Earlier today we had the opportunity to participate in a video press conference with Sir Michael Caine at the Los Angeles press day for Cars 2 – the globetrotting sequel to the popular Pixar tale. Caine plays the British secret agent (embodied in a sleek Aston Martin) Finn McMissile in the film.

The actor lamented his inability to attend the press event (and this evenings premiere) for the film which he so enjoyed making.

I wish I could be there,” he told director John Lasseter “but I’m doing “Batman and they wouldn’t let me go.” Lasseter spoke for The Dark Knight fans when he replied “No, no we want you to do Batman! We’re all big Batman fans and Alfred fans.”

There is a distinct air of mystery surrounding The Dark Knight Rises and Nolan likes to keep plot details as close to his chest as possible, but Caine did provide journalists with a tease of what we may expect from the film (if we choose to extrapolate on his words).

In two words or less — broken limbs.

When asked how production was going, Caine said:

“It’s fantastic. I started filming last week and I film next week. As the butler, I do a load of filming at the beginning, and everybody goes off and does all the adventures and they all come home shot to pieces and I patch them together when they all get back. Christopher Nolan, I think, is one of the greatest directors in the world and I’ve been lucky enough…this is my fifth movie with him. It’s such a pleasure to work with him and he’s so clever. We’ve all signed the Official Secrets Act. I’m lucky to be able to tell you the title of the movie. I remember I did an interview and someone said to me, “What are you doing next?” I said, “I’m doing Batman.” I saw Chris and he said, “Why did you tell them you were doing Batman?” I said, “Because I am.” He said, “You’re supposed to keep it secret.” I said, “I couldn’t keep that a secret.” Let me tell you…the plot is extraordinary…really extraordinary. I know why he wants to keep it a secret. You really need not to know till you see the movie.”

The actor also gave those in attendance a fascinating look into his process – and some of what he has imagined as Alfred’s back-story. It seems that in Caine’s mind the butler was a shattered soldier who’d all but lost his way when he joined the Wayne family.

“I’m a method actor, I’m Stanislavski and all that stuff, there is a back-story to my character. For instance, I play Alfred the butler in “Batman” and I wanted him to be a tough butler, and I wanted him to be an ex-soldier. The voice, the voice is the first Sergent I ever had. Because I was a soldier, and I had this voice of this Sergent and that’s his (Alfred’s) voice. And I always imagined him to be SAS — which is our special forces. He was wounded, and didn’t want to leave the Army, and went to work in the officer’s mess behind the bar, and Batman’s father came in and he saw him and said, ‘Would you like to be trained as a butler?’ And he said yes, and he went with him to America and was trained as a butler and that’s his back-story.”

Caine’s gritty interpretation of Alfred’s history seems to seamlessly meld into the darker vision that Chris Nolan has created for his Batman franchise. From what the actor expressed about the film in today’s conference (and what we know about Bane as a character) we imagine a heightened dose of raw brutality in this third, and final, installation in the series – when The Dark Knight Rises opens in July of 2012.

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