Matthew Modine Discusses "The Dark Knight Rises"

With the opening of Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment's "The Dark Knight Rises" about a month away, rumors and questions about the secrecy-shrouded film abound -- and no one knows this better than actor Matthew Modine, the man playing Gotham Deputy Commissioner Foley in the film.

"I'm very excited to be a part of the film...if I told you any more, I'd be in violation of my non-disclosure agreement!" Modine laughed as he spoke one on one with CBR News about what it was like working on director Christopher Nolan and star third Batman film and his upcoming projects.

While he could not speak about who the mysterious Foley was or movie's plot points, Modine is confident that all the secrecy surrounding Nolan's final chapter will be worth the wait for fans come July 20 when the film finally releases.

"The only thing I can say is that the experience of working with Christopher Nolan and this tremendous cast of returning characters and new characters -- Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, my friend Gary Oldman -- on such an extraordinary franchise is one of the highlights of my career," Modine said.

Dubbing himself a "Dark Knight" movie franchise fan, Modine said the appeal of doing the film was partly motivated by his movie fandom but largely motivated by his love of Batman.

"I think he's such an extraordinary character, Batman, because he's a human being. He's not a man with supernatural powers, he's not a mythological character -- he's just a man who's damaged, who's broken like so many people in the world...trying to do good," Modine said.

"The interesting point then becomes, when you do good, when you're fighting crime, when do you cross that line of becoming a vigilante? I think that 'broken person doing good' is something we all aspire to in our life, trying to overcome our fears and trying to fight evil in the world. He's a character we all relate to."

With another laugh, Modine joked, "You can't really relate to Thor, for instance! I like the story, but I don't relate to him -- I can't use his hammer!"

Modine, then compared "Dark Knight Rises" to "The Avengers," attributing the popularity of Nolan's Batman to the painstaking real world grounding.

"I don't want to offend the [Marvel] people by saying that the Avengers are just mythological characters with magic powers, because I'd offend half of the people who buy comic books. But the thing that's extraordinary about Batman is that he's a man, he's not a superman. He's of this earth...he's broken and he's trying to repair himself," Modine clarified. "I think that Christopher Nolan has been a masterful storyteller in taking that story about the Dark Knight and re-envisioning the story for a whole new generation of film goers."

Describing his excitement the first time he walked on "The Dark Knight Rises" set, Modine continued his praise for Nolan, describing the man behind the trilogy as a hands-on director.

"This may sound simplistic to say it, but when Christopher Nolan makes a film, he stands by the camera. The only person I can compare him to in this sense is Stanley Kubrick, who used to operate the camera. I'd say 90% of 'Full Metal Jacket,' the camera was operated by Stanley Kubrick," Modine said. "Today, so many film directors are not on the set. They're behind the television monitor viewing the movie from dozens of yards away from where the action is actually taking place.

"We know from the past, that image of the director standing there with a megaphone saying 'Action!' My point is, that's not so much done today, so to have a director standing on set, participating and being involved in the scene, is very old school."

Modine was also thrilled to get screen time with Gary Oldman, who reprises his role as Commission Gordon.

"Gary's an old friend, we've worked together before, we came up together. I'm a great admirer of Gary," Modine said, confessing good naturedly he was a bit awed by the rest of the cast. "Even if I wasn't in a scene, I wanted to be there, watching how [Nolan] was making the film, watching the other actors work. I mean, look who you have! When do you get a chance to watch Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman and Christian Bale? Some of the most wonderful actors alive working today?"

The actor also admitted to being a big fan of the Batman comics as both a kid and an adult. "Of contemporary artists I love Frank Miller -- I think his illustrations are so extraordinary and graphic, and I think his relationship with ['Sin City' co-director] Robert Rodriguez is a powerful marriage between two visionaries," the actor said.

"The Dark Knight Rises" isn't Modine's only high-profile film role fanss have to look forward to as he recently agreed to appear in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic "Jobs." Filming is set to begin this summer, with Ashton Kutcher playing Jobs and Modine portraying John Sculley, the CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993.

"The man who fired Steve Jobs from his own company!" Modine declared. The actor then compared the story of how Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985 to how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team -- both events, according to Modine, that helped drive the two men to achieve the extraordinary.

"When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computers, he went off and founded his own company. It was during that journey, being away from Apple that I believe, like Michael Jordan, he began to understand who he was and gave him the drive he needed in order to become...the great innovator we all know him to be."

This summer also sees the twenty-fifth anniversary of "Full Metal Jacket, director Stanley Kubrick's famous Vietnam film and the movie that first brought Modine to national attention. It also is the subject of Modine's book, "Full Metal Jacket Diary."

"I was encouraged by Kubrick to keep a diary [while shooting] and he allowed me to take photographs on set, which became 'Full Metal Jacket Diary,'" Modine explained, saying that the 2005 publication was limited to about twenty thousand metal-bound, serial numbered copies.

"I wanted to make something that Stanley Kubrick would be proud of, that he would say this is a beautiful book...I wanted it to be a collector's item. [After publication,] I met this young fellow [Adam Rackoff] from Apple Computers and he was a fan of 'Full Metal Jacket Diary' and he asked me, 'What if I turned your book into an app?' I said, 'An app?'" recalled Modine with a laugh.

Rackoff explained that he wanted to record Modine reading the book, playing all the parts, and scan in the photos and never before seen content, essentially creating an audio/visual iPad app. "The app will come out this summer to correspond with the release of the twenty-fifth anniversary Blu-Ray edition of the movie," Modine said, adding that there are plans to expand into the Android market in the future.

While Modine's career has spanned multiple prestigious films and shows, from "Any Given Sunday" and HBO's "Too Big To Fail," the actor confessed his absolute dream role is not from a contemporary source but was written 130 years ago.

"There's a story I've always been in love with since I went to acting school, it's a play written by Henrik Ibsen called 'An Enemy Of The People,'" Modine said. The 1882 play revolves around Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a small town doctor who discovers pollution from a local tannery is getting into the town's water. However, when he tries to stop it the town rises against him, worried that bringing the issue to light will hurt their tourist trade.

"The reason I like this story is the man who discovers this problem becomes an enemy of the people because of the other people's greed, their desire not to change their lifestyles; I don't know an environmentalists today who won't tell you we're at a tipping point, that our behavior on this planet is unsustainable," Modine said. "I want to play that guy who's trying to get people to wake up and pay attention and realize we have to do something before we create a situation that is disastrous."

Bringing the conversation back to "The Dark Knight Rises," Modine compared the upcoming film to the blockbuster movies his father would show at the drive-in theatre he managed when Modine was younger.

"I remember the big ticket movies that would come to my dad's theatre, the excitement that would surround them, anticipation," Modine said. "I think this film will deliver that kind of hope and love for people and humanity -- it may sound strange, but I think all those things will be embodied in this final chapter of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's Batman.

"Legends don't die, you see. People die but legends live -- and what Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have created with this story will be stuff of legend."

"The Dark Knight Rises" releases theatrically July 20.

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