The Dark Knight hit theatres 10 years ago and it still has everyone talking. It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest superhero movies of all time and remains considered the best Batman movie ever made; and let’s be honest, there are a lot of Batman movies. It’s the second film in The Dark Knight trilogy, which includes Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
The Dark Knight had a wide release on July 18, 2008, to universal acclaim, with both critics and fans praising director Christopher Nolan. Also, audiences loved Christian Bale’s performance as Batman. Additionally, Heath Ledger will always be remembered for his performance as The Joker. Ledger passed after filming but prior to the release. His passing only created more buzz about the critically acclaimed film and his stellar performance.
The Dark Knight’s often at the very top of every superhero movie list. In fact, it’s considered one of the best movies of 2008. The film created an insane and loyal fan base that went over every detail of the film. However, there might be a few secrets and details during the making that some fans might not know. Despite releasing 10 years ago there is still new information about the film coming out. It was a groundbreaking film that changed the landscape of cinema. Ten years later and it’s still one of the most popular movies. Here are 20 Things About The Making Of The Dark Knight That Not Even The Biggest Fans Know.
20. HEATH LEDGER DIRECTED JOKER’S HOMEMADE MOVIES
Heath Ledger famously took the role of Joker very seriously. He completely committed to playing the deranged psychopath. In fact, many of his co-stars felt that he truly became The Joker. Ledger did more than just act in the film. He took Joker to a whole new level. In the film, Joker released two homemade movies to show Gotham how truly insane he is.
It was Ledger and not director Christopher Nolan who directed the homemade movies. Nolan oversaw the production of the homemade films but he let Ledger handle the directing. Ledger did an excellent job directing the homemade films and captured Joker’s insanity.
19. HEATH SCARED MICHAEL CAINE AND HE FORGOT HIS LINES
Iconic actor Michael Caine portrayed Alfred Pennyworth in The Dark Knight trilogy. Caine doubted a new film version of the Joker could work. He felt nobody could follow Jack Nicholson until he saw Heath Ledger’s performance and admitted he was wrong. However, Ledger’s performance was so scary that Caine forgot his lines.
During the famous party scene, Alfred was greeting guests at the elevator. Caine knew Joker and his henchmen were coming up but hadn’t seen them in costume yet. Caine said, “So, I’d never seen any of it and the elevator door opened and they came out and I forgot every bloody line. They frightened the bloody life out of me.”
18. THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM
There have been so many Batman movies that they vary in success. Some did very poorly at the box office and practically destroyed the franchise. The 1997 film Batman & Robin nearly destroyed the entire superhero genre. The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the highest grossing trilogies.
It’s credited with saving the Batman franchise. In fact, The Dark Knight grossed roughly $158 million on opening weekend and $688 million over time. It’s the highest grossing film of the trilogy and the most successful Batman movie of all time. The success of The Dark Knight resulted in an increased budget for The Dark Knight Rises.
17. NURSE MATILDA
On January 22, 2008, Heath Ledger passed away just months after completing work on The Dark Knight. In fact, some credit Ledger’s mental state and death to his total commitment to playing the psychotic Joker. However, Ledger actually loved portraying the character.
He said, “Joker so far is definitely the most fun I’ve had with any character. I’m just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it.” Also, the film includes a reference to his daughter Matilda. Ledger wore a Matilda name tag when dressing as a nurse. Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, The Dark Knight’s dedicated in memory to Heath Ledger.
16. THE DARK KNIGHT SOUNDTRACK
Theme music plays a very important role in movies. It can add to a character or take away. Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the scariest villains in cinema history. Ledger gave a stellar performance but the chilling theme music highlighted the terror. Legendary composer Hans Zimmer composed the Joker’s haunting theme song, “Why So Serious?”
He composed the music for the entire soundtrack but it was Joker’s theme that stood out. Zimmer later revealed that Joker’s entire theme song is only two notes. Zimmer didn’t feel it was necessary to give The Joker an overdone theme song. It was the right choice as it’s simple yet horrifying.
15. THE DARK KNIGHT IS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY HEAT
The Dark Knight opens up with a memorable bank heist. The iconic scene serves as The Joker’s introduction. In fact, The Dark Knight’s heavily inspired by Heat, which starred Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. It revolved around a cop hunting a team of bank robbers.
Christopher Nolan also cited Heat as an inspiration in creating the city of Gotham as another character. Nolan said, “If you want to take on Gotham, you want to give Gotham a kind of weight and breadth and depth in there.”
14. HEATH LEDGER’S JOKER DIARY
Heath Ledger completely committed to portraying the Joker. Ledger’s forever linked to his greatest performance. Regardless, Ledger always stayed in character and kept a diary. However, for The Dark Knight, he stepped it up. In a 2013 documentary, Ledger’s father revealed Ledger’s secret Joker diary.
The Joker diary helped Ledger prepare for the role. It included stylized notes and lines from the script rewritten in his handwriting. Also, it featured various images and clipped art. The diary included several references to the film A Clockwork Orange. In particular, the character Alex from the film heavily influenced Ledger’s performance.
13. JOKER’S PERSONALITY INSPIRED BY DR. MABUSE
Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan wrote the script for The Dark Knight. Of course, Jonathan is director Christopher Nolan’s brother. They based Joker’s character on his early appearances in the comic books. However, Jonathan drew inspiration from a 1933 German film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.
As a matter of fact, Christopher made his brother watch it before writing the script. The plot revolved around a deranged psychopath that escapes an asylum and creates havoc for the sake of it. Clearly, Dr. Mabuse and The Joker have a lot in common. As noted, Ledger and Nolan also drew inspiration from Alex in the cult classic A Clockwork Orange.
12. THE DARK KNIGHT’S INSPIRATIONS
The Dark Knight takes inspiration from many different sources. Batman first appeared in comic books in 1939. Batman’s starred in several DC Comics. Two famous comic books inspired The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s story took inspiration from Batman: The Long Halloween. The Dark Knight used elements of the plot.
Additionally, the critically acclaimed 1988 Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke heavily inspired the film and The Joker’s character. The Killing Joke took a new approach to The Joker. It expanded on his character and presented him in a way never done before.
11. THE BEST REVIEWED BATMAN FILM
Since the late ’60s, there have been a plethora of Batman movies. In 1989, Tim Burton released Batman, which became a cultural phenomenon. However, other Batman films did very poorly, such as, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The first two films nearly destroyed the franchise forever. Regardless, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy revitalized the franchise. In fact, The Dark Knight’s the best-reviewed movie out of them all. It currently holds a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The other films in the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, and Batman Begins hold an 87% and 84% rating, respectively.
10. JACK NICHOLSON WANTED TO RETURN
Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman starred Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson. It did very well at the box office and kicked off another superhero movie boom. Critics universally praised Nicholson’s performance as The Joker. It was a new take on the character that would influence Heath Ledger’s version as well.
However, Nicholson actually wanted to return to portray Joker but was never in consideration for the role. Nicholson said, “I’m furious. They never asked me about a sequel with the Joker.” However, Ledger took the character to a different level.
9. INTRODUCED GROUNDBREAKING VIRAL MARKETING
The Dark Knight is widely praised for the incredible and groundbreaking viral marketing campaign. This has since become standard in Hollywood when releasing a new film. For roughly 15 months, Warner Bros. released a unique marketing campaign. It included a Gotham Cable News (GCN) website and Harvey Dent running for office pamphlets. It also launched the world famous “Why So Serious?” campaign.
The catchphrase would become one of the most repeated lines from the film. Additionally, they gave out dollar bills with the Joker’s name written across it. It’s now common for studios to release a viral marketing campaign for their films.
8. NO OTHER ACTOR CONSIDERED FOR JOKER
Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker has come to define his career. Ledger starred in a number of films. However, it was as The Joker that took him to a whole new level. There was never any doubt in Christopher Nolan’s mind that Ledger was perfect for the role.
Ledger and Nolan had met in the past for other projects but nothing came of it. Ledger was the only person on Nolan’s list to portray Joker. They met and Nolan realized they were both approaching the character from a psychological standpoint. Nolan felt they both understood Joker’s mind and mentality.
7. THE STUDIO DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE JOKER
Warner Bros. Studio didn’t understand Christopher Nolan’s version of The Joker. They were familiar with Jack Nicholson’s portrayal and were unsure about Nolan’s vision. In fact, there was a bit of a backlash. Additionally, Heath Ledger’s best known for his role in Brokeback Mountain.
The studio didn’t think he could handle the role. Warner wasn’t sure about the direction Christopher and Jonathan were taking the character. Jonathan said, “The studio didn’t get it.” He went on to say, “Chris just stuck to his guns. It was a question of not giving the fans what they’re asking for but what they want.”
6. JOKER’S SCARS
The Joker is easily identifiable by his grotesque scars that look like a smile. Throughout the film, Joker gives conflicting stories regarding the origin of his “Chelsea Smile”. Christopher Nolan purposely left out Joker’s origin story and didn’t give a clear motivation for his actions.
Prosthetics supervisor Conor O’Sullivan drew inspiration from a man with real scars. He said, “Delivery of fruit machines was made to the estate near my workshop and the man delivering them had a ‘Chelsea smile.’ I plucked up the courage to ask him for a photo. The photos proved to be very useful reference.”
5. KATIE HOLMES DOENS’T REGRET NOT RETURNING
Katie Holmes portrayed Rachel Dawes in the first film of the trilogy Batman Begins. She was Bruce Wayne/Batman’s childhood friend and love interest. Holmes turned down the offer to return in the sequel. Instead, Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Dawes.
Initially, Nolan felt disappointed but was pleased with Gyllenhaal’s performance. However, Holmes has never regretted her decision not to return. Holmes said, “It was right for me at that moment, so I don’t have any regrets. I think that Maggie did a wonderful job.” However, Nolan killed off Dawes midway through the sequel.
4. THE FIRST MAJOR MOVIE SHOT IN IMAX
In 2008, The Dark Knight changed cinema in more than one way. It changed comic book movies and changed filming techniques. The Dark Knight’s the first major film shot in IMAX. At the time, shooting in IMAX was pretty much unheard of. Documentary filmmakers were the only ones shooting in IMAX.
Christopher Nolan was always a fan of the format and could finally afford to shoot in IMAX. Nolan shot four scenes in IMAX including the unforgettable beginning that featured a bank robbery. Shooting in IMAX is now common in Hollywood. Batman continues to pave the way for other superheroes.
3. THE TRUCK FLIPPING SCENE WAS REAL
Superhero movies often rely on special effects and CGI to capture those unreal moments. However, Christopher Nolan wanted to keep The Dark Knight grounded in reality. That meant not relying on special effects. In one famous scene, Batman uses cables to cause Joker’s 18-wheeler to flip. Nolan decided to do the truck flipping scene without any CGI. As noted the scene was shot for real on a Chicago street.
The special effects supervisor Chris Corbould didn’t think it was possible to pull off. Nolan said, “I finally just went to him and said, ‘Chris, you can do this, you’re fine. It’s gotta be a huge truck, it’s gotta be a big 18-wheeler,’ and he went ‘Oh, all right.’” He added, “Nobody had ever done it before and it was really a pretty amazing thing to watch.”
2. THE MAYOR OF BATMAN VS THE DARK KNIGHT
Batman has many enemies but one of his greatest is the Mayor of Batman. In 2008, The Dark Knight hit theatres and received universal acclaim. However, the film was hit by a strange lawsuit. The Mayor of a city called Batman in Turkey had a problem with the film. Batman’s Mayor Huseyin Kalkan sued Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. because the film had a negative effect on the city.
Kalkan said, “There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.” However, the character is world famous. The court dismissed the lawsuit and had it thrown out.
1. THE INTERROGATION SCENE IS REAL
One of the most memorable scenes in The Dark Knight is the famous interrogation scene. Batman interrogates Joker, who is egging him on and is clearly enjoying the violence. Heath Ledger stayed in character and is known for his method acting. According to Christian Bale, the scene is as real as it gets.
Bale said, “Heath was behaving in a very similar fashion. He was kinda egging me on. I was saying, ‘You know what, I really don’t need to actually hit you. It’s going to look just as good if I don’t.’ And he’s going, ‘Go on. Go on. Go on.’”
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