By Bryan Alexander

Superhero actors go to great pains in costume

Gannett News Service
Posted 07/11/2012 at 3:54 pm EST

By Bryan Alexander


Evildoers of the world, take note: The best way of warding off summer's pesky, lifesaving superheroes might be to simply leave them to suffer in their own protective outfits.

Action-flick star Christian Bale admitted as much when he talked about putting on the famous Batsuit for the first time.

"The claustrophobia was just unbelievable," Bale said at a recent press conference for The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, opening July 20. "I stood there and thought, 'I can't breathe. I can't think. This is too tight. This is squeezing my head. I'm about to have a nervous breakdown.'"

No matter how cool-looking they are, these suits are far more pain than perks, say their inhabitants and creators. Just putting together the multilayered Bat attire, which has 110 parts, was a major production. "That thing takes a long time to get on and off," director Nolan admits.

As the intensive routine to fit Bale into it improved from 2005's Batman Begins, through 2008's The Dark Knight and this summer's installment, so did the entire movie's shooting schedule. "This (movie) we finished eight days early," says Nolan. "I think part of that is because we learned shortcuts to get (the costume) on."

Bale noticed the "comfort" improving with it, too, so that "I could rip it off myself if I did in fact see stars."

Andrew Garfield had web-outfit issues for the just-opened The Amazing Spider-Man, including low vision in the mask and difficult bathroom breaks. The collection of superheroes in this spring's The Avengers, meanwhile, showed super-disparity, with some stars having a much easier time with costumes than others.

Robert Downey Jr. roughed it in his bulky Iron Man gear, broiling as he shot scenes in the New Mexico summer. "I didn't have a cooling device," he says. But in the many scenes when Iron Man's helmet is down, a suffering stand-in took the heat.

Meanwhile, Chris Evans couldn't escape shooting in a Captain America outfit and head mask -- the latter required 45 minutes to get on, and 20 minutes to get off. He, too, suffered claustrophobia. "You just know you can't get out of it," he says.

But as defeated foe after defeated foe has shown this summer, heroes always manage to pull it together despite their draconian duds. And in the end, the actors don't fare too badly, either.

"Let's be honest here," says Steve Weintraub, editor of the movie website "All of these people get paid a lot of money, and they're in the biggest films on the planet. I don't think anyone can really complain about being part of these franchises, no matter how bad the outfits."

Hollywood's super-whiners should perhaps suck it up and take their cue from their Broadway counterparts, most notably the dozen acrobatic actors who are costumed for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Production spokesman Rick Miramontez says it takes just 10 minutes for the actors to change into their custom-fit attire.

There have been "no complaints that we've ever heard," says Miramontez. "To the contrary, putting on the suit is their favorite part of doing the show."