Batman's Lambo: "Dark Knight" production designer talks about Lamborghini's role in new film, how Tumbler was created
Bruce Wayne's Lamborghini Murcielago may show up Ironman's Audi R8 in this summer of comic book heroes and their supercars.
The highly anticipated installment of the Batman franchise, "The Dark Knight" [http://thedarkknight.warnerbros.com/], out this Friday, is expected to be one of the summer's big blockbusters. This time we get to see the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 show its moxie in a daytime car chase through Gotham City.
The Warners Bros. film is the last major movie with the late Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker. The film also features Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart, who join the cast of 2005's "Batman Begins" -- with Christian Bale once again as billionaire Bruce Wayne and the caped crusader, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Sgt. James Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
Christopher Nolan, who also directed "Batman Begins," again brought on production designer Nathan Crowley to be in charge of the cars as well as other design aspects. Crowley says they wanted to offer something different when it came to the Lambo's role in this film.
"We asked Lamborghini to give us some cars so we can race them and use them in an action sequence, which we didn't do on the last film," Crowley tells motortrend.com
Crowley says because this chase happens to Bruce Wayne during the day, he can't use Batman's Tumbler. "So Lamborghini gave us three cars to do a stunt sequence with -- one of which we smashed up."
They shot the scene in Chicago, closing down up to 15 blocks. The special-effects team put rollcages in the stunt cars, and Lake Street was the straightaway for the Lambo and its 640 hp. "Lake Street is a straight street with an El above it; it goes on for miles and doesn't make any turns," Crowley says. "It's a great street for a straight run."
Even though they only did the stunt once, they rigged two cars in case the sequence didn't go as planned. The third car was filmed to race around the streets. "It was amazing they gave us these cars, because they're not exactly cheap," Crowley says.
Producers already had a good relationship with Lamborghini since "Batman Begins," in which the Murcielago Roadster, with a price tag of almost $400,000, made its movie debut. "It needed to be a convertible because he gets into the car with two girls; if it had a roof, they wouldn't have fit in," Crowley says. That was the appropriate car for the last film and this time, it was just, "Let's get a coupe, let's get it in a neutral color," he says.
"In 'Batman Begins' we used the prototype they hadn't quite released yet, so they gave us one of their first-run cars, which was wonderful. This time we went back to them and said, 'Hey, if we do an action sequence are you prepared to give us a few cars, and we'd obviously do some damage to them?' So they were terrific," Crowley recalls. "We got three cars out of it, which was good for us because it allowed us to do an action sequence that didn't involve the Tumbler. So we get to do a little bit of an action sequence with Bruce Wayne, instead of always doing it with Batman. It was a nice little twist."
As for that other car, Crowley designed the Tumbler for the last movie, and it's back in this film. But there is a twist on the Tumbler this time around that connects it to the Bat Pod.
Crowley's Tumbler took some 40 mechanics six months to build and is replete with a Chevy big-block V-8 and a truck axle for the rear axle. "It hasn't a front axle, if you look at it; it has two arms hauled over the front wheels, which gives it a whole different suspension," he explains.
Crowley also designed the Bat Pod. Both have been on tour this month and will end up in Hollywood the day of the release and will be there for a week.
"When you design a Batmobile or motorbike, it's all about form and function; it's not different from any other design," Crowley says. "You're looking for something new, looking for interesting shapes. I've always liked car design. I've been interested in it because it's a design form."
He stayed away from automakers when designing the Tumbler to avoid outside influences. "Oddly enough, one of the hardest things to develop is the tires -- you need to go to a tire manufacturer. If you're looking for large tires, the choice suddenly slims down."
To fit his mind's design of the Tumbler, he chose Hoosier race tires in the front and four rear back tires. "The front tires are difficult to determine, it took a lot of research to find them. I modeled this thing up and you design it without any preconception that you might have trouble finding a tire because that didn't cross my mind," Crowley laughs. "These are the hurdles you learn about -- like, 'Wow, I can't find a tire.'"