The light shone brightly on the dimly lit backdrop of the Warner Brothers studio lot during a random night in February. Displayed high above was the familiar shape that represented vengeance and justice: the sleek silhouette of a bat! In a week that was uncharacteristically warm during this time of year, even for Los Angeles, things were about to heat up even more. For shortly, before a limited number of members of the press, The Batman would soon appear!
Earlier this month, The Nerds of Color was invited to take part in a very special press event with the cast and crew of The Batman. Among the expected roster of attendees were stars Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz, director and co-writer Matt Reeves, and producer Dylan Clark. Adorning the backstage area were the screen-used suits from the film. The aforementioned bat light hung high above. And like clockwork, moderator Tiffany Smith came out to introduce the evening’s panel.
Clark and Reeves were the first to make their entrance, followed shortly after by Kravitz. Pattinson was the last to be introduced. And with his arrival, Smith began the Q&A.
The group was asked how it felt finally seeing the film with an audience for the first time.
“We have not been with people for a very long time,” quipped Clark.
“It’s fantastic, I just want to say,” said Reeves. “We’ve been waiting for five years. We made this movie over literally the course of five years. Insane pandemic in the middle of it. [Questions about] Are people going to the movies? And to finally be done with the movie, and to be able to share it… means the world.”
“I was going to say that, but I was ramping up to it,” retorted Clark.
“I’m really glad [everyone] is wearing masks, so I can’t read their micro-expressions,” joked Pattinson. “I’m absolutely terrified!… But no, really very, very excited. And also just having the fanbase that Batman does, to kind of bolster us through this period as well, and knowing there’s still anticipation after taking forever to shoot the movie, and waiting forever for it to come out, that there’s still this excitement, it’s really lovely.”
Pattinson was then asked about what his process was like in approaching the voice of Batman for his turn as the Caped Crusader.
“It was a lot of trial and error. I had a lot of time to think about it,” he began. “I think I was cast about seven or eight months before we started shooting. And so I was experimenting with a lot of different things. And I think for the first two to three weeks we were doing a variety of different voices. Because there was only a couple of lines in the first few scenes that we shot. And I think me and Matt just sort of settled on something that started to sit in a very particular place. And it felt like progression from other Bat-voices. And felt somewhat comfortable to do as well. It’s weird. It just suddenly starts to feel right. The more you embody the suit, the more you embody the character it just started to come out quite organically. And I think that’s what I was trying to do with the character as well. I was trying to think. He’s not putting on a voice. He puts on the suit. And then the voice just starts happening for him as a person as well.”
Reeves was asked about the first time he heard Pattinson doing his interpretation of the Batman voice.
“Like Rob said, we were exploring a lot,” Reeves started. “So there were different versions in the beginning actually. The first scene we shot was the scene in the mayor’s crime scene. And that first line… where his voice was going to sit was a whole thing. I have to say that one of the amazing things, of many amazing things about Rob, is he has such incredible technical control of himself, of his instrument in terms of the acting. He can do crazy things with his voice… he went through this process of searching for where he felt like this voice should sit. And one of the things I was asking Rob about was, he has an incredible ear for mimickery and accents… he’s an incredible person… The voice is one of the key ways into the character for [him].”
“The one thing about this character — I mean it seems obvious in retrospect… but you don’t really realize it until you’re doing it, but there has to be subtle intonation changes and stuff,” said Pattinson.
Similarly, Kravitz was asked about how she was able to find the role of Selina Kyle.
“The character is so well developed in the script, and I was really excited to explore her backstory and where she comes from, as well as the process she goes through in terms of becoming closer to what would be Catwoman,” she began. “But it was really lovely to be able to play Selina and not have to jump straight to Catwoman. I think with these iconic characters that we all love so much, it can be overwhelming to go [straight to Catwoman]. And I have this wonderful opportunity to slowly develop her, and the audience gets to come on that journey with me… It was a really fun process.”
Clark jumped in to say to Kravitz, “Your skill about showing vulnerability and emotion, that‘s Selina Kyle. You had that from day one.”
Reeves also added, “I would say that Zoe’s process, when we met, I knew [she] thought so deeply about the character… There were certain things that are some of my favorite moments and lines in the movie, and they’re yours…”
Pattinson and Kravitz were then asked about their training regiments for the stunts they had to do in the film.
“We didn’t have that much time, so we went from the first day of rehearsals about 6 hours a day. A lot of it concentrated on our first big fight,” began Pattinson. “It was fun though. I love the way Rob Alonzo teaches choreography. It’s not like you’re learning it by yourself, like a dance. You learn these patterns. And it’s like you’re doing combinations like you’re boxing. And you can arrange the patterns into a fight sequences. Once you get the hang of it you can do these fight scenes, and it feels very real and keeps you very reactive. We were doing a lot of that kind of training… when we didn’t know how to do the stunts, Zoe would be training with my double, and I would be training with hers. And I was always so afraid and saying, ‘I do not want to hurt you.’ And she would say, ‘Trust me, you’re not going to hurt me. But I will hurt you!’ And in the first day she kicked me in the head.”
“I think it’s cool that Rob Alonzo really wants us to have the skill to box and react, and then he teaches you the choreography later, so it’s fresh,” added Kravitz. “It feels very organic.”
Reeves was then asked about the prospects for future films and spin-offs.
“What we’re really trying to do is launch this world. And if the world really embraces this, we have a lot of ideas of things we want to do,” started Reeves. “We’re talking about a lot of things but all of it comes down to how people receive it.”
“Matt and I worked on the Apes movies similarly,” added Clark. “We did Dawn, we hoped it was going to be received well. And we had ideas of course of where Cesar and the apes would go. But you put everything into that movie. This one — this was the one that nearly killed us all. It was a long writing process. It was a long pre-production and then production, we went through a lot of stuff to finish it. And post was really hard and long… And for me, we’ve been doing Zoom interviews. But to sit here with a microphone to sit here and talk… We’re really just living in this moment… and the hope is March 5 we’ll know a bit more that people liked it.”
The next question was about how Reeves went about choosing the villains for his vision of Batman.
“Well I knew that I didn’t want to do an origin story,” began Reeves. “And I knew that I wanted to do a story that would lean into the detective side of Batman. Because we hadn’t seen it where it was at the forefront of the story. What was important to me was that Batman have the arc of the story. Because a lot of times, once he’s already Batman he no longer has the arc per se. You might have Rogue’s Gallery characters come in, and in a way they have the grand story. And then Batman is going to battle them in some way. And I want to do a Batman story where he is already Batman, but he still was in the early days, had to find a way to sort of really evolve. And I wanted to do a story where the investigation of this particular mystery would lead him back to something very personal and would rock him to his core
“And knowing that I wanted to do this thing, thinking back to Long Halloween I started thinking about Calendar Man and the idea of the different killings. And this idea came to me where, we could do a thing where at these crimes, there’s correspondence left for The Batman. And the whole idea of Batman is that your power is in being anonymous. So the idea that suddenly someone is shining the light on you is unsettling… And I thought about the Zodiac [Killer], and how the Zodiac in this horrific way left all of these disturbing ciphers and these communications to the police and to newspapers. And how unsettling that was. And I thought that sounded like a horrifying version of The Riddler. Because he was leaving all these puzzles. So The Riddler was part of the conception very early on… And then I started thinking that to me what’s sort of interesting… that as you followed the details of the crime, that it would take [Batman] across the paths of these other characters.”
Reeves was then asked if they thought this version of Batman could potentially contain the more fantastical villains like Clayface or Man-Bat.
“In my view,” began Reeves, “I just feel drawn to finding the grounded version of everything. So to me it would be an interesting challenge to try and figure out how that could happen. Even something like Mr. Freeze. That’s such a great story. And I think there’s a grounded version of that story which could be really powerful, and could be really great. So I love the fantastical side of Batman. But this iteration, while, to me, is being very comics faithful… doesn’t lean as hard into the fantastical I guess. But to me, what would be interesting is to unwind the fantastical and see how could that make sense here. And so that’s my view of how I see it.”
Well, if anyone can pull it off, I definitely think it could be Matt Reeves and the whole crew behind The Batman. Here’s hoping Reeves gets that chance to be the first to bring live-action versions of Man-Bat, Clayface, or even characters like Mad Hatter and The Ventriloquist to the big screen! Get hyped everyone! Because The Batman is at long last hitting theaters March 4!