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Monday, July 26, 2004


SAN DIEGO -- Warner Bros. provided the first glimpses into next summer's Batman Begins at Comic-Con International over the week. The presentation included no footage from the film -- a teaser trailer hasn't been released yet -- but the studio trotted out writer David Goyer and actor Cillian Murphy, who plays Jonathan Crane (the Scarecrow).

Before Goyer and Murphy answered questions, a clip featuring star Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan was shown.

"We're just having a great time telling the story of Bruce Wayne's journey to becoming Batman," Nolan said. "It's something that hasn't been seen before, and we're very excited about addressing an aspect of this great character that hasn't been done on film before."

"It is a great character," Bale said. "And Chris and David have done a fantstic job of transferring from comic book to screen and giving the character the complexity it deserves."

Below is an edited transciption of the question-and answer session.

Question: How did you become involved with Batman?

Goyer: I was in preproduction for the Blade film and I heard this rumor that Chris had been tapped to direct the film. Just like everyone else, I heard it as a rumor and I didn't think anything of it. And then his agent called me and said, "Chris wants to know if you'll write the Batman movie." And I said, "Wow! I would kill to do that. But I'm in preproduction on this other movie." So I actually I can't do it.

About an hour later Chris called. I had known him from before; I had met him a few times socially. And he said. "I want you to do this." I said, "I really can't. I would love to. But if I were going to do it, this is what I would do." And I talked for about an hour. And I said, "You can take my ideas for free. I don't care. It's fine."

And then he called me back the next day and said, "No, you really have to do this. You really have to do this." So, it was a little hairy and I had a long days while I was working on both movies at the same time. I have to say it's been the best experience of my professoinal career working with Chris.

And It was a little surreal working with Warner Bros. because they completely left us alone. They let us do absolutely everything that we wanted to do. It was just amazing. Talking as a fan, this is one of those times where they just did everything right. Just everything.

Question: This is a jaded Batman fan. You're saying they totally left you along, but this is the same company that greenlit Catwoman.

Goyer: That's a totally fair question. I think it's why we're here. All I can tell is that I think Chris is a really, really amazing filmmaker and a really credible filmmaker. He would not have done the movie if he felt we were going to betray the fans at any given point. To be honest, there certainly was a bit of trepidation when we turned in the script because we thought they're not going to let us do this. We were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But we turned in the script, and they green lit. We turned in the designs for the Batmobile, they green lit it. They back Chris on every single casting decision, I mean every single decision. They told Chris early on, cast whoever you think is best for the movie, the movie is bigger than any star. They never said, here's our list of approved people.

So I don't know what to tell you. When we went to DC Comics, we spent three days with Paul Levitz and some of the higher-ups at DC and said, "This is what we want to do. We know that it's Batman and it's a story that's never been told before on film or on television. It was important to us that Paul and the rest of the people ta DC gave us their stamp of approval, and they did.

All I can tell you is from the standpoint of a fan, somebody who's been reading comic books since 1971, somebody who's had letters printed in comic books and things like that, I had a very schizophrenic experience working on the movie, because on one hand I was a professional, an the other hand I was a fan. And just saying, "Holy shit, I can't believe they're letting us do this."

I wrote the movie I always wanted to see, and I've seen a giant chunk of it, and it's that movie. It's what Chris and I wrote and it's what he had envisioned. It's an interpretation of Batman that seems obvious, and I'm surprised that we've never seen it before because it seems so natural for the character. We treated it with respect and I truly believe you guys don't have anything to worry about. I wouldn't be here if I felt otherwise.

Question: Will the Scarecrow look like the old (animated) show or the later version or nothing of the two?

Murphy: It should be scary, right? So I think we've achieved that. And you'll see why he's called Scarecrow. There's a reason for that. So I think you'll be pleased.

Goyer: Let's put it this way: I was with someone when we saw the first footage of Cillian in the mask and the person I was with said, "Man, that's fucked up."

Question: How do you push through your fears and fight for the best?

Goyer: It's a very fine line you have to walk because when you're making a movie ... I say to the people, if the audience understood how difficult it is to make a good movie and how cooks are involved in it and how different points things can go horribly awry, they'd be amazed that any good movies ever got made. You've got so many people, whether it's the producers or actors of people at the studio or marketing people, giving you their input at any given time; everyone has their own agenda. And you have to walk this really thin line between being open to hearing a genuinely good comment or suggestion and sticking to your guns.

I think it's more important as a writer or an actor or a director to try to keep yourself open and genuinely hear things and take things in and not be defensive about your work, and know that a good idea can come in from anywhere. But at the same time, have this internal gage. There were certain things on both the Batman and the Blade films that other people said, "Change this, change this, change this." And in the case of Batman, Chris and I really just dug in our heels and said, "No, no, no. This is the right thing to do." And I think if people see that you really have convinction about what you're saying that they'll respect that and they'll back down.

But it's difficult. It's really hard to know when you should listen to criticism and when you should tell people to go screw themselves.

Murphy: You've just got to be true to yourself, I guess, and rely on whatever instincts you have. And when you're working with people as talented in this movie, you feel quite safe with the decisions.

Goyer: A lot of this is about trust. And working with Chris, Chris is a really talented person and a perfectionist. And very challenging. Chris will challenge you on every single point and sometimes it can be exhausting, but you know it comes from a place where he just wants to make the best movie possible. We had many big arguments about things, where we would go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And sometimes I would convince Chris os something, and sometimes I wouldn't. But I think at the end of day, the right decision had been reached.

Question: Was there something from the comics that made you want to write this storyline?

Goyer: Well, I don't want to give anything away that could be a spoiler. Clearly because we're doing an origin story, we drew some elements from Batman: Year One. But I have to say that our story is bigger in scope than that, as brilliant as I thought that story was. Because we're dealing Ra's Al Ghul, we certainly were looking at the Denny O'Neil's stories from the 70's. And then I'm a big fan of Jeph Loeb's stuff, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.

Aside from the canon, the older ones, I would say those three groupings were the ones that influenced us the most. Although there aren't any specific plot elements, per se, from Jeph Loeb, Chris and I both quite like that interpretation of Batman. And then there's stuff that's very much our own interpretations.

Question: What was the reason for the look of the Batmobile?

Goyer: Well, we didn't sit down and say, "What's a cool look for the Batmobile?" and then just jerry-rig that into the movie. We approached it from the story in terms of why would something like that be built. Every decision we made on the film came from that stanpoint. It was rooted in the story.

Sometimes I think some of the things you see in movies and approached in this bassackward way, where somebody decides something would be really cool and they just try to jam it into the script. That's just not the approach.

I think when you see what we do with that thing, you'll know why it looks that way. I think it's really cool.

Question: Will this movie fit into previous Batman continuity? Can we expect more Batman projects featuring characters like Joker, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze.

Goyer: In a sense, it's a prequel. It takes place 10 years or so before the other films started. I guess it's the cinematic equivalent of a reboot, in comic-book terminology.

The intent is that when this film finishes, you could revisit that sort of Rogue's gallery of villains. The previous four films are kind of like their own take. And this is a different one.

Question: Do you have a sequel in mind? Are you working on it? Also, what is your opinion of the new Superman team?

Goyer: My opinion of the new Superman team is, "Thank God!" Bryan (Singer) and I have the same agent and I read about it and I called up my agent and said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," for helping make that happen. I'm really excited about Bryan on being Superman. I think that's exactly what that movie needs.

In terms of there being a second Batman film for this iteration, it ends in such a way that the next movie you might see where it's going. That's all I can say.

It has a completely satisfying conclusion, but we were aware ... we just wanted to make sure we didn't step on any toes for any future characters. The pieces are in place if Chris or Warner Bros. or anybody else wants to run with it. It's definitely there. But, no, I'm not working on a sequel right now I'm deeply entrenched with Blade.

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