Cinematographer Wally Pfister is as loyal to director Christopher Nolan as Alfred is to Batman.
As the director readies “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third installment of his revered reboot of the Batman film franchise, it’s a fait accompli that his longtime director of photography Pfister, who’s made six films with Nolan, will be fighting the good fight at his side.
“I really follow Chris,” Pfister, who’s camera has created emblematic images for each of Nolan’s feature films, tells PopcornBiz. “He could go marching off a cliff and I'd be right there with him. He's just such an exceptionally talented director and writer, and so really I just kind of roll with it from one picture to the next. He gives us something amazing as the audience, whether it's a Batman picture or 'The Prestige' or 'Insomnia' or 'Inception.’ It's something completely different every time and I'm always there for the ride.”
Pfister says the cinematic imagery starts to take life the moment he delves into the screenplay for Nolan’s latest project, with the director has typically shaped himself with his collaborators.
“It always begins with his word,” says Pfister. “It's always like reading Chris's words and getting my early inspiration that way and then when I start to break it down in my head then Chris and I get together and we have conversations and it really is just a series of conversations that leads to the visual blueprint for the film. It's a great experience with Chris. We've been working together for eleven years and it's a fantastic collaboration – and one that I cherish.”
It might surprise some admirers of Pfister’s arresting camerawork in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” considered to be the definitive cinematic interpretations of the 71-year-old superhero, that he very rarely turned to the comic book source material when envisioning the imagery.
“I didn't really look at the comic books for inspiration for the Batman films,” he says. “We looked at much more realistic kind of films, more gritty films, things, oddly enough, like 'Apocalypse Now'. We wanted it to be a real film. We wanted Batman to be a real person, and so the look followed that. So much more gritty than the previous films have been.”
Meanwhile, as they say in the comics, Pfister formed a team-up with another powerful director, Bennett Miller (“Capote”), and a group of cinema superpowers. “I finished a film called 'Moneyball' with Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill. It's a baseball movie, and it's a great film,” he says. “Brad is a regular guy. I really, really enjoy working with him. I think also he's a fantastic actor, too. He really brought so much to that part and he crafted it to work for him and it really made sense to me. He was such a lovely guy to be with on set and he's such a pleasure to work with in general and creatively just smart and strong.”