Join Date: Feb 2011
Re: Michael Caine as Alfred Thread
"The Dark Knight Rises" is the end of your tenure as Alfred. What did you like most about playing this character?
It was a complete surprise to me, because I know in all these big, expensive, blockbuster, special-effects films, they don't really ever write the parts. They're sort of ciphers to get the action going. They're really just there to fill in the space and explain what the next action is going to be. Chris, though, not just with the butler but with everybody, is such a fabulous writer. If you look at the last Batman, for instance, you could take the writing out and make a story out of that without the special effects and stunts. The writing is of such a high standard. Also, his casting: It's an incredible cast. He wants good actors. So for me, when I read the last script, "The Dark Knight Rises," I thought this is the best part for me in all of them.
As an actor, is it hard to keep the same role fresh over the course of three films?
It was like one movie with the two characters, Bruce and I, developing a relationship. I got him into the thing, then supported him during the next one and left him when he overdid it in the third. There was a beginning, middle and end to our relationship. It wasn't the same thing each time. And not once did I say, "Dinner is served."
As a matter of fact, last Christmas, Chris sent me a dinner gong as a Christmas present with "dinner is served" engraved on it. At home, now, whenever any meal is ready, I'll come in and go, "Dinner is served." [Laughs] I get a cheap laugh every time.
I know Chris intentionally left the ending of "The Dark Knight Rises" open to interpretation, but what did he tell you about the last scene?
Chris is the most secretive director in the world. You know? I'll tell you how secretive he is ... oh, I can't tell you. I can't tell you. That would give the game away. Believe me, he's very secretive. But I was so happy with the ending, obviously.
Well, OK. How about this: What did he tell you on the day you shot that scene?
It was just an ordinary day. "You do this, you walk in, have a look around." He said, "I just want you to nod, nothing else." Because earlier I said to Bruce, "I want to see you with a wife and children and all that." I said I won't saying, I'll just nod my head. I said that earlier in the movie and that's exactly what I did at the end. I thought the ending was wonderful.
It's the writing, you know. The thing about Chris is that he's not only a brilliant director. I think he's up there with David Lean, but David Lean couldn't write. He used Robert Bolt to write his scripts.
Nolan gets credit for creating these memorable visuals, but is sometimes underrated for the performances he gets ...
That's the point, you see. A lot of critics reviewed "The Dark Knight Rises" as a very good adventure film and completely ignored all the other stuff that's going on, which is an incredibly high standard. For starters, Batman has won an Oscar. And the butler's won two! Gary Oldman was nominated last year. Very often with these big blockbuster stunt films, they haven't got the money to employ really experienced actors. They just write cipher parts that anyone can play. Very unemotional. Especially my lot in the last one. Blimey. It's one of the most emotional parts I've ever played.
How is he as a director?
He's wonderful. He's quiet. He's an example of what John Huston once said. I was working with John Huston, I said, "What's the art of directing?" He said, "Casting. If you cast it right you don't have to say anything." [Laughs] That's the sort of thing. If you were on the set as a visitor, you'd have to have someone tell you who's the director. Chris mingles in so much and he's so quiet, you go, "Who the hell is directing this movie?" And it's that guy over there, and you better listen to what he says when he whispers.
Matthew Modine: 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!