No more 17-hour days

Gary Oldman returns as Batman’s policeman ally Lieutenant Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight.

The movie, currently breaking box office records in the US, is Christopher Nolan’s second work about the enigmatic planet saver, the first was Batman Begins (2005). Oldman, who says he enjoys a human pace on set, says the world is not ready yet for a real superhero.

Do you approach playing Gordon differently the second time around, or is it like performing the same character in a play night after night?
No, not really.
I didn’t improvise. I’m at the mercy of Chris and the writing. I’m just following the writing. It’s all there in the writing and I’m just interpreting it. A play’s very different because you are playing the same scenes and you’re doing the same lines over and over and over again. You’re not recreating it in that sense every night.

Did you have the sense of wanting to come back and revisit this character? Is it a matter of trust in Chris and in what he has devised for you?
Yeah, I mean he’s a great character to play. He is interesting against all the other types of characters I’ve played. It’s nice to play someone who is really the moral centre of the piece and someone who is strong and has great backbone and great character and is virtuous and honest and incorruptible.

Those are the qualities that make Jim Gordon fun to play, versus some of those other wackier, stranger people I’ve portrayed in the past. I mean, this is a conscious decision to turn the ship around a bit and do other things.

Is there a different way of marshalling your energy as an actor when you’re playing a character that’s more realistic?
The director in a way sets the tone. He is the barometer of how you play it. There’s a realism to Batman but it’s slightly pumped up. It’s slightly heightened. Chris doesn’t want that realistic sort of actor.

Do you think the film has something to say that reflects what’s going on in the world today, or is it purely the universe of the comic book?
Well, I don’t know. Maybe there are Batmen in the world. Maybe they work really covertly. I don’t know. You’ve got the UN. It’s all “PC”.

You couldn’t have a Batman. The world wouldn’t let you have one. You go away and he goes outside the jurisdiction of the country and gets this guy and brings him back to be tried. There would be outrage.

You have had such an interesting career. What inspired you to become an actor? How did it come about?
I don’t know how it came about. I just wanted to get out. That’s all I knew. I thought that there was something more in the world than the end of my street. I don’t know what makes people do it. I’ve kind of actually stopped. I used to think about stuff too much.

I think I’ve got to a point where I say to myself: “Just live.” Not to contemplate my own navel. I don’t know. It was a pretty poor neighbourhood and I had this drive for survival in me. I guess I’m quite a survivor.

You go to the wall in your per­formances.

I give the illusion I go to the wall and that’s the trick. I don’t. That’s the thing. That’s the facility to do it. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Do you think we miss the point if we overthink it?
Yeah. You get older, you just kind of go: “I’ve lost the ambition I once had, that sort of drive and that fire underneath me.”

I don’t mean it negatively. I just mean that there are other things and other priorities.

Chris Nolan, for example, is a very talented man and he’s a very good director. But you know what, though? He finishes so I can get home for dinner and put my kids to bed. He’s not a lunatic who wants to work 17 hours a day. I don’t want to work with anyone like that.

I want my weekends off and I want to put my kids to bed. Nolan facilitates it. Those are good reasons to want to be in Batman Two.

Yeah? I like that guy, plus I get home for dinner.

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