FilmHounds was invited to an exclusive press conference for The Batman, here's what the cast (Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano and Jeffrey Wright) had to say about their roles and their experiences making this epic film.
Q: How does it feel now that audiences can see these iconic characters brought back to the big screen in your way?
ZK: It's scary. It's rare that the release of a film is just as intense as the making of the film. It's exciting as well because we all poured our hearts in to this film and I hope everyone really likes it.
Q: Do you feel that fear, Robert?
RP: Yeah it was such an unusual shoot. It took a lot of time. Matt Reeves was attached for five years and I was on for three. It's very surreal just seeing the posters, it makes me realise “oh wait this is actually happening”. It's starting to feel a bit more real now though and also I really like the movie so at least there's that…
Q: And what about you, Jeffrey?
JW: Yeah well I think every film that's come before this has been done in its own way and they were made for that time. What really excited me about this script and Matt's vision was that he was making a Batman for now and honouring the history of the franchise from 1939 til today, while infusing this film with a relevance to a 21st Century Gotham that I think is really exciting and I think is going to be thrilling for fans. It's modern and it's now but it's also based in the origins of the characters which is around mystery and detective work and all of that good stuff.
Q: Something that's very different is you character, Paul, it's not the old Riddler wearing bright green. So for you, how was it portraying that character?
PD: I had them make me some little green underwear just to have an unseen homage to the origins of the character. It was great, Matt gave us a gift with an incredibly beautiful, fully realised, singular script – that was the foundation. He's doing a couple of things; offering us the chance to do something that's a bit a bit more real, grounded, emotional and psychological. While also fulfilling the sort of archetypical doodie that you have to have when you're entering a mythology. I think somehow those two things have been married together and that was the hope with this Riddler; that any contact with reality might actually make him more scary. But also still, it's still Gotham and he's the Riddler. So even if Matt referenced the Zodiac Killer or something I was always like “ok, but he's The Riddler”. It was a challenge but a pleasure and I'm absolutely relieved to release the film now because I love it and I think I'll be sad in a few weeks when I go “oh well I guess I'll just move on with my life…for now”.
Q: You mentioned grounded and we see a lot of that in the film where we actually see a lot more of Batman and less of Bruce Wayne, and more of him just out in the world, so how was that change for you, Robert?
RP: The first time I read the script I noticed that it was a massive departure from the traditional way Bruce Wayne is portrayed, like a playboy. He's very much in control of the three aspects of his personality; Bruce Wayne the playboy, he's a bit silly and stuff, then he's the Bruce at home – oh I'm just describing the old movies let's move on. Anyway, in this, he doesn't know how to live, he's let Bruce wither, since his parents death he's just withered away. He hasn't worked on himself at all apart from this kind of obscure way where he's created this alter ego that he wants to live in more and more and more. I don't think he has an enormous amount of control when he puts that suit on. He genuinely believes he's another person and he's addicted to it. When Riddler comes along and calls him out, it's almost like he's more afraid of his identity being revealed than dying because it's almost worse than death. Don't ask me to explain that.
ZK: No, no it makes sense. It's the death of what's keeping you alive.
Q: Throughout a lot of the film, it feels like a lot of the cast could have been the Robin to your Batman.
RP: That's how I feel in most movies.
Q: But the relationship between Lt. Gordon and The Batman is really special, for you both to create that relationship we see with a little bit of sarcasm and the seriousness of the real world. How did you guys work on that together?
RP: It's kind of funny because there are pretty big stakes but I love the relationship in that Batman isn't even known as Batman in the city. He's just some guy with an outfit on and Gordon's just like “Yeah I kinda like him”. He's really out on a limb. He does have some advanced technology but not really, he's just a guy that Gordon believes in. Bruce values that belief so much because he's literally the only person. At this point in the story even Alfred doesn't think it's a good idea.
JW: I think one of the questions we ask at the beginning and what we ask the audience to ask is “Why this cape and cowl?”. We don't assume that it's heroic and we don't assume that it represents all of these things that we've come to know over time Batman to be. We see it as odd. That relationship between Batman and Gordon, there's an oddness there and we've all seen the scene that we actually shot on the first day where we both walk into a crime scene full of cops. They're all looking at him through a strange lens and wondering not only who he is but why Gordon is with him. Immediately they're isolated together out of a type of desperation and utility and we try to drive on through there, through this detective work. Which again goes back to the origins of Detective Comics and is what Matt wanted to celebrate – Batman being the world's greatest detective and, in this case, Gordon as a cop on the street.
Q: Was there a lot of training to get the physicality of Catwoman, Zoe?
ZK: It's rare to have a character who's physicality is equally as important as anything else you're doing. We had an incredible stunt choreographer named Rob Alonso who was so interested in who this people were and where they were emotionally and found really interesting ways of infusing that into the stunt choreography. I did also watch plenty of cat videos, I loved the mystery behind the way they moved and their smoothness and really wanted to find ways of bringing that sense of elegance to my character.
Q: You and Rob Alonso go way back don't you?
ZK: Rob was my Taekwan-Do when I was 8 years old. I have a photo of Rob holding something up for me to hit when I was very little. It's surreal and it's crazy that he was teaching children Taekwan-Do and now we're doing Batman together. Life's good.
Q: Did anyone get a bruise or something that they'll have a memento of filming this?
JW: I actually tore my meniscus filming this and I've no idea how. I just remember hobbling around for weeks asking Matt for several breaks. These things happen.
ZK: I fell down the stairs of my apartment but I feel like it was because I was so sore and tired from shooting. I still have a scar on my back from that.
PD: Someone just randomly sang Ave Maria to me in the street and I really wasn't supposed to be thinking about where my brain went to when I heard that song. So my relationship to that song may be something I'll remember for a long time.
Q: Robert, did you immediately say yes to this role, or did you have to take a moment to consider that this is a big shift from things we've seen you in more recently?
RP: There's something about the nature of the part, the fact that it's been around for such a long time. It shows that there's so many different ways of playing it even though you've got half of your face hidden and its kind of bizarre that you can but Batman into so many contexts. Also there's the legacy of the people that have been involved, it's a massive privilege.
Q: Zoe, you gave Catwoman a great human side, how was it for you to tackle such an iconic character?
ZK: It was intimidating. I think the hardest part is forgetting that they are these iconic characters, that was really half the battle. In order to really honour who these people are and play them as three dimensional characters you can't think of them as “Catwoman” you just have to play them as a human being in a situation and hope that it all flows together. What's amazing is I think that this film still works if you strip away the weight of the names of the characters and that's incredible accomplishment. Matt Reeves is a genius.
Q: Paul, was there a piece of music or another film that Matt recommended to you to show what he wanted you to bring to the character?
PD: Yeah there was a few things. Matt actually wrote Something In The Way (by Nirvana) into the script which I found to be a very potent and powerful piece of music. That coupled with the fact that later on he had a cue by Aaron Copland – Fanfare For The Common Man which is used in an ironic way because it's this quintessential, American, heroic sound. Both I found really worked well off of each other and they were given to me in the script.
Q: Jeffrey, in this film Batman and Gordon are almost partners. Do you feel the character of Jim Gordon has more depth this time?
JW: I don't know, he's always Gordon. Matt was really clever in activating him and I think he wanted to ignite the core elements of this film. Yes, it's a Batman and yes there's all of that kinetic energy but he really wanted to make a film that was layered and plot driven and focused on mystery. He also wanted to pay homage to the films he and I grew up loving like Sidney Lumet's work, The French Connection, All The President's Men, that kind of golden age of American cinema in the 1970s. I wouldn't say that Gordon has more depth but he does certainly have to do in partnership with Batman in this film which was exciting for me. It serves the interests of the character but also those of the film and also it really goes back to the core of what DC is about. I think fans are gonna dig it.
Q: Paul, The Riddler's costume is so radically different from anything we've seen before. What were the influences and how much input did you have on its creation?
PD: There was a lot there on the page and Matt certainly had some real life influences like the Zodiac Killer. But what was cool about it is that when you see the film and who Edward Nashton (The Riddler) was inspired by but he doesn't the same resources to make his costume. So we did work together, that stuff's incredibly important because you try to imbue with the energy. I needed that mask to carry some of the character for me because he's a lot. Finding the right mask and what that allows to come through for the character – somebody who feels powerless being able to feel totally powerful – but also for me it allows something to come through which I don't think would without the mask. We then tried this thing with the cling wrap because I didn't want to shave all the hair off my body because he should still be able to go out in the world and have his own Bruce Wayne, some invisible guy. So I was just trying to cover all these homegrown details without the resources. I think it's an effective costume and I think it's fairly upsetting.
Q: Jeffrey, would you say Gordon is more faithful to being true and good rather than the duty imbued by his badge?
JW: What's wonderful about Batman is that everyone is human. They all live in a city fashioned after New York back in 1939, it's a grounded thing. They all have their flaws and strengths. Some are out of balance but some are less so. I think that Gordon represents a certain idea or ideal of integrity and optimism in the midst of everything falling apart. It's explored a lot in the comics and some of the contemporary stuff who he is when the doors are closed. I don't his is an allegiance to institutions, I think his is an allegiance to the possibility of the integrity of institutions – it's more about the idea that in a simple way, we can do better than this. It's not for the sake of the individual, it's more for the sake of the collective – that's what makes him such an attractive figure amidst all of the corruption and decay of Gotham.
The Batman releases in Cinemas on Friday 4th March