(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reverend’s Interview: Batmania Rises

These final days leading up to the release of anticipated blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises have seen Internet speculation about the movie’s content reach a fever pitch. Does hulking villain Bane (Tom Hardy) kill Bruce Wayne, with co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt potentially assuming Batman’s cowl? Will Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow make a rumored cameo? Does Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman wear the black latex as well as predecessors Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer? Will Gotham City survive the terrorist attacks and urban warfare shown in the trailers?

A conversation I had last week with actress India Wadsworth shone very little light on the finished film, which she hadn’t yet seen. Wadsworth couldn’t even confirm who she plays in The Dark Knight Rises. While billed as “The Warlord’s Daughter,” some with more knowledge of the Batman comics and graphic novels than I have deduced that Wadsworth may actually be appearing as Talia Al Ghul and/or Talia’s mother. Talia is the pseudo-villainous daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, the destructive mastermind played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins. Neeson is slated to make an appearance in the new sequel, with another actor listed as playing a younger Ra’s. Could “The Warlord” be Ra’s mysterious alias?

“I really didn’t find out what I was doing until the day of filming,” Wadsworth says. “I had little advance knowledge of my character and didn’t have much time to prepare.” She also claims that, to this day, she doesn’t know who “The Warlord” is. Still, Wadsworth was thrilled to be cast in what I referred to as one of the most highly anticipated movies of all time.

“Oh my God, that sounds so scary when you put it like that!” she responded. The British-born actress and model has had a number of roles on BBC shows and in independent films but The Dark Knight Rises represents her first major movie. “I auditioned in London but didn’t even know what movie I was auditioning for,” Wadsworth said. “When they called and offered me the movie, I was so excited and said ‘yes’ right away.”

What is known about this climactic entry in director/producer/co-writer Christopher Nolan’s ultra-serious take on the superhero is that the drug-fueled Bane, possibly under the direction of a higher authority, cuts Gotham City off from the world and launches a punishing assault on The Bat (returning Christian Bale). Other returning cast members include Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, who are joined by series newcomers Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.

Wadsworth did reveal — perhaps cryptically — that she worked closely with co-star Hardy during her four days on set. In one Batman comics storyline, Talia Al Ghul had a reluctant relationship with Bane at her father’s behest after things with Batman, Talia’s one-time lover and Ra’s initial intended successor, didn’t quite work out.

“I kind of don’t really know how my character and story fit in (to the final film),” Wadsworth shared, “so I’m excited to see the film when it comes out to see how it all turned out.” Of her experience on set, she enthused: “It was awesome! It was such a huge, massive set. There wasn’t any green screen so it was all right there. Christopher Nolan is such a genius.”

Given that The Dark Knight Rises is the 25-year old’s introduction to the cast of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I asked Wadsworth whether she was very familiar with the iconic character beforehand. “Yes, definitely,” she replied. “I was a huge fan of The Dark Knight and found it inspiring. I’m also a huge fan of Tim Burton and his earlier Batman films."

Wadsworth is currently better known in the UK than in the US thanks to her appearances on BBC series, London Fashion Week runways and in various beauty campaigns. That may well change after this Friday, when The Dark Knight Rises is released worldwide. She was discovered by a model scout when she was 14 years old and has been noted as an “Afro-Asian head-turner.” Despite Wadsworth’s rapid success as a model and actress, furthering her education after high school was important to her. She went to the London School of Economics and studied social anthropology, a field which captured her interest because of her African and Chinese roots.

“I wouldn’t say my dream is to be a movie star but I love the craft of acting and modeling,” Wadsworth said. “I want to be a success and happy with what I do, whatever that ultimately is.” She is currently shooting an indie film, Counter-Clockwise, and trying to base herself in the Los Angeles area. No matter who or what she plays in Batman’s latest, secrecy-shrouded epic, I predict even bigger things for Wadsworth in the future.

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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