Robert Pattinson struggled with the cape for The Batman

The Batman opens on March 3 in cinemas. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

SINGAPORE - What did the director of the hugely popular Dark Knight trilogy (2005 to 2012) talk about when he sat down with the actor taking over the Batman role?

The cape.

That signature piece of the superhero wardrobe was at the top of English director Christopher Nolan's mind during a chat with Robert Pattinson, 35, while both were working on the science-fiction movie Tenet (2020).

Somehow, Nolan found out that the English actor's excuse of a family emergency during the Tenet shoot was a cover for him taking the Batman screen test.

"Yeah, that test was supposed to be top secret," says Pattinson with a laugh, and marvelling at the director's intelligence-gathering abilities. He was speaking to reporters at an online conference.

The Batman opens on March 3 in cinemas.

As a director, Nolan is famed for preferring real stunts over digital effects, even if it requires superhuman levels of coordination. For parts of Tenet, he had thousands of actors run backwards to simulate the flow of time reversing, says Pattinson.

"We really only talked on the last day of filming Tenet. He asked about the cape, what material it was made of and talked about how complicated it was to get a cape that isn't too heavy," recalls the actor.

The cape has to look sturdy yet fluttery for the camera, but not weigh so much that the actor lumbers during action scenes. Nolan's concerns proved prescient when Pattinson began filming The Batman.

"Under the rain machine, you realise why you need to have this material made by (American space agency) Nasa, because it gets extraordinarily heavy," says the star of the enormously popular The Twilight Saga vampire romances (2008 to 2012).

Pattinson is well aware that in playing billionaire Bruce Wayne, whose alter ego is Gotham City's masked crime fighter, he is walking a path many actors have trodden. They include Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton.

He hopes to bring something fresh to the franchise.

"Any series that has successfully survived so long is because each artiste has given it a new interpretation - the series has never had a down period. It's like James Bond, each fan has a favourite because each actor has brought a specific thing to it. It's a really exciting process to figure out," he says.

Nolan and Matt Reeves, who helmed The Batman, are polar opposites in working style, Pattinson says.

Nolan is a genius at choreographing action set pieces with "hundreds of moving parts", then moving on after one or two takes.

Reeves, on the other hand, sweats the small stuff. The American - who directed monster movie Cloverfield (2008) and the science-fiction thrillers Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) and War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017) - is concerned with "the minutiae and everything in between" and does retakes if something is amiss.

"Your first thought is, 'Oh, I might be doing terribly if I need a lot of takes.' But later, it gets weirdly satisfying and I realise I have picked up his obsession as well," he says.

Still from the film The Batman starring Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Also taking over an iconic role is American actress Zoe Kravitz, who plays Catwoman, the freewheeling, outlaw foil to the tortured, noble main character.

The daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet has been active on both the big (as the voice of Catwoman in 2017's The Lego Batman Movie) and small screens (Big Little Lies, 2017 to 2019).

When she spoke to others who have played the character - she did not name them, but actresses who had donned the catsuit include Anne Hathaway, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry - they told her of a most pressing concern when zipped into the complicated, form-fitting outfit.

"The advice I got was about going to the bathroom," says Kravitz, 33, who was at the same press event. "That was the main bit of advice I've gotten and I took that very seriously."

The women she spoke to about playing Catwoman, whose real name is Selina Kyle, stuck to practical matters rather than tell her what they expected to see from her.

Kravitz adds: "They were respectful. They would rather let the actress do what they want because it's exciting to see what comes out of their own imagination. I feel incredibly encouraged to be supported by the women who have played the part."

The Batman opens on March 3.

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