Director Christopher Nolan created a new standard for comic book movies with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, presenting a realistic and mature take on the Batman mythos. That bar may be set even higher this summer with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in his popular film trilogy.
Helping conceive Nolan’s mature vision of Gotham City has been a collection of talent both on screen and off, including longtime sound re-recording mixer Gary Rizzo – 1993 Full Sail Recording Arts graduate and Hall of Fame inductee. Gary began his collaboration with the director on 2005’s Batman Begins, followed it with The Prestige in 2006, was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on 2008’s The Dark Knight, and went on to win his first Oscar statue for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing for Inception in 2010.
It’s been a successful partnership to say the least, and we caught up with Gary during postproduction on The Dark Knight Rises to speak about the endurance of their unique relationship.
“The thing about working with Chris is that you’re doing exactly that – you’re working with Chris,” Gary says. “Chris doesn’t want you to go behind the curtain and do a bunch of stuff and present it to him. He really wants to do it with you. He’ll say things like ‘I’m not getting enough of the emotion out of this moment,’ whether it’s a line or a sound effect or a music cue. He’ll direct you emotionally just like he would direct an actor, which is fantastic.”
It’s an intimidating thought. Sitting in a darkened dub stage with one of the industry’s top directors, working on what may be the most anticipated film of the summer – but then Gary has been doing this for nearly 20 years. There’s a natural confidence that develops as you build your craft in an industry, and after helping create the audio mixes for a string of contemporary classics like Titanic, Black Hawk Down, and The Incredibles, that experience has given Gary the creative instincts to feel his way through a project of this scale.
“This is normal to me, this is what I do, but it’s still never a cakewalk,” he says. “Having done five movies with Chris now, sometimes there’s experimentation involved, but most of the time you just have to go with your gut, and that’s so valuable in this field. There is no real preparation you can do going into a film like this, the only thing is to be on your game. Wear your Air Jordan’s because you’ll be on your toes all day.”
While it’s not easy to separate himself from the task at hand while working on a challenging film like The Dark Knight Rises, Gary admits to finding special pleasure in projects with such a devoted fan base. Before heading back into the studio to finalize the audio mix, he explained that being able to put his time and effort into the motion picture canon of a character like Batman is hard not to be excited about.
“I’m just as enthusiastic as a fan boy, in the case that every day brings a new set of factors to help get Chris’s project to the end, which is fun,” he says. “I never forget what this is and where this is going and how many people are waiting with baited breath to catch this. So I get it, I get it every day, and you do get a tickle after a playback, thinking ‘this is really huge.’”