Hypable’s own John Thrasher was invited to be an extra in The Dark Knight Rises at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania yesterday. Check out his report, which includes major spoilers and plot details about the next Batman movie! DO NOT read on if you don’t want to know what happens in yesterday’s scene.
Hey Hypable fans! Boy, do I have some awesome stuff to report from yesterday’s filming of The Dark Knight Rises! If you’re a Batman fan, you’re going to want to settle in because there are a lot of amazing details coming out of this post! I should also note that I was never asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding any of the scenes I was a part of, or any of the set that I saw. So, this post is 100% legal!
Yesterday, my friend Seth and I woke up at 5am in Pittsburgh so that we could get to the parking area by 6:30. Our info pack had said we would be filming from 6:30am – 7pm, so we both knew we had a very long day ahead of us. We were asked to wear late fall/early winter clothing for today’s filming which meant we were both in jeans and winter jackets. We eventually got to downtown
Gotham City Pittsburgh and found the parking lot very easily (Seth lived in Gotham City Pittsburgh for 3 years). From the lot, we were shuttled (by “Bat-Shuttle” which were really just school buses) to the set. They considered all of Heinz Field the set, so no cars or trucks could park or go in and out that weren’t authorized. Once we got there, we signed in, grabbed our set pass and a bag of treats (water, cookie, granola bar, sunscreen) and followed production assistants wherever they told us to go. Ultimately, we found seats inside the stadium along with about 10,000 others! The excitement, even as we first took our seat around 7:30, was at a very high level. Everyone in the stadium was cheering, chanting, buzzing. We all knew how lucky we were to be a part of this hugely successful movie franchise, in what was sure to be one of the most exciting scenes of the film. However, we did notice that only about 25% (maybe less) of the stadium seats were filled. The reason for this was because there just simply wasn’t a need to fill the entire stadium full of people when they were only going to be filming from a certain angle. In the movie, if they do show the entire stadium full of people, it would be CGI to duplicate the audience. From what others were saying, there was a very large wait list of people hoping to get in on the action, so this decision was deliberate.
The first thing we noticed as we took our seats was the set on the football field. As pictured above, there was a chunk of ground raised up from the regular football field as if an earthquake had happened. The picture shows the rocky, broken ground filled with holes. My friend Seth and I spent most of the day trying to figure out what its purpose was, but later in this post it will all make sense. The stadium was also outfitted with Gotham Rogue logos, including the jumbotron, which you can also see just below the Doritos sign.
The Pittsburgh Steelers came out in Gotham Rogue uniforms and the Pittsburgh crowd went crazy. Director Christopher Nolan was spotted along with Heinz Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and a few others who were there to film the football game that was going on. They filmed a particular scene for about 2 hours while certain sections of the audience were moved around to different sections of the stadium to fill in areas where there were no fans. As mentioned, only about 25% of the stadium was full of Gotham Rogues fans.
Below is another picture of the stadium as the crew worked on setting a camera track. In the foreground is the Gotham Rogues, and across the field are the Rapid City Monuments.
Just before noon, we were once again relocated. This time, we found our seats right behind the goal post, about 10 rows from the field. This relocation would be the last relocation of the day, as the rest of the day consisted on filming what would end up being the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.
After people settled in to their final relocated seats, we were told to check out the mound of dirt that was just put together in the center of the field because it was going to explode. The entire stadium cheered with excitement! Finally, we were going to see something other than football players! But that wasn’t all. We were then told to focus our attention at the corner of the stadium. We hear a loud roar, and sure enough, right on cue, 3 tumblers, one armed with a cannon barrel, came rolling in to Heinz field as loud as trains! Everyone went crazy! It was so cool to see these things up close and personal. Check out the picture below if you don’t know what the tumblers are. Finally, the cannon-barrel turned, aimed at the mound, and on the count of 3 shot at it causing a huge explosion. In reality, there were two separate detonations (in the tumbler and on the mound) but either way it was a pretty awesome thing to watch. After the tumblers exited the field, we were asked if we liked that explosion, to which the entire stadium cheered. We were then told that we better get used to it because later on there were going to be 60 of those explosions happening in sequence!
It should be noted that the tumblers were not filmed as part of this scene in any way. They were there for show. However, the producer told the audience that Bane and his crew of men have stolen them by this point in the film.
Finally around midday, we got to put on our acting hat. They were ready to film the kickoff for the Gotham Rogues. Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl was the kicker for the Rapid City Monuments while Heinz Ward received the ball for the Gotham City Rogues. It’s almost certain that in the movie they will not be playing themselves, even though both of their jerseys had their last names on them. In this scene we were Gotham City Rogue fans cheering on the big opening day kick! Though it was fun, it got very repetitive – they did about 10 takes of the opening kickoff.
Eventually, they got to the good stuff though. After that football scene was finished, the cameras moved over towards the audience and Tom Hardy emerged (pictured above)! He was not in the Bane costume, and was only there to watch the scene we were about to film. We were told that as we were cheering the opening kickoff in the movie, we would then be seeing a series of huge explosions on the field, to which we would need to react appropriately. A man on a microphone then cued us to cheer and then to eventually scream and panic using his vocal “booms” as cues of the explosions. This was definitely a highlight of my life. The scene begins, the camera is rolling, we’re cheering. Then we hear over the microphone “Boom! Boom! Boom!” while 10,000 people scream, panic, run towards the exits, climb over their seats, get threatened by Bane’s army with guns, and do everything you can imagine would happen if there were an attack of this level. At the end of all of the booms, we were directed to look down at to the field because in the film “a very scary man has just entered the stadium and has threatened to kill [us].” Obviously, this was going to be Bane, though when we filmed this scene he was not there. Below is a picture of the crowd reacting to the sight of Bane and his army of men.
After about 10 takes of the crowd reaction scene, it was time to move on to the grand finale of sorts. The pyrotechnics team had set up 60 little mounds just like the first one that had been blown to smithereens. On the little island plateau was 1 Gotham Rogues player, and 4 Rapid City Monuments players. They rehearsed a scene of the Monuments trying to tackle the Rogue, as the Monuments fell in to holes that were in the ground. Ultimately, this scene will be the touchdown from the kick off scene that we filmed earlier in the morning. Once again the man on the microphone asked us to be a part of this scene, cheering on the Rogues until we hear his “Booms” again. Eventually these vocal “booms” would be replaced with actual explosions – the 60 explosions that were ready to be detonated on the field. But there could only be 1 take of the explosions so it was very important to rehearse and get it right.
So finally, after all day in the hot sun with jeans and a pea coat on, we were ready to shoot the explosion scene! And, right on cue, we cheered, screamed and then panicked as 60 explosions followed behind the Gotham City Rogue player as he went in for the touchdown. It was easily the coolest thing I have ever seen! The mounds of dirt and grass flew about 100 or more feet in to the air, and the entire stadium screamed in horror. I for one can not wait to see how this scene eventually looks when it hits the big screen next year. And, I was still right behind the goal post so there’s a high likelihood that I’ll be able to spot me in the crowd! Below is a photo of the field after it has been destroyed, but remember a lot of what you are seeing will look a lot worse once it has gone through post-production editing. This will NOT entirely be what it looks like on film.
One guy who was also a part of yesterday’s audience managed to keep his video recording on during the filming of the explosions. Thankfully, he dedicated himself to the scene and only kept it on for audio purposes, so if you really want to be spoiled and hear what the explosions and crowd sound like, check out this video:
After the scene finished, the producer came on the microphone and told us all what we had just filmed. Basically, the Gotham City Rogues are kicking off and before the first play has even ended, Bane has blown up and destroyed the entire football field, killing all of the football players in the process. Eventually, Bane emerges, threatens the stadium and holds a mad scientist hostage. The island/plateau that we saw Monument players falling in to, and that we had spent all day trying to figure out the purpose of, was actually what was left of the field after the explosions created a giant crater all around it.
At this point it was about 5:30pm, we were sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted beyond anything I had ever felt before (remember, I didn’t sleep the night before and just sat in the sun for 10 hours!). The producer announced that Bane was going to be on set very shortly and that he “was going to come and threaten us all.” I was so excited to see Bane in all his glory, but ultimately we decided it was time to go. We had a 2-hour drive back to Maryland, and we were at our breaking point with the sun and the crowd. Plus, we got to see Tom Hardy already, albeit in regular gym clothes, so we could leave knowing we got to see him.
Bane eventually did make his way to the set, along with a giant bomb of sorts. ComicBookMovie.com posted the image below as well as the following details about Bane’s entrance:
“The bane scene was him walking out of the tunnel after the field was blown up. He spoke into a mic he took off a dead referee. He literally sounds like an old man on a respirator. It was hard to make out what he said. Something along the lines of “your city is being liberated…” he had a big object about 5 feet tall, it was a sphere, probably a bomb. Think about the one in the batman movie with two-face at the circus.”
Overall, the experience was really really exciting. As you can see from the pictures and video above, the scene will surely be something awe-inspiring and I feel very lucky to not only be there and experience it, but to be able to share it with all the Batman fans on Hypable! Also, a special thanks to my friend Seth for taking a couple pictures while we were there. (Remember, there was no NDA to sign, so this is all technically legal!
The Dark Knight Rises will hit theaters on July 20, 2012.