black Sabbath just kind of screaming in your ear—. (Laughter.) As you're driving it, you know? It's exhilarating.

Q: Hi, Christian. How you doin'?

CB: Good.

Q: Two questions for you. Number one, this is a character that means a lot to me personally, and to a lot of people. Did you feel a burden taking on this character? And my second question is: did you approach The Batman/Bruce Wayne as one character or as two? You put the cowl on and Batman is a separate character from Bruce Wayne.

CB: Listen, I completely appreciated that it does mean an awful lot to many people—as it should, y'know. This is American mythology here. However, I had a couple of days after I first got cast when I could not get that out of my head. And all I was thinking about was what do people want to see? You can't turn in a good performance if you're worried about what everyone else wants to see. You have to just have your own belief—a conviction in it—focus yourself, and you know, and I became obsessive about it. So I had a very, very clear idea about the way that I wanted to play it, and y'know. I hope that you guys appreciate it. But it came to mean an awful lot to me as well. And—what was the second part of the question?

Q: The second part of the question: did you approach this character—Bruce—.

CB: Oh, Bruce Wayne versus Batman.

Q: Wayne and Batman—as two separate characters, or...?

CB: I couldn't help but feel, when I first put on the Batsuit, that I wanted to see a creature. I didn't want to see a man dressed as a bat. You know? I wanted to see a beast come out. And, of course, y'know, the two are linked. But I think that the interesting idea behind it is that the Bruce Wayne character is the mask. The Batman is the true self, y'know? (Hearty applause.) That that is the way, Wayne's the actor. And Bruce Wayne is what he creates in order to be able to be socially acceptable, y'know? And to disguise the fact that he is actually Batman. But, y'know—and there is that constant conflict of his rage and his need for vengeance. And the fact that he's a very capable fighter, and he's very brutal, with the fact that he has the philanthropy learned from his father. And the need to uphold his father's good works. But that, y'know, frankly, he wants to kill. You know? He wants to kill, but he's having to reign himself in constantly. Because Batman never kills.

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Bale. Thanks for being in San Francisco. Just had two quick questions. The first one was: in the movie Equilibrium, the whole Gunkata thing was—did you have a lot of say in that too, or did you help—or did Kurt Wimmer just come up with that?

CB: You know, it came actually from a mistake. Originally, there were going to be bullets that were clashing in mid-air throughout the entire fight. I think it was budget problems. And we couldn't do it. And so we had—man, we had weeks of rehearsals to get the Gunkata through. And I think it turned out brilliantly, you know? (Applause.) I think that the stuntmen on that did a phenomenal job. You know, I haven't seen anything like that before, and I haven't seen anything like it since.

Q: Pleasure to have you here. What was, like, the toughest thing you had to do on Batman Begins that ended up being, like, the most gratifying thing you did?

CB: I think that—I mean, obviously I'd have to look at many of the fight sequences because they were exhausting, and things go wrong, and you end up getting hit very often, and you have to do it again and again and again, but I think that, y'know, when you see the movie, you're gonna see that they're some of the best ones that, y'know, have been put on film. But, uh (pause) for me, the one thing that I really look back on and remember as hating throughout filming is kind of what I was referring to earlier—is I love the cowl, and I hate that cowl, at the same time, you know? And the reason being that just the material—it had to be so tight that, you know, within twenty minutes, I was the most foul-tempered person you could come across. But, I used it. You know? I refused to take it off. I said to them, "No, just leave it on." You know? And they were like, "Ye-ah, but we can see that you're gettin' mad," and I was like, (intense) "It's fine." (Laughter.) "It's okay. You know, leave it on there. It's gonna work."

Q: How does it feel to see your face and likeness immortalized in all kinds of merchandise: toys, shirts, posters?

CB: I haven't really seen that yet, you know? I've seen impressions of it. I visited DC. They showed me the workings of it—of how it's gonna be. Y'know. I think that's something that I'm really going to enjoy being able to show, y'know, my kids—getting a kick out of it from seeing that. I'm personally kinda—I can't help but keep a distance, and I still view it as "Y'know, that's Batman. That's not me," you know? I can't help but do that. But I mean, shit, c'mon, it's going to be a blast getting to see that kind of stuff. (Laughter and applause.)

Q: I just wanted to say, you kicked all manner of ass as the Grammaton Cleric in Equilibrium. I've been handing out the DVD at work. It's like this is like the Batman audition piece. It's like so cool to see someone bring so much depth and just dedication to the whole process that—I just needed to gush—not a question. Just you rock. (Applause.)

CB: Thank you.

Q: Thank you for being here. I was wondering: the information you gave us tonight was quite exciting, that you're up for three, and I was wondering if you know if the director—assuming everything goes well this summer—would be up for three as well, or if there'd be a different director for each film?

CB: You gonna have to be asking him that, y'know? As far as I know, y'know, he's not. But that doesn't mean he won't.

Q: Mr. Bale, I feel that, I mean, a lot of us here probably won't ever get to be this close to you again because I think it's going to be just such a successful film coming out. But with this kind of character and the sheer fan base, you get a lot of rumors. And you get some real crazy ones. And I'm like, "Can this actor do some of these—like just be into the comic-book world and"—I mean, like, batmanonfilm.com has a lot of rumors and rumor controls. Do you ever hear any kind of strange things that others may have said about you that kind of make you just go, "Ga—. What the heck?"

CB: Yep. (Laughter.) (Laughs.) Yep, an awful lot. I haven't kept track about everything that's going on with Batman, you know? I hear things about reviews of the movie, which are completely incorrect, y'know? But it's interesting to see—y'know, to try and kind of filter the fact from the fiction. But it's a very confusing thing for anybody who was not actually involved in the movie to know what on earth is correct and what isn't. And because most of the time, it's a complete confusion and blend of it all. But in terms of hearing weird things, yeah, it kind of comes with the job. And frankly, I don't really care because, y'know, I'm an actor. People might be confused about me, about, y'know, the job that you do. And I think that, if anything, that benefits a movie and benefits an actor as well.

Q: I just have to say that I think you're a phenomenal actor.

CB: Thank you.

Q:And my question is: you've played so many characters, most of them dark, and I was wondering which one was your favorite?

CB: Um, I mean, I have to say that playing Patrick Bateman was very gratifying. But it was largely because I had to fight so hard to be able to play that character because nobody except for the director wanted me to play it. And so, you know, it was about a year and a half of struggling to get that finally—y'know, get the role to be mine. So that was very gratifying. Equally, The Machinist holds a great place in my heart as well. And, y'know, and this one is, does, and will do, too.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thank you for being here today. The question I've had is: when you were prepared for this role, and, as Batman, the Dark Knight, do you often feel like during those exhausting hours of working that what could burn you out—what the Batman character would be—that maybe Gotham City is a child, and Batman would do anything, or Bruce Wayne, to protect her?

CB: Yeah. Because he holds all the memories of what was good, y'know? Of his father's wishes for the city, what it could become, and seeing it being destroyed, you know? So, absolutely, you know, for him its kind of an attempt to return to innocence. You know, in a way, it's quite a naïve approach that he has to start. And Chris and I both felt—it was something Chris would often reiterate to me—that he felt that Bruce, as Batman, initially felt that this would be a job with an end. That he can fix Gotham, obliterate the Batman character, and everything would run smoothly from there on in. And he kind of becomes trapped because he started something—it causes escalation.

[For Groucho's review of Batman Begins, click here.]