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The truth about how the Dark Knight Trilogy was made

Years after it concluded in 2012, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which re-imagined the Batman legend with Christian Bale in the starring role, remains one of the most definitive comic book adaptations of all time, setting the standard for an entire generation of movies to come. With an acclaimed director like Nolan at the helm, the three films — 2005's Batman Begins, 2008's The Dark Knight, and 2012's The Dark Knight Rises — brought a serious, dark tone and tons of prestige to a new world of Batman stories. Though the Caped Crusader's on-screen presence has already been rebooted a couple of times since the trilogy concluded — including a turn from Ben Affleck and an upcoming fresh take starring Robert Pattinson — these still feel like the gold standard when it comes to Batman films.

If you wanted to learn more about the story behind the Dark Knight trilogy, you're in luck. In a recent interview with Collider, production designer Nathan Crowley, who played a key role in bringing Nolan's vision to life, opened up about the process behind these incredibly popular films. Here's the truth about how the Dark Knight trilogy was made, from the origin of the Batmobile to the realities of shooting on location.

How Crowley began on Batman Begins

Having worked with Nolan on the director's 2002 film Insomnia, Crowley was familiar with the British auteur's process. That's why it was early in development that Nolan revealed to Crowley that he was imagining a new Batman adaptation. Crowley was immediately interested, and according to the designer, their first step was designing a new Batmobile for a new generation.

As Crowley told Collider, "I went around to his house for lunch and Chris started talking about how he wanted to remake Batman, and at the time it was like, 'Wow, hasn't everything been done?' And then he started explaining to me what he wanted to do. I remember after that lunch he got me very excited, and he was saying one of the biggest things he wanted to try and do was redesign the Batmobile."

Apparently, the Batmobile had pretty humble origins: "It was a Friday, I went away and I went down to Toys R Us and bought a bunch of vehicles. I went over to my workshop and cut everything up and smashed them up," Crowley said. He continued, "His thing was I've gotta explain everything. I've gotta explain why Batman is Batman. These things don't magically work, he doesn't have any superpowers. He's physical and he has technology and he has his money; money is his superpower. We really just started from that moment and Jonah, Chris' brother, was there helping as well. We just decided to take the Batmobile just as something to start with that might inform the rest of the film."

The Dark Knight brought a bigger and better vision of Batman

Luckily — and unsurprisingly — Batman Begins was an immediate success, opening the door for Crowley and Nolan to reunite for a sequel. According to Crowley, the duo realized they could go even bigger for 2008's The Dark Knight, the movie which ultimately made Nolan's take on the hero a legend.

As Crowley recalls, "For me — I don't think this is true for Chris — The Dark Knight is actually the Batman I always wanted to make, but we had to step over Batman Begins to get to it. I am a desperate modernist. I like simplicity. On Batman Begins, I struggled with trying to make sure we didn't destroy the comic book-ness of what Batman was and we tried to explain everything – there was the cave and Wayne Manor and how that worked and how you got down to it. There was lots of explanation in the design, and I'm grateful for Chris because he burned everything down [at the end of] Batman Begins."

The Dark Knight also added an amazing feature to the Batmobile: the Batpod. Crowley remembers, "That was actually a Warner Bros. executive in early garage times saying, 'Hey, the bike could come out of the car'. It might have even been on Batman Begins... It was like, 'I think they're right, we have to pull the bike out of the car'. Then it became this secrecy of we couldn't say there's a bike in it, and he has to sacrifice the Batmobile and the phoenix has to arrive in the form of the bike." After making it in secret, the newest feature of the Batmobile was ready to wow audiences, giving the already amazing Batmobile a new spin.

The Dark Knight Rises spanned several locations

During the time between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, Crowley and Nolan made several other films, and according to Crowley, those projects helped inspire the process for The Dark Knight Rises.

"We've done these films in between the Batman films, like The Prestige got slotted in there and it was very low budget," Crowley said. "We sort of slowly discovered the beauty and the advantage of getting around locations and getting as many as possible. So by the time we get to The Dark Knight Rises, we're going to like three different countries. And that really expands the scope of the film practically. Obviously we make films practically — we avoid set extensions and as much digital work as possible."

Despite filming plenty of scenes in Pittsburgh as a stand-in for Gotham, Crowley and Nolan realized they could incorporate New York as well: "On Batman Begins, myself and Chris — I live in Brooklyn, so he'd often come over here and write in New York. We'd go walking, we'd walk the city and talk about, 'What if the film was here?' We always talked about New York but never shot in New York... I think by the time we got to Dark Knight Rises it was kind of like, we kind of have to film in New York. If we're gonna do it, we have to actually finally play Gotham as New York. Because on Batman Begins we'd walk around downtown and say, 'Okay imagine if Gotham was here. Let's talk about how it could be here.'"

If you want to relive the Dark Knight trilogy, all three films are available to rent on major streaming platforms.