Batman The Dark Knight Rises - Batman (Christian Bale) © DC Comics and 2012 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

It’s been seven years since Christopher Nolan’s unique vision for DC Comics’ The Dark Knight franchise blasted onto movie screens with Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight in 2008. But all great things must come to an end, and the epic conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises, opens on July 20th.

Eight years after Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), disappeared into the night, after assuming the blame for the death of DA Harvey Dent, it appears to be time for him to come out of his self-imposed exile, when a masked terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives in Gotham City.

At the press day for The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale recalled his feelings when the franchise began …. and ended.

What was it like the first time you put on the Batman costume?

Bane (Tom Hardy) and Batman (Christian Bale) © DC Comics and 2012 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

I think the very first time I had the costume on it was at the audition. I think it was Val Kilmer’s, so it didn’t fit very well.

The first time I put on the actual one (made for me) I thought, ‘Oh, Chris has to recast.’ The claustrophobia was unbelievable. I stood there and thought, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t think. This is squeezing my head.

I’m going to panic. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown.’ I said, ‘Okay, breathe deeply,’ and’ I said, ‘ Could everyone just leave me alone for 20 minutes?’

I thought, ‘I’d really like to make this movie. I’d like to be able to get through this moment. I stood there 20 minutes by myself and I called them back in, and said, ‘Okay, let’s just talk very calmly and quietly and maybe I can get through this.’ And I learned to.

In the same way that Bruce Wayne improved the suit, we improved the suit for ourselves and it became far more comfortable. Primarily that panic attack aspect was lost, because I was able to rip it off myself if I ever did start seeing stars and couldn’t breathe.

What was it like the last time you put on the Batman costume, knowing that you would never play the role again?

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) © DC Comics and 2012 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

It was a very similar thing. We were doing this scene as Batman, it was with Anne [Hathaway] as Catwoman on a roof in Manhattan. And then I was wrapped.

I just went down and sat in a room and I realized, this is it. I’m never going to be taking this cowl off again. So again, I said, ‘Can you please leave me alone for 20 minutes?’ But with that moment it was with the realization of everything we’d done and a real pride of having achieved what we had set out to do.

It was a very important moment for me.

It’s been a very important character. It’s the only time I’ve played a character three times. And the movies themselves have changed my life and changed my career, so I wanted to just appreciate that for a little while.

Batman (Christian Bale) © DC Comics and 2012 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.