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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 separate parts, was a major production. "That thing takes a long time to get on and off," 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 new The Amazing Spider-Man, including low vision in the mask and difficult bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, the posse of superheroes in this spring's The Avengers showed super-disparity, with some stars having a tougher time 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 their defeated foes have learned, heroes always manage to pull it together despite the draconian duds. And in the end, the actors don't fare too badly.

"All of these people get paid a lot of money, and they're in the biggest films on the planet," says Steve Weintraub, editor of the movie website Collider.com. "I don't think anyone can complain."

The Hollywood set should consider lobbying for suits like those used by their Broadway counterparts, most notably the dozen acrobatic actors in Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Spokesman Rick Miramontez says it takes just 10 minutes for them to change into their custom-fit attire.

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

By Bryan Alexander

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