'The Dark Knight Rises'

Hathaway prepared by devouring old comic books and watching movies starring Batman creator Bob Kane's two inspirations for Catwoman, Hedy Lamarr and Jean Harlow. She also found herself a trainer. ''I had to physically transform,'' says Hathaway. ''Chris sat me down at the beginning and said, 'Joseph Gordon-Levitt did all of his own fighting in Inception. That one zero-gravity fight? He trained for two months.' I basically left his office and went to the gym and just came out about five minutes ago.''

After a 115-day shoot that began in England in the spring of 2011 and wrapped in New York City last November, Nolan is now in L.A. editing what is arguably the most anticipated film of the year. He tries to shut out the cultural noise about the movie: the snarky tweets about Bane's voice, the message boards filled with ecstatic expectations and wild theories. Even so, he couldn't resist taking a peek at the recent viral-video sensation that synched the dialogue from a Rises trailer with footage from The Lion King. ''That one got thrust in front of me,'' he says. ''I thought it was pretty epic.''

While many moviegoers can't wait to see the grand finale of Nolan's Batman opus, Hathaway can. She's one of those actors who can't stand to watch themselves on screen, and she's more spooked than usual to watch her performance as Catwoman. ''I need to have a helmet, and Chris needs to sit next to me and press a button whenever I appear on the screen so I can have sensory deprivation,'' says Hathaway. ''I know the story. I won't be lost.'' And if the tech isn't quite there by July, she can always just close her eyes and imagine Michelle Pfeiffer.

Gotham City's Newest Citizens
Seline Kyle
Anne Hathaway
The next-generation Catwoman is no campy vixen or gothic ghoul like previous versions of the feline character, but a wily, witty con artist armed with tools like high-tech night-vision goggles. Says director Christopher Nolan, ''She has a very strong way of protecting herself and those she cares about, which implies an underlying darkness.''

Bane
Tom Hardy
A more nuanced version of the pumped-up, 'roid-raging comic-book villain, Nolan's Bane is a brilliant brute whose harrowing ambitions target Gotham's rich and powerful. His mask is a respirator that helps him manage a painful malady. ''He represents formidable physical strength, combined with absolute evil of intention,'' says Nolan.

John Blake
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
He's a Gotham City beat cop who works directly for his hero, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman). ''I felt like I was jumping in during senior year,'' says Gordon-Levitt of joining the final film of the series after appearing in Nolan's Inception. ''There was a big sense of completion, as well as a sense of confidence.''

Miranda Tate
Marion Cotillard
She's a do-gooding suit who sits on the board of Wayne Enterprises and takes a shine to glum, emotionally frozen Bruce. It seems The Dark Knight Rises isn't all doom, gloom, and damaged adults in scary Halloween costumes—there's also romance! As Nolan says, ''She represents the hope that Bruce can be brought back to life again.''

Originally posted Apr 13, 2012 Published in issue #1203-1204 Apr 20, 2012 Order article reprints