A handful of movie news sites were invited to the set of The Dark Knight Rises last summer, and details from said visit are now available online. Stars Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), and Tom Hardy (Bane) – along with director Christopher Nolan’s wife/producer Emma Thomas – were pretty tight-lipped, so as to help maintain a shroud of secrecy around Nolan’s climactic Batman movie. Judging by how (in the present) we still know only possess a rough outline of the film’s plot, their efforts were not in vain.

We’ve gone ahead and cultivated the choice quotes from the Dark Knight Rises cast and crew here, with links at the conclusion of this article to the full interviews, which are available in print and audio form over at Collider.

Feel free to read ahead as you please, since the following is SPOILER-FREE.

Going by what can be gleaned from the recent Dark Knight Rises trailers and TV spots, the film picks up with Bruce Wayne during a transitional period (Pulp Fiction reference not intended), wherein the onetime masked vigilante has essentially hung up his cape and cowl – as Gotham has become a relatively peaceful metropolis. Bale confirmed as much, when he said the following about Bruce in DKR:

BALE: To me, [Bruce Wayne] has it all; it’s all in there.  The thing is, he is still that child basically.  The one thing that I do know, and there’s an awful lot in the graphic novels, which we’ve played with a little bit, is this whole notion of him genuinely being a playboy versus what we’ve done, which is he sort of performs that but his heart’s not really in it.  And the eternal problem that Alfred has with watching this guy who has no life.  He’s put his entire life on hold because, yeah, he still does.  He’s got this fierceness in his mind and emotions that he just will not forget the pain of the parents.  With most people it’s like time heals all wounds, but with him it’s like, “No, no, no. ”  He doesn’t want to forget it, he wants to maintain that anger that he felt at that injustice but equally he wants to present this very vacuous soulless persona to Gotham so hopefully no one will suspect him but will just think he’s a spoiled bastard.  But consequently in his most intimate moments he has Alfred, he has Rachel and there is not a whole lot there, because it’s complete arrested development.  And the recognition that at some point he’s got to start living.   He is seriously behind in terms of life and enjoyment of life.  That’s all been sacrificed and at some point, hopefully it’s Alfred’s wish that he will start to live again.  Of course this tragedy has defined him but to a degree he’s sacrificed everything that most people would consider worth living for in life and he’s going to have relearn that, embarrassingly late in life.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne in 'Dark Knight Rises'

Dark Knight Rises has two entire movies to draw on for context, with regards to backstory for Bruce and how he has reached this stage in his life. However, the film’s iterations of famous Batman femme fatale Catwoman and muscly madman Bane are drawing from different sources, including the original comics and the sheer imagination of the film’s cast and writers (Chris Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and Davis S. Goyer).

HARDY: I had no immediate knowledge of the world of Batman at all.  I’m quite incubated.  I just keep myself to myself and my dog.  He’s not with me anymore.  And if something comes in, it’s always a neat experience.  So it started when I first got the part… [Bane is] a different character.  Of course, I’m playing a different character than I’ve ever played before.  But you know way too much of this story of me.  So I can’t answer that.

THOMAS: Without saying too much [about Bane], I think we’ve retained what works for this universe and for our world. He’s definitely recognizable. But then there are some things that we’ve changed, because I think they wouldn’t have fit into Chris Nolan’s version of the world…We were obviously never going to revisit the Joker and you don’t want to be trying to chase that. So it’s fun to have a very different sort of villain in this and a different sort of challenge for Batman to meet, much more physical. It’s almost a more even match in some ways, you know, in a physical sense. You just don’t want to do the same thing again.

As far as the film’s approach to Catwoman is concerned:

HATHAWAY: Well the first thing you have to say is what an honor.  It was funny for me because when I got my start, I kind of got my big break with ‘The Princess Diaries’ and during the press rounds for that everyone asked me: “Did you always want to be a princess growing up?”  And the truth was, no I wanted to be Catwoman.  And I think a lot of women feel that way… I loved Catwoman’s sense of humor.  I love how sly she is.  I love how she, to use a cat metaphor, walks the fence and you don’t know which side she’s going to come down on.  She’s totally independent.  And let’s face it, she’s badass.

… Each Catwoman is specific to the Gotham City she lives in and the director that helps shape her.  So it’s kind of hard to have a favorite and I’m not just being political, it’s hard to have a favorite because each one is so specific as themselves.  And you look back at the history of the comic and Catwoman gets reinvented every ten to fifteen years anyway.  You can have preferences but the core of the character remains… I grew up with [several different versions of Catwoman] so I was well acquainted with the character’s dimension; she’s one of my favorite characters in the comic book world and in the movie world.  But I didn’t go back to any of the other ones because I’m in Chris’s Gotham City.  For me it didn’t make a lot of sense to look at them for inspiration, even as extraordinary a performance that Michelle Pfeiffer gave, that was Tim Burton’s Gotham. So for me that didn’t make a lot of sense.
[SIDENOTE: Check out these more recent interviews with Hardy and Hathaway, where they offer additional insight about their approach to playing Bane and Catwoman, respectively.]

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in 'Dark Knight Rises'

Whereas Joker in The Dark Knight represented more of a mental challenge for the Caped Crusader, Bane and Catwoman are well-renowned for both their craftiness and physical prowess – the sheer power of the former, acrobatic maneuverability of the latter. The Dark Knight Rises cast was not only willing to spill on the physical challenges of training and executing hand-to-hand combat sequences for the production, but also to touch on how said fights reflect the shifting power balance between their characters (especially, with Batman and Bane).

BALE: We have fantastic stunt guys.  Buster Reeves, who’s have been with us since the first one, and Tom Struthers.  And thing is, this is sort of what we do.  They kind of work out what they’d like to see in the fights and Tom [Hardy] and myself come in and bring in the story to the fights.  Because a fight that is just a knock down, everyone punching each other, ceases to be really exciting after a while.  You’ve got to figure a way to tell a story within the fight.  And also you can get some very trained fighters who can follow and incredibly fast and furious fight, but I don’t know about you guys but as you watch UFC sometimes you’re going “I dunno what’s going on. ” It looks like a bloody mess.  You sometimes have to be able to just look at it with eyes like myself, someone who’s not a trained fighter and understand what’s happening, and it’s amazing the difference that between the fantastic stuntmen that come in and do their jobs and when we, Tom [Hardy] and I, come in and say “all right I get that, but this is what I’ve got to be thinking here, so I’ve got to do it this way. ” And actually seeing a fight that has description and a beginning, middle, and end to it is a wonderful thing, keeps it so much more entertaining and means so much more then showing off a few martial arts moves.

HATHAWAY: I’d always thought I was pretty healthy and I always thought I had worked hard in the gym and it turns out that what I thought was hard, in Catwoman’s world, is actually light to moderate.  I’ve had to ratchet everything up.  I have the most incredible stuntwoman in the world and she’s got me and the character to another level… I don’t actually know the name of [Catwoman’s fighting style] – sorry this makes me sound like an airhead.  The stunt department are all phenomenal fighters and so I’ve just been mimicking them and doing whatever they tell me to do.  I do all sorts of kicks.  I do a roundhouse kick, I think its all mixed martial arts.  I don’t know what the martial arts technique is called but I’ve been doing it in heels!

Bane vs. Batman in 'Dark Knight Rises'

Previous reports indicated that Dark Knight Rises could includes nearly an hour of native IMAX footage, as was shot using the traditional IMAX camera system (a 150-200 lbs. device) often coupled with the use of a steadicam (an unprecedented approach). However, according to Thomas, that isn’t a certainty… because, as it turns out, probably MORE than an hour’s worth of IMAX footage was actually shot; how much eventually makes the final cut, is the question.

THOMAS: Gosh, that’s actually very difficult to say at this point because basically, at the moment we’re shooting a lot in IMAX…a LOT in IMAX, much more than we shot in ‘The Dark Knight’We’re actually shooting a lot in IMAX and 35mm, and then some exclusively in 35mm. So, I don’t know at this point what the final [percentage will be.] We’re still using the big [IMAX cameras], which is great. Obviously there are real limitations in terms of dialogue scenes and heavy drama stuff, so we’ve shot some of that with both and some of it exclusively with 35mm. There’s no doubt there’ll be a lot more on IMAX than there was on ‘The Dark Knight’.

The producer also touched on the decision to shoot the bulk of the Gotham City exterior/establishing shots in Dark Knight Rises in Pittsburgh, rather than return to Chicago (as was used for Batman Begins and Dark Knight):

THOMAS: [‘Dark Knight Rises definitely has] a different aesthetic. Once again, we didn’t want to just be repeating the same old thing. I don’t think anyone would want to see just the same old thing and it certainly wouldn’t be any fun for us to tell the same old story. Visually, I think the same thing applies to that. It’s meant to be winter in Gotham, so that right there is going to lend a whole different look to the film. So far, we have shot rather more in the daylight than we did in ‘The Dark Knight’, but we’ve got a lot of nights coming our way, too.

It’s great to be in Pittsburgh. We’re having a really great time here. One of the biggest reasons we came here was that Chicago…we had a fantastic time there and we loved it, but we literally have shot every inch of that city. As I said, we don’t want to be retreading old territory, whether that be visually or in terms of the storyline. We want this to be a stand-alone movie that just doesn’t feel like something anyone’s seen before… Gotham is meant to be a massive metropolis; it’s meant to be a huge city. I think we felt like if we went back to Chicago we would be limiting the scope and we just wanted to make it feel massive.

Lastly – as a reward for all those who’ve read this far, check out this newly-unveiled TV spot for Dark Knight Rises:

For the full interviews over at Collider, click on any of the following links:

The Dark Knight Rises in theaters around the U.S. on July 20th, 2012.