Making Rachel Dawes her own

One thing Maggie Gyllenhaal worried about before taking on the character Rachel Dawes in “The Dark Knight” was making sure she didn’t imitate what Katie Holmes did in “Batman Begins.”

“Once I knew that I had Katie’s blessing in terms of doing this, which I did, I really had to make Rachel Dawes my own woman,” says Gyllenhaal, who co-stars in the summer blockbuster with Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger.

“In terms of Katie, I’m a fan of hers,” Gyllenhaal says. “And I think she is a lovely actress who was great in the previous movie. But I didn’t want to feel tied into the choices that Katie made.”

When Gyllenhaal received a draft of the script from writer-director Christopher Nolan, she offered some ideas.

“I told him that I really only wanted to do it if Rachel could be a real woman — a thinking, feisty person,” she recalls. “I wanted her to be this fully formed woman with a mind who was just as passionate about finding justice and honor in the community as these other guys were. And it worked out because that was what Chris [Nolan] wanted her to be, too.”

For Gyllenhaal, 31, it wasn’t a tough decision to choose to appear in such a storied film franchise, even though at the time she was approached to do it she wasn’t looking for work.

“I had my 3-month-old, and I hadn’t been reading scripts at all. I really wasn’t in the work frame of mind,” she says. “But I was a big fan of Christopher Nolan. And the actors in the movie were so amazing — Michael Caine, Christian, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart. It was hard not to take it seriously.”

Gyllenhaal fondly remembers working with Ledger, who starred with her brother Jake in “Brokeback Mountain.”

“I think Heath did something with ‘The Dark Knight’ that is rare and extraordinary,” she says. “Even though the scene is scary and dark and full of tension, working with someone who was so free in the role was so much fun.”

Although she has worked very little since her daughter was born, Gyllenhaal’s stint on “The Dark Knight” has inspired her to do a little more work.

In the spring, she made a comedy titled “Farllanders” with director Sam Mendes. She says, “Now I’m just looking for roles that really are worth leaving my daughter for.”

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