Fact File – No.4 – The Dark Knight (2008)

In this regular Film ‘89 feature we put a classic film or TV show under the microscope to unveil some juicy trivia. Some of these facts you may already know but hopefully you’ll find something new to enrich your experience and understanding of an important work of popular culture. Next up we have a comic book adaptation by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan that is widely regarded as not only one of the very best examples of the comic book genre but also a superb crime drama and a textbook example of how to make a sequel.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

1. Setting the standard:

This was the first comic book movie to reach the one billion dollar mark in box office takings.

2. From parts unknown:

Christopher Nolan and his co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer made the decision very early on not to explore the Joker’s origins. This was so the character could be presented as an absolute one-of-a-kind villain free of any cliched character tropes or motivations.

3. Out of his comfort zone:

This is the first Batman movie where Batman operates outside of Gotham. Christopher Nolan wrote some of the script whilst visiting Hong Kong. He wanted to take Batman somewhere he’d never been before.

4. “Let’s put a smile on that face!”

During the chase scene when the Joker takes over driving the semi after his driver is killed, the bullet holes on the windshield form a smiley face.

5. Hiding in plain sight:

Bruce Wayne drives a Lamborghini Murcielago in the movie. The Spanish word for ‘bat’ is “murciélago”. Never let it be said that Bruce Wayne doesn’t have an eye for detail.

6. Academy Awards:

The Dark Knight is currently the comic book film with the most Academy Award nominations – eight.

7. “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

It’s the first Batman movie where Batman doesn’t use a Batarang, a trend that continues in The Dark Knight Rises.

8. Keeping it in the family:

In the Italian version of Batman (1989), Jack Nicholson’s character The Joker was dubbed by actor Giancarlo Giannini. In the Italian dub of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker was dubbed by Giannini’s son Adriano Giannini, with the result being that Italian audience felt a connection between the two Jokers, since the voices are very similar. Giancarlo Giannini however, makes a cameo by dubbing in Italian one of the Mafia bosses.

9. Giving over the reigns:

Heath Ledger directed both homemade videos that the Joker sends to GCN himself. The first video involving the fake Batman, was done under Christopher Nolan’s supervision. Nolan thought Ledger had done so well with that sequence that he felt there was no need for him to be there when it came time to film the scene where reporter Mike Engel reads the Joker’s statement. He put his trust in Ledger and let him do whatever he wanted, ultimately pleased with the result after he’d seen the outcome.

10. Nolan’s first sequel:

“I didn’t have any intention of making a sequel to Batman Begins and I was quite surprised to find myself wanting to do it,” Nolan told Empire Magazine. “I just got caught up in the process of imagining how you would see a character like The Joker through the prism of what we did in the first film.”

11. The only choice:
Though other stars like Paul Bettany, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell and Robin Williams all publicly expressed interest in the part, Heath Ledger was the only name on Nolan’s wish list to play The Joker. “When I heard he was interested in the Joker, there was never any doubt. You could just see it in his eyes,” Nolan told Newsweek. “People were a little baffled by the choice, it’s true, but I’ve never had such a simple decision as a director.”

12. Rachel Dawes however…

When Katie Holmes decided against returning, actresses up for the role included Rachel McAdams and Emily Blunt. Maggie Gyllenhaal eventually landed the part.

13. Same goes for Harvey Dent…

Nolan ultimately chose Aaron Eckhart, who he said reminded him of Robert Redford, to play the part of Harvey Dent but Eckhart wasn’t the only star considered. Other potential Harvey Dents included Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Ryan Phillippe and Hugh Jackman.

14. A head for heights:

That’s really Christian Bale standing on top of the Sears Tower in Chicago, over one hundred stories high. They were originally going to use a stunt double but Bale insisted he do it himself.

15. Whoops!

While filming the chase scene with the Joker and the SWAT vans, one of only four IMAX cameras in the world at that time was destroyed, costing the production over $250,000. The Dark Knight was the first non-documentary film to use IMAX cameras. Christopher Nolan had wanted to shoot in the IMAX format for years and happily seized the opportunity to do so. Six major action sequences, along with various high-altitude shots, were filmed with the expensive, unwieldy IMAX cameras and a full hour of The Dark Knight Rises was shot on IMAX.

16. Nolan’s heroes:

This is the first Batman feature film that doesn’t incorporate the word “Batman” in its title. Also, like its predecessor Batman Begins (2005), there are no opening credits or titles.

17. Deja Vu?

Near the beginning of the movie there is a scene where Batman pauses at the top of a parking garage, looking down a spiraling entrance ramp at an escaping van and planning the exact time to jump. Christian Bale does this exact same thing with a chainsaw in a spiraling staircase in American Psycho (2000). Also, within the first act in each film in the trilogy, the antagonist pulls the exact same trick and many people never noticed! In all of them, the main villain (Ra’s Al Guhl in Batman Begins, Joker in The Dark Knight, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) disguises himself as one of his own henchmen. There is even a conversation about said villain in each scene.

18. History repeating:

In the scene where The Joker interrupts the crime boss meeting, Gamble, played by Michael Jai White, shouts “Enough, from the clown!” This is in reference to White’s performance in the 1997 film, Spawn. He shouts this same line to a wisecracking Violater, played by John Leguizamo, another comic book villain who wears clown makeup.

19. A stellar cast:

The film’s cast includes four Oscar winners; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Sir Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman; and three Oscar nominees; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman and Eric Roberts.

20. No forward planning:

Christopher Nolan has said that if he knew he was going to make another sequel, Harvey Dent wouldn’t have died. Interestingly Two Face once again falls to his death after a coin toss, as previously seen in Batman Forever. His death is the final in a tally of 36 fatalities in the movie.

21. Not an easy rider:

Stuntman Jean-Pierre Goy was the only person able to ride the Batpod. Although it looks like an oversized motorcycle it handled very differently. “Jean-Pierre was the only one who could master it,” Bale admitted. “Everybody else just fell off instantly.”

22. A look of his own:

Heath Ledger designed the iconic Joker makeup himself, using white clown makeup and cosmetics from a drugstore. He figured that since the Joker himself would design and apply it, he should do so as well. Once his design was approved, the makeup team was responsible for replicating the look each day for filming.

23. The Bond/Bat connection:

Christopher Nolan is a lifelong James Bond fan and has cited 007 as an influence for his take on Batman many times. But then his Batman inspired Bond. Skyfall director Sam Mendes heaped praise on The Dark Knight; “What it achieved, which is something exceptional. It was a game changer for everybody. What Nolan proved was that you can make a huge movie that is thrilling and entertaining and has a lot to say about the world we live in, even if, in the case with The Dark Knight, it’s not even set in our world. It felt like a movie that was about our world post 9/11 and played on our fears and discussed our fears and why they existed and I thought that was incredibly brave and interesting. That did help give me the confidence to take this movie in directions that, without The Dark Knight, might not have been possible.”

24. Riddle me this…

Reese (the account who tries to blackmail Bruce Wayne) may be an allusion to the Riddler, who has also attempted to reveal Batman’s identity many times in DC Comics. Much like Edward Nygma, whose name recalls “enigma”, Mr. Reese sounds like “mysteries”. Nolan has never confirmed this particular fan theory.

25. A convincing villain:

In the scene when The Joker gatecrashes Bruce’s party, Michael Caine was originally supposed to have a line when the elevator arrives but he was so spooked by Heath Ledger’s appearance that he didn’t speak. Caine referred to him as “terrifying”.

Sources; IMBD, Mental Floss, Ranker.com, Shortlist.com, Kick Ass Facts.