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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No Second Unit

Good interview about Batman Begins with Christopher Nolan. I really believe David S. Goyer was one of the reasons I didn't like the film as much as I was looking forward to it but Nolan also wrote quite alot of the script:

How did your collaboration with David S. Goyer come about?

How it worked was I’d gone to the studio and said what I’d wanted to do with the film and the basic idea of the story, which was drawn from what I knew of the origin stories from the comics – and I was certainly no expert. So I had the basic idea of dealing with the origin story and the seven years where Bruce goes around the world. I was looking for a writer to do a first draft, one who was very knowledgeable about comics, more than I was. I felt that the first draft needed to set us on the right track, in terms of the myth of Batman, the mythic quality and the iconography, and with all of the things we needed in there. David Goyer had some great initial thoughts on who the villain would be, how the villain could relate to the origin story – so I got very excited about working with him. He was about to direct Blade: Trinity, so he had a very small window of time. We met for a couple of months and talked through the story and he came up with a story outline based on us thrashing around ideas and me saying what I wanted in the film. Then, he – within seven or eight weeks – provided a first draft, gave that to me and then had to go off and do his thing. So I took it from that point and did another eight drafts.

Did he come back and work with you again?

No, he was actually busy the whole time. But I would call him up and talk to him from time to time about things that I was changing, ask his advice on certain things where I was departing from the first draft, in terms of how it related to the comic mythology. He was always a good sounding board but it had to be long-distance.

So it was David who suggested the villains?

Yes. Ra’s al Ghul was not a villain I was familiar with. As soon as he mentioned him, I went back and researched him and read a lot of the 1970s comics he appears in, in the Neal Adams/Dennis O’Neil period. That’s a period of comic-book lore that draws very much from the James Bond films of the time. So Ra’s al Ghul has a lot of similarities / affinities with the Bond villains of the 1970s – such as Hugo Drax from Moonraker.

In the comics, he revitalizes himself regularly to increase his life expectancy . . .

He does, but it’s sort of cloaked in pseudo-science in the comics. So even with that, he’s still a pretty grounded character. He seemed perfect for me. You’re looking for a Bond villain in a sense because you’re looking for a villain who is colourful and interesting, and has a degree of threat to him that relates to the real world. So you’re looking for a villain who can be threatening but doesn’t overshadow the hero. And I think the best of the Bond movies have done that really well. They’ve given you these memorable villains, but Bond is always the centre of the movie. That’s never been in dispute.

You don’t, however, use Scarecrow as a ‘sidekick’, a Jaws to Ra’s al Ghul’s Drax. Rather there seems a hierarchy we must progress through to reach the real villain . . .

We wanted to have an escalation of threat. I think Scarecrow, in a sense, performs the function of a henchman, but because Ra’s al Ghul is off-screen he seems like the central threat. We always thought it was very important that we have a second-act villain who would be seen as the main villain so that we could bring back our first-act mentor as a third-act villain. The central difficulty David was facing was my demand to relate the first act to the third act. What you have is Bruce Wayne leaving Gotham; he’s not Batman yet. He goes on this journey which could be a detour – and something the audience wants to get past to get to Batman. The challenge in the screenplay when we were first working out the story was, ‘How does that pay off at the end of the film? How does that relate to what happens?’ So we decided pretty early on that the mentor of the first act should be the super-villain of the third act.

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