Steele, who won the 2011 XBIZ Award for Director of the Year-Individual Project for his Bluebird Films epic, said the idea developed from numerous discussions with company owner Paul Chaplin.
“He’s a big comic-book guy,” Steele explained. “And what happened was we were planning on doing it and I said the only way I’ll do it is if I can do it based off of ‘Dark Knight.’ I thought Heath Ledger nailed it, and that’s more my style, something I could get turned on about.
"So the real vision was the performance of Heath Ledger in ‘Dark Knight’ and how that movie legitimized comic-book movies in the mainstream industry. And it was strictly all pushed along by Paul because he wanted to do Batman.”
Chaplin went on to play the lead villain Jo-Kerr in “Bat FXXX” in a stirring performance that helped lift the movie into its rarified air. What also defined the feature were the digital elements that came to life during the elaborate post-production process. The finished product also led to the Best Special Effects honor on Feb. 9 at the ninth annual XBIZ Awards at the Hollywood Palladium.
“At one point I had 23 people working on it in post. That was what made it real different from anything else,” said Steele, who took full advantage of Bluebird’s in-house resources, namely the company’s 60,000 square foot studio in Van Nuys. “There is no studio like it in our business. I call it a mini major. It’s run like a mainstream studio. I think it’s actually better.”
Steele said that the other big challenge was to effectively capture all the orgy scenes that highlighted “Bat FXXX.”
“I had sporadically shot a lot of ‘multiple’ scenes, but not a lot of orgies in 20 years. And I think there are six in the movie,” the director said. “I’ve always thought orgies were really tough to pull off. You have to keep the heat going without all these hard cuts and keep it natural … So that’s probably in the Top 3 or 5 of the accomplishments with this movie. I thought the orgy scenes were done well.”
Steele said shooting orgies is a delicate balance between planning and being “organic.”
“You have to not over-direct it and then capture it anyway,” he reasoned.
It took a full year to complete “Bat FXXX” from the first shot to the DVD hitting the streets. And the final six weeks of post-production called for numerous 20-hour days for Steele & Co.
“It’s a team really,” he said. “For the last 20 years that name Nicholas Steele is a conglomeration of a bunch of people that buy into a project. I have a great team. … They know when to call me in to approve something. I let them do their jobs. I don’t over-manage my team.”
Steele said he was gratified by the movie’s acceptance in the marketplace, “but No. 1 was the gratification I got with my partner Paul Chaplin in creating magic.”
“We took two different styles and combined them and came up with two really magical movies,” Steele said, referring to Bluebird’s period epic “Bonny & Clide” that also received critical acclaim in 2010.
Steele applauded Chaplin for allowing him space to do what he does best with “Bat FXXX.”
“He would get on set and say, ‘I’m talent. It’s your game,’” Steele said. “Of course behind the scenes we were talking. But he was very respectful of me as a producer and director interpreting what my vision was. He had a lot of work to do as a performer and he nailed it. He couldn’t have been sitting there micromanaging and producing and pulling off what he pulled off as a performer. So I got a lot of gratification out of feeling that Paul and I came together and made a magical movie. That’s something no one can take away from us.”