We caught up with director Chris McKay ahead of the highly-anticipated The LEGO Batman Movie.
When did you decide that Batman needed his own film?
Warner Bros. right away saw that the response people had to Batman, and the company is heavily invested in Batman with all these new movies they’re doing, and I think literally the first week The LEGO Movie premiered they were like ‘is there a Batman movie here?’ At the time, they were asking me to work on LEGO 2, they were asking me to do that and work with Chris (Miller) and Phil (Lord) on Batman; that was how we worked, I was across everything. When we went to pitch both movies – LEGO 2 is this ambitious, space musical, and Batman was more containable – WB said ‘can we turn this around in 2.5 years?’ We just wanted to make an epic Batman film in a relatively short amount of time.
Were there any other stories considered before you settled on the current build?
At one point they thought The Joker would somehow trick Batman into going to see a therapist. When we were first working on the story, Seth Grahame-Smith (the writer) pitched this version where Batman was tricked by The Joker into going into therapy, and Harley Quinn was the therapist, and that was what unravelled Batman. It wouldn’t have been as fun to watch Batman to go and sit in a therapist chair and talk about stuff, as opposed to being confronted with needing to change in his life, with Joker provoking him by upping his game. It became clear that we wanted to see Batman out of his element; talking about things wasn’t super animation friendly, it had to be more active, and he needed to be forced to confront these kind of things. It was more fun.
We imagine the licensing procedure would have been pretty hectic?
I kept a lot of lawyers and producers and assistants very busy trying to chase down the rights, and who wrote which character, and who owns what. There could be a whole movie made about chasing down all the different rights holders for all these characters.
Were there any villains that missed the film that you really wanted to include?
Some of the villains that I wanted to put in were people like Kathy Bates from Misery, Daniel Day-Lewis from Gangs of New York, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, HAL from 2001. There were quite a few that we pitched out – I think even Moby Dick at one point. Some of them you couldn’t interpret very well in LEGO, some of them were too obscure for people to recognise, especially once it’s interpreted in LEGO. Some you couldn’t develop a clear joke about it, and then some of it was just LEGO put their foot down and basically said ‘you can’t put all these R-rated properties in this movie’. I think we found a good balance, with the Gremlins, with Sauron, with Agent Smith from The Matrix, the Daleks as well – there’s a good balance there.
Did you draw inspiration from any Batman in particular?
We based Will Arnett’s Batman in The LEGO Movie on somewhere between the Christopher Nolan and Frank Miller versions, and then obviously the Zack Snyder Batman v Superman came out when we were in production. The idea of putting Burt Ward from the ‘66 series Robin in a Batmobile with a Christopher Nolan/Frank Miller/Ben Affleck version of Batman; will this indefatigable, kind of Book of Mormon, super-positive character rub off on him and change him? It seemed like a fun premise, one of those ‘what if?’ games – what if this character from the ‘60s was put in the Batmobile with this dark, brooding, modern character and how would they affect each other. It seemed like a fun thing to do.
So Robin was someone you always wanted to include in the film?
The whole reason I wanted to do this was I wanted a fun, super-positive version of Robin, indefatigable, who only saw an upside, and where the glass is always half full. No matter what’s thrown at him in life he remains optimistic, positive, and full of hope, and that’s a fun character to have to put into a movie.
Finally, what can you tell us about Nightwing?
The DC/Warner Bros snipers have just appeared on the rooftop outside the window, so I’m gonna be very careful about what I say. There’s no contract, I’m a big comic book fan, I want to make a live-action movie. I am working with them to do a Nightwing movie, as soon as the contracts get signed and the script lands and all that stuff. The next big thing I want to do is a big, action-packed Nightwing movie, and I literally can’t wait to be a part of it.
The LEGO Batman Movie is in cinemas now. Here’s our review.