Dark Knight Rises: Costumes
From heroes to villains, the costumes have been an integral part of bringing the characters of the Dark Knight trilogy to life, starting, of course, with the indelible silhouette of Batman.
Following “Batman Begins,” the Batsuit was significantly redesigned for “The Dark Knight,” resulting in improved comfort and flexibility, especially in the neck and shoulders. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so costume designer Lindy Hemming and her team made no changes to the suit for “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The multi-layered Batsuit was comprised of 110 separate pieces, each of which had to be replicated dozens of times over the course of the production. The base layer was made of a polyester mesh that is utilized by the military and high-tech sports manufacturers because of its breathability and moisture-wicking properties. Individually molded pieces of flexible urethane were then attached to the mesh, forming the overall body armor plating. Adding another level of protection, light but strong carbon fiber panels were placed inside the sections on the legs, chest and abdomen. The cowl was sculpted from a cast of Bale’s face and head and then molded for a perfect fit.
There were also ten different versions of the iconic cape, ranging in length and shape—from shorter ones, used in action scenes, to the glider cape that snaps into the shape of spread batwings.
The image of Bale in the Batsuit had the requisite effect on his castmates. Gordon-Levitt confirms, “When Christian put on that suit, I didn’t have to make believe: I was talking to Batman. It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then when I’m shooting a movie, I have a moment when it feels like real life. That was definitely one of the strongest of those moments I’ve ever had.”
Tom Hardy, whose character is supposed to be more than a match for the Dark Knight, recounts, “I remember the first time I saw Christian in the makeup chair, and I arrogantly thought to myself, ‘That’s not a problem; I can handle him.’ And then, on the set, Batman showed up. It wasn’t Christian Bale anymore; he absolutely was Batman.”
In designing Bane’s costume, Hemming needed it to look “like an amalgam of all sorts of bits and pieces he cobbled together, as he passed through some very remote places. We made parts of his vest, for example, from fragments of an old military tent. His clothes are militaristic, but are not in any way a uniform.”
Obviously, Bane’s most distinctive feature is the menacing-looking mask, fastened to his face, which continually pumps pain medication into him, keeping the agony from his violent past at bay. “His life depends on it,” Nolan states. “This is somebody whose history is carried with him in a very visible way on his face, making him, in a very real sense, monstrous.”
“We designed the mask to be animalistic,” Hemming says. “It had to look completely different from Batman’s cowl…and it could not be black.”
The mask was built by the costume effects department, using a digitally mapped model of Tom Hardy’s face and skull. Costume effects supervisor Graham Churchyard explains, “To us, the Bane mask had to fit like a prosthetic; however, unlike a prosthetic, it had to look like it was engineered out of metal. We were able to take Tom’s computer cast and 3D model each rigid piece to the contours of his head so it was tight to his face, with no gaps.”
As it turned out, “tight” was an understatement. Hemming attests, “It was gripping Tom’s head like a vice. With his assistance and patience, we made it as tight as it could ever have been. There was a magnetic removal panel on the front, so everything you see has a series of magnets underneath it, and everything beneath that has a rubber seal that pressed into Tom’s skin and was held on by tension. The fact that he tolerated it, let alone acted with it, was astounding.”
While Bane’s mask is entirely about function over form, the one worn by Selina Kyle is a combination of both. Nolan says, “It was crucial that there be a reason for the appearance of the character, not just as Selina but as Catwoman. For me, the jumping off point was figuring out how to derive a cat ear shape for her without it literally being a pair of ears. I eventually fixed on an idea of a pair of night vision goggles that would flip up onto her head and almost accidentally form that silhouette. Once I had that concept, Lindy and her team were able to realize it beautifully. The idea was that everything that contributes to the iconography of the character has a sense of logic.”
“Her Catsuit is also very practical, enabling her to disappear into the darkness and be ready for action,” Hemming adds. “When she’s not in the suit, she always dresses in black, adjusting for the occasion. She’s a classic chameleon.”
Hathaway notes, “You need to get the sense that she could leave in a hurry…that she could bring her entire identity, or rather identities, with her whenever she had to flee.”
Selina’s Catsuit was actually two pieces, but with her hip-hugging utility belt in position, it looks like one. Completing the ensemble are elbow-length gloves and thigh-high boots with spike heels that also serve a purpose. “They double as very effective weapons,” Hemming nods.
There were two layers of material used to make the Catsuit, the outer one being polyurethane coated spandex, embossed with a hexagonal pattern. “It’s very simple and streamlined,” Hemming says. “It’s emphasizing the shape of her body without being too revealing.”
While it is true that the skintight costume covered the actress from head to toe, Hathaway counters, “It doesn’t really hide much, so I worked with a movement coach to make sure that I was going to be very comfortable in my body. If you had to wear a Catsuit in front of the entire world, I guarantee you would get your butt to the gym,” she laughs.
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