SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "The Dark Knight," released in the US on July 18.
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart -- between these actors are some of dramatic cinema's most excellent performances, but even the most ardent movie buff would be hard-pressed to isolate a single project that boasted such an auspicious cast. But it shouldn't surprise DC Comics fans that all those performers have associated themselves with one of the publisher's biggest -- and coolest-- icons, the Batman.
Perhaps the most celebrated among the casts of "Batman Begins" and the forthcoming sequel "The Dark Knight" is actor Gary Oldman. Beloved for his intense and wildly diverse performances in such films as "Leon," "The Fifth Element," "JFK," "True Romance," "Immortal Beloved," "Basquiat" just to name a few. In Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," Oldman plays Batman's ally Lieutenant James Gordon, an honest cop in a city of corruption who in this film finds himself dealing with the fallout of the Batman's radical war on crime.
In this fourth in our series of interviews with the cast and crew of "The Dark Knight," CBR News along with other members of the press met with Gary Oldman on the film's set in Chicago, where he had just finished filming a scene in a bank vault, which he failed repeatedly -- and to very humorous effect -- to catch a bundle of money tossed by Christian Bale.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the death of Heath Ledger.
You seemed to be having some trouble in that bank vault, with the money tossing....
I think it was maybe a little bit of both. Of course, I caught it spectacularly in my close-up. Chris Nolan said, "You're just catching it in the close-up because you want me to cut to the close-up!" He thought I was dropping it deliberately.
What's different in "The Dark Knight" for James Gordon?
I have new suits! I have a little more to do in this one. I am promoted to Commissioner in the film. I don't want to give too much away, so without going into the plot, [Gordon's] got more of an emotional arc. There's a big scene I have in the finale with Two-Face. I'm better used. [laughs]
In the first film, Batman shows up and says, "Here I am, Gordon. You have to deal with it." How has that relationship evolved in this film?
It's evolved and it's developed, but official policy is to arrest Batman. So there is still that element -- I'm dealing with this vigilante who's running around dressed as a bat. I trust him, I think. In that sense, it is developed and [Batman] is an ally. But there is a tension, an underlying kind of tension between them just because of what [Batman] does and who he is.
In the comics and in many of the movies, Gordon's role is in many respects expositional. He talks to Batman, he tells Batman what's going on and Batman goes and does his thing. How do you approach scenes that are expositional?
They're very hard. It's very hard to make exposition sound like someone talking. It's the hardest thing to do and I had a whole morning of it [in the bank vault]. I just do it and hope it's okay!
I have done the three "Harry Potter" films. It's the same kind of thing. You breathe a sigh of relief when you actually get something that's got some kind of emotional connection. Most of the stuff you speak is plot. So yeah, like the comic, [Gordon's] very much here [the bank vault].
Who brings Harvey Dent into the team of Batman and Gordon?
[Harvey] becomes the District Attorney and he's another -- I wouldn't say wild card but he's another head-strong. A real character, in that sense, to deal with. You saw in the scene this morning, [I said to Batman], "Dent's as head-strong and stubborn as you are." So I've got Batman on this side and I've got Harvey Dent on this side. It's tough policing this.
Is this a fun role?
Yes, it's a wonderful thing to be involved in. [Heath Ledger] gets to wear the makeup, [Christian Bale] wears the suit. It's like all the fireworks are going off. They're the flowers and I'm the vase. I've had my share of playing sort of those frenetic, emotional characters, so part of the challenge and the fun of doing this -- that's the appeal about it -- is to play Gordon. To move away from that villain, that psychotic, crazy kind of stuff -- which Christian is to some extent doing. There's a crazy side to Batman and [the Joker] is just, you know....
Have you filmed any scenes with the Joker?
Yeah. He's pretty good. He's going to be pretty special, I think.
Several members of the creative team have likened the Joker, or at least his early inspiration, to Johnny Rotten. Having played Johnny Rotten's band mate Sid Vicious in "Sid & Nancy," do you think that's accurate?
You know what, I think all along with this, Chris has tried root the thing in some reality. You know where the franchise ended up, so he wanted to make it more realistic, given the framework that it's Batman and darker and edgier rather like the comic book. The inspiration for the Joker is punk, which explains the colored clothes. It is very sort of Johnny Rotten. Very punkish. The smile, the scars like from a razor, and he's got a green rinse in his hair. You look at him and he's forbidding and not like a clown. It is very dangerous and very unhinged. And he plays him like Coco the clown on crack.
How has your working relationship with Chris evolved over this production?
I think it's more relaxed. We've established something. It's just more familiar. And it's nice to come back and step into the role again. [Heath's] going to blow you away.