Batman’s foe on groupies, surfing and murderous intentions
Years ago, way before The Dark Knight, you were in Beverly Hills 90210. Explain yourself.
Hey – everyone needs a break! I’d been a waiter, a bartender and a builder. I’d bagged groceries. And I was only in Beverly Hills 90210 for a couple of days. Honestly! I was about 22 or 23, and looked like a beach surfer, so they put me on. And it was terrible. But important to do – you suddenly realise what you really want to do.
Do you still surf?
As much as I can. I have a place in Santa Barbara. But I spent my whole life surfing. It was all I thought about. I’ve surfed everywhere: Australia, France, Cornwall. I lived in Hawaii, in a 1972 Dodge Valiant that I got for $150. I’ve nearly drowned countless times. I’ve been out surfing with sharks. I’ve been stung by jellyfish so I couldn’t breathe. I’ve been raked across reefs – I have scars everywhere. But you can’t have two passions in life, so I had to stop.
Still: that scar you got in the The Dark Knight seems to be healing nicely.
Ha – I get that a lot. I spent a fair amount of time in the make-up chair in the morning, for sure. Two-Face’s burns were all CGI, created post-production. So we just had to use these white dots attached to my face, and imagine.
So no one knew what it’d look like?
No. Chris [Nolan, director] had shown me a clay sculpture of what he thought the head would end up like, with the sinew and the jawbone and the eye. But he didn’t know for sure. We had a headcast for some of the filming, as the actors have to be able to react to something. But neither Gary [Oldman] nor anybody else knew the extent of the damage. So when you see it in the movie, it’s both beautiful and a bit shocking.
Not to get all Daily Mail on you, but it’s quite full-on for a 12A certificate.
Yeah. Two-Face is scary, but I think the Joker is worse. The bits with the knives in the corners of the mouth is pretty scary psychological stuff.
So you couldn’t go home in make-up and scare the neighbours?
No. But we filmed half the film in London – the final scene, for instance, was filmed at Battersea Power Station. And Heath and I had to keep our make-up secret, in case anyone tried to photograph us. So we were wearing these shrouds and wandering round central London at night. So we scared a fair few people walking through St James’ Park, let me tell you. People’d stroll past and suddenly see Heath’s face. I think they were quite shocked.
You first saw the script two and a half years ago. What was the security like?
Intense. I had Jordan, Chris Nolan’s assistant waiting for me while I read it for the first time. Each one was printed on red paper, so it couldn’t be photocopied, with your name and a personal code. I never travelled with the full script: I’d have to put half of it in the hotel safe. And even then I’d take a few pages out. But this is a billion dollar business – there are a lot of people who like to get the scoop. So it may seem a little overboard. But then it made the largest grossing opening weekend of all time.
Heath Ledger spent a month alone in a hotel room, preparing to play The Joker. Can you top that?
Ha ha! No, I can’t. Heath was a brilliant actor, but he had a year to prepare. That kind of time is invaluable – introducing new material and letting it sink into your blood and your bones. And it shows in Heath’s performance. Mine’s not bad. Well, it’s not chopped liver. But I never had the month. I did research burns, and the psychological effects of fire – feeling like a monster, what that does to your self-esteem, the revenge and the bitterness.
So you didn’t watch Tommy Lee Jones?
Er, no. The tone is so different in this movie. The script is like a crime drama, as opposed to a DC Comics book.
If someone tortured and killed your fiancée, would you go on a killing spree too? Oh Jesus. I would think about it.
Go on – flip the coin…
It’d be difficult not to have vengeful feelings. I don’t think you’d be a man if you didn’t think those thoughts. If somebody blew up the girl I loved, and had been torturing the citizens of my city, and I saw the Joker, I would kill him.
So: “Aaron is happy to commit murder…”
Yeah, I can see how you’re going to spin this one.
You also filmed lots of marketing material that never appeared in the movie, such as the I Believe In Harvey Dent campaign. Does it seem pointless?
It’s a new era these days, you’ve got to play ball. These are all Chris Nolan’s ideas, by the way. So when his wife Emma calls you up and says, “Aaron, we’re doing a Batman rollercoaster ride and we need you to do the introduction video,” your first thought is, I’d rather not. I consider myself to be a semi-serious actor, and I don’t want to prostitute myself. But it’s a £200 million movie – in that context, you do it.
Did you steal anything from the set?
People ask me if I have the coin. I tell you: by the end of filming, you just want to get out of there, you know?
Not even after a quick go on the Batpod bike? You didn’t do any of the cool stuff!
Dude, I acted with Michael Caine and Gary Oldman! Heath Ledger! That’s the cool stuff. And what would I do with a coin anyway?
In your other best known role, In The Company Of Men, you…
Hey – I have the suits from that! I paid for them myself. About a hundred dollars.
In it, you also deliver the immortal line: “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die.” Did women give you a wide berth afterwards?
Yeah. Although there were two avenues of thought. Some women were physically repulsed by me. Even two years after the movie, I was having a fitting for a suit and the shop girl couldn’t cope. She didn’t recognise me, but just felt hugely uncomfortable. But then again some women – well, some were… attracted to it. A few said they knew my character’s bad, but it turned them on. One girl said: “Your character’s horrible, but what are you doing on Monday?”
You got groupies for being a predatory misogynist?
For sure! I mean that’s why those movies are made. I mean why do women like bikers? Why do they like rockstars? They like the bad guy.
Still: don’t think you’ll get many groupies as Two-Face.
You’d be surprised, my friend. Ha ha! You’d be very surprised. It’s not my thing, but you know by virtue of being in the movies, that’s always available to you. And there are some serious fans out there, women too. Yes, even when you’re a hideously burned psychopath.