Nathan Crowley

Nathan Crowley

You can throw up anything really on the wall. It becomes a jumble of imagery. You throw up things that interest you- locations, ideas. You then find a path and patterns. It becomes like the lost and found wall at the school. It’s like two hundred feet long because it’s every scene in the film. It becomes a giant mass and a lot of people are like, What the hell are you doing? I’m trying to find themes of the film. What are we trying to say? How are we telling this whole story visually?

When we did Insomnia we did it in a hell of a hurry. The next film I worked for him on, Batman Begins, Chris said, I should get you in earlier. He does a first pass on the script with his brother and David Goyer. Then he calls me in and we start developing the visuals of the film. So when he writes he’s writing scenes that are visually correct.

We started the whole process in Chris’ old garage that had no heat or air conditioning and had a washing machine in it. Eventually we just grew out of it. It wasn’t big enough.

Batman Begins had a clear design path to follow. But we were making an origin story with The Dark Knight which was different. We could take the design in a completely new direction. It took me a while to figure out the concepts of The Dark Knight. I’m sitting there in the garage thinking, We can truly change this. But I don’t know where to start! And then weirdly I went to an exhibition in New York at the Dia:Beacon about Minimalism. And it was just an eye-opener. Let’s modernize Gotham and take the Gothic out. Create a place where The Fountainhead had succeeded. It was the utopia that anarchy came to destroy. The Batman films became about the purity of Modernism. The Joker was about chaos, he was trying to disrupt it. So I said, Let’s be brave. Let’s do big, empty spaces. I realized I had become a Modernist!

When we started in the garage I didn’t have a PA or any help. It was too early. We were in pre-pre production and this meant I had to do everything myself. I was the PA. Chris used to say, Hey, where you going?

 I’m going to buy some supplies at Home Depot. Chris says, Oh, I’ll come with you. People didn’t recognize him back then. Okay Chris, if you really want to do something you can help me find some wheels for my model of the Batpod. I think like most writers he would do anything to delay writing.

Even if the film wasn’t in LA we’d go downtown and say, Let’s talk about it as if we could shoot it here. We’d go out wandering. We’d spend the whole day. We’d have breakfast, wander, go back to the garage and then go out again. And when the films got bigger it was like, Okay, let’s go to India. Let’s go wandering around India. Let’s go to Iceland.

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us