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Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman’s Goggles, and an Offer You Can’t Refuse

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Every time the American Film Institute puts out a new edition of its top 100, The Godfather climbs a few notches higher.  I’ve heard two different deans of college film departments speculate that it will pass Citizen Kane in their lifetime.  So timeless greatness.  Not just the Best Picture of 1972 (no small achievement when Cabaret and Deliverance were among the nominees) but a masterpiece audiences have come to appreciate more over time.  I just had the marvelous opportunity to see it on the big screen and discovered moments, echoes, and nuances I’d never seen before.  It is simply a triumph of storytelling, and a triumph of movie-making as a storytelling medium…

That’s art talk.  But it was a triumph in another way.  A triumph in the standing-over-the-bullet-riddled-body-of-your-enemy way, because Francis Ford Coppola had to fight a small war to get the damn thing made.  The studio didn’t want Brando.  Francis Ford Coppola directing the wedding scene from The GodfatherLaurence Olivier or Ernest Borgnine, they said.  Anthony Quinn or Danny Thomas, anybody but Brando.  They didn’t want Pacino either.  First because he was too short, and then later, once they saw the dailies… They hated just about everything they saw in the dailies.  I don’t know how many memos were circulated after the famous wedding scene monologue about the bandleader, but the studio wanted Pacino out.  They wanted Talia Shire out, they wanted most of the cast replaced at one time or another.  It became a running joke on the set: had you been fired yet?  A battlefield mentality came in: having as much fun as you could and doing the best job you could, since every day might be your last.  Sinatra was incensed about the Johnny Fontane character, said to be pulling all kinds of strings to get the part minimized.  The mobs didn’t want the film made at all, at first, and once a deal was struck, the head of Paramount’s parent company had a screaming fit when the news leaked that the word “Mafia” had been cut from the script.

Is there a lesson in all this?  Yes.  Francis Ford Coppola had to be one stubborn son of a bitch to make the movie he wanted to make in the way he wanted to make it.  He was, he did, and it might just be the best movie of all time.  Let’s put a pin in that.

Two weeks ago, Warner Brothers released a photo from The Dark Knight Rises—the first official photo of Anne Hathaway playing Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises We have no idea if what we saw is her Catwoman costume or if the goggles she’s wearing might have something to do with the fact that she’s riding a motorcycle—but the Internet had a collective seizure because the goggles-and-zip-up-biker-chick ensemble looks nothing like Catwoman. 

Now, I’ve been saying that longer than anybody, but I’m waiting to see more before I jump to any conclusions.  If I want to use the dreaded p-word, I would say the photo release was practical, because that day they were filming a stunt in Pittsburgh with a stuntwoman in that costume riding that batpod.  So all Warner Brothers did was show us what could no longer be hidden.  And that is movie-making in 2011, where everybody on the street has a phone in their pocket, every one of those phones has a camera, and at least 60% of them are pre-linked to share the goods on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter before a PA can shout “HEY, YOU SHOULDN’T BE BACK HERE!”

The famously practical goggles did not prevent the stuntwoman from barreling into an IMAX camera, which duly appeared on TMZ.   There are videos on YouTube of Bane characterizing his voice as “a mix of exasperated old man and douchey 19th century British Lord.”  There is set-dressing snow from the streets of Pittsburgh for sale on ebay. 

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