LOS ANGELES—Surprisingly, Christian Bale’s Batman days almost ended before they began. When he showed up to shoot Batman Begins, he had a panic attack. The costume he was given left him fighting for breath, and he contemplated quitting the film. He says, in an L.A. hotel, that he told director Christopher Nolan that he might want to rethink the casting.
“I told Chris he should recast because the claustrophobia was just unbelievable. I stood there and I thought, ‘I can’t breathe; I can’t think; this is too tight. This is squeezing my head. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown or panic attack right this second.’ I said [to the crew], ‘Could everyone just leave me alone for 20 minutes?’ I just stood there and thought, ‘I’d really like to make this movie. I’d like to be able to get through this moment here.’ I called them back in and said, ‘Okay, let’s just talk very calmly and quietly and maybe I can get through this.’ ”
The film was a minor disappointment at the box office but led to The Dark Knight, which was one of the most successful films in recent history, making more than $1 billion internationally. Bale again plays Batman and alter ego Bruce Wayne for the third and final installment, The Dark Knight Rises, which opens Friday (July 20) and is expected to be an even bigger hit.
Bale says that Nolan was prescient when he cowrote the script, which alludes to citizens being told it’s time for them to take back Gotham City from the bankers and stockbrokers. And he says that helped the movie to return to the topical stories that are at the root of the original story.
“Occupy Wall Street actually happened a couple of blocks away from where we were filming in New York, but Chris had no way of knowing it was going to happen when he wrote the script. But by the time it was happening, I was looking at him, going: ‘What the hell? How did you know?’ My understanding is that Bob Kane created this character in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. It was an answer to the uselessness that individuals felt against this humongous tragedy. So it was topical in its inception, and I think Chris returned it to that.”
The second time Bale asked to be alone occurred on his final day on the set of The Dark Knight Rises. He says that when he realized it would be the last time he would be wearing the costume, he again needed a little space to think about what the series had meant to him.
“I said, ‘Can you please leave me alone for 20 minutes?’ But it was with the realization of everything we’ve done and the real pride of having achieved what we had set out to do. It’s been a very important character, and the movies themselves have changed my life and changed my career. So I wanted to just appreciate that for a little while.”
Watch the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises.