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Christopher Nolan Says Heath Ledger Initially Didn’t Want To Be In Superhero Or Batman Movies: 6 Things Learned From The FSLC Talk

by Rodrigo Perez
November 29, 2012 1:28 PM
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5. The Batman does not enter “Batman Begins” until after the first hour of the movie, but Nolan studied action touchstones beat by beat and gave evidence to Warner Bros. to assuage any concerns they had.
Something that most people seem to forget is that there wasn’t really a precedent for “Batman Begins” back in 2005. The term “reboot,” as Nolan pointed out, had not really been invented yet and was not one that audiences had any precedent for -- which helps explain why ‘Begins’ wasn’t a mega-blockbuster right out of the gate.

It took in only $48 million on opening weekend before becoming a word of mouth hit with many people not catching it until DVD when they saw that this was something very different from Joel Schumacher’s campier versions and Tim Burton's more comic panel worlds.

But getting the studio on Nolan’s side was not always easy, especially for a Batman film in which the title character doesn’t show up onscreen until roughly an hour in. To help build his case he enlisted an assistant who combed through countless blockbusters and timecoded when each major story beat would occur. Since Nolan had never made such a large film before or in the action genre, he wanted to dissect these types of films to see how they worked. He used this data not only to help conceive of the screenplay with David Goyer but also to convince WB that if the story was compelling enough audiences would wait for their hero.

6. One of those films he studied closely was Richard Donner’s “Superman.”
Which maybe makes Nolan’s godfathering/producing of “Man of Steel” not so surprising. Though he said he admired what Tim Burton had done with his Batman films by creating a gothic vision of Gotham for the character to inhabit, it was Richard Donner’s classic 1978 film that had proved a greater inspiration for his take on the character. (Tellingly, Schumacher’s films were never mentioned.)

“Superman” had cast iconic stars in small parts and Nolan wanted to do the same thing with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and others. “I looked back to Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’ for that because he cast Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford and Ned Beatty, all the characters were played by these terrific stars. So we went after that kind of depth of casting,” he told Film Comment (which are roughly the same comments he made last night). He also said he thought of “Batman Begins” as an action film, not a superhero one, which explains his more grounded take on the character.

As for “Man of Steel? Nolan gave a small taste. “Producing is a lot easier than directing. I’m doing it as we speak,” he quipped. “I think it’s outstanding. It’s something I’ve never seen before, it’s a very unique and fresh take on Superman. I think people are going to be really taken by it, but it doesn’t come out until next summer. There’s a lot of finishing to do, there’s a lot of very complex things going on [in it]. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.” -- additional reporting by Cory Everett

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  • Eve | November 30, 2012 7:16 PMReply

    Heath Ledger was superb in this film, he own his role and the movie,
    a must read, congrats to Mr. Rodrigo Perez for this great article.

  • Sean | December 1, 2012 5:11 AM

    I completely agree WONDERFUL gem of an article !!!! Heath Ledger RIP :'((((( .

  • SFlare | November 29, 2012 9:30 PMReply

    Very nice insights. I love the bit with Heath thinking he'd messed up because they wanted to reshoot the scene. Always a pleasure to read or listen to Christopher Nolan interview.

  • Christian | November 29, 2012 6:33 PMReply

    Poor Heath, such a talented young man gone too soon. You can tell Chris is genuinly heartbroken he isn't with us anymore. Nice interview.

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