The wunderkind of British cinema, 34-year-old writer/director Christopher Nolan debuted with Following, but really made his mark with the amnesiac thriller Memento. He followed up his brilliant breakthrough with an acclaimed remake of the Norwegian hit Insomnia, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. And now with Batman Begins he brings the story of Gotham City's Dark Knight back to its origins, recounting the tragic events that drove Bruce Wayne batty in the first place.
Whose idea was it to go right back to the origins of Batman?
I think the studio had been thinking of ways to re-introduce the character into cinemas for some time. But at the point at which I got interested in becoming involved, they didn't have a specific idea of how to make that fresh approach. It seemed to me that telling the origin story would be fascinating because it's never been told on screen and hasn't really been definitively addressed in any of the comics. It's always been treated in montage and flashbacks in the past, so we wanted to flesh that out and tell the whole story.
It's significant that in Batman Begins the character of Batman is every bit as interesting as the villains he faces, isn't it?
For me, Batman is the character I was most interested in. I felt that it would be perfectly possible to have interesting and colourful villains who wouldn't overshadow Bruce Wayne and Batman himself. In my mind I was thinking of the best of the Bond movies where they have some wonderful villains but they never got in the way of the focus of the story. I felt we could do something similar here.
You've talked about bringing some reality to the story, but this is, by definition, a hyper-real world that has been created...
When you talk about realism in film you're talking about issues of textures and look as much as anything more substantial. For me, the idea of grounding the film in reality is a part of making the audience believe in the events of the story. I think that the more people are invested in the characters and the actual events, then the narrative effects of the story are amplified. So for me it's about creating the most involving experience possible.
What did you see in Christian Bale that made you cast him as your Batman?
I chose Christian to play Batman based on that idea, of trying to create a realistic version of the story. You need an actor like Christian who has sufficient intensity and focus in his eyes to make you believe in the idea that somebody without superpowers - and Bruce Wayne has no superpowers - could, through sheer force of will, change himself into a superhero. I think from meeting Christian, and seeing his other performances, it's clear he has the ability to project that kind of intensity.
You've said you used Richard Donner's version of Superman as inspiration in your casting decisions.
I spoke specifically to the studio about coming up with what we called an epic cast. We wanted the film to have an epic treatment of Batman. I think other than big sets and big explosions and all that kind of stuff, what really makes a film come alive is having a wonderful cast of the finest actors and recognisable faces playing even the smallest roles. There's a life off screen for all of these characters, and there's scope in the story. In Superman they had Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Glenn Ford - an extraordinary group of actors. That was very much what we were aspiring to here. We dared to ask top flight actors to take on these roles and we were able to put together a dream cast. I like to think we've almost surpassed that ensemble, which is no less than Batman deserves.
Batman Begins is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 16th June.