The Dark Knight: Secrets and Fun Facts

Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film, The Dark Knight, was loved by everyone, from new Batman watchers to diehard fans. Heath Ledger gave a performance that stole the show, as (arguably) one of the best Jokers ever.  Nolan stunned moviegoers with this undoubtedly depressing and gritty film, breathing new life into the dying Batman franchise and creating possibly one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.

dark night box office

The movie grossed over $1 billion at box offices! Read on for more amazing stories, and a great video at the end!


Want to know more about the crazy things that happened during filming?

dark knight katie holmes

Katie Holmes, who acted in Batman Begins, declined to act in the second one, The Dark Knight. Some say it was because her then-husband, Tom Cruise, was jealous.

She says she turned it down to act in the eventual box office flop, Mad Money, featuring Diane Keaton and Queen Latifa. That film got an impressive 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to The Dark Knight’s 94%.


How did Heath Ledger prepare for the role?

dark knight sid vicious

Heath Ledger gave a spellbinding performance as the Joker. In order to get into the mind of this deranged character, he lived alone in a hotel to try to capture the characters psychology, posture, and voice (he went with a Tom Waits-esque growl).

He drew inspiration for the character from Sid Vicious and Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange – both of them highly charming and with questionable morals. Gary Oldman (who plays Commissioner Gordon in the film) played Vicious in the biopic Sid and Nancy.


Who designed the Joker’s makeup?

dark knight makeup

Ledger also designed his own makeup with drugstore cosmetics. Christopher Nolan loved the look so much that he had the makeup team recreate it each time. Michael Caine, when first seeing it (when the Joker crashes Bruce’s party) got so spooked that he forgot his lines.


Which politician makes a cameo in the movie?

dark knight patrick leahy

Vermont senator Patrick Leahy, a long-time fan of Batman, has a cameo in the movie! At the cocktail party, the Joker says, “You remind me of my father. I hate my father,” to him.

The senator also did voice acting for Batman: The Animated Series, and made appearances in Batman and Robin (1997), and The Dark Knight Also Rises.


Heath Ledger only saw a small snippet of the movie – what was it?

dark knight bank robbery

Heath Ledger sadly died shortly after the film was completed. He was given an advance screening to one part of the film – the six minute bank heist scene. That was the only part of the movie he ever saw.


How else did Heath Ledger get into character?

dark knight preparation

In another bout of extreme preparation for his role, Heath Ledger kept a diary of things he thought The Joker would find funny, jotting them down whenever something popped into mind. For example, he assumed the Joker would find land mines and AIDs very funny, and incorporated that into his acting.


The poor people of Chicago had a few disturbances in their neighborhood during filming…

dark knight hospital

The hospital was really blown up! It was actually an abandoned Brach’s candy factory in Chicago, and the explosion triggered panicked calls from residents who believed there had been a catastrophic accident.

Also, during the car chase scene, police received worried calls from locals reporting a police chase with a dark vehicle of unknown make or model.


Wait, Batman is a place?

dark knight batman turkey

Did you know there’s a Batman, Turkey? The mayor, Huseyin Kalkan, tried to sue Christopher Nolan, alleging that “There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.” He also claimed that rising levels of violence in the city were related to the film’s release. The suit was dismissed.


How did the cast react to seeing Ledger in full Joker makeup?

dark knight scary makeup

Many of the actors hadn’t seen Heath Ledger in Joker makeup before the party crashing scene, and a lot of their terror was real. When the Joker threatens Rachel with a knife, it was the first time actor Maggie Gyllenhaal had seen the full look of the Joker. He cups her face in his hand, insisting that she look at him, in an improvised moment – his face was so disturbing that she was trying to look away.


Why was a river-diving scene scrapped?

dark knight china

Much of the filming took place in China, which proved to be a logistical nightmare. Local authorities meddled constantly, leading to many shoots having to be scrapped and completed with CGI.

There was also a scene in which Batman was supposed to dive into a river, but the local river was so polluted that it became out of the question, and the scene was cut.


What happened with the IMAX camera?

dark knight imax

Christopher Nolan loved shooting in IMAX because of the crisp quality of film. At the time of shooting, it was the only time the cameras had been used in feature filming. IMAX cameras, however, are huge, loud, and hugely expensive. When filming the car chase, one of the cameras accidentally got destroyed, at a cost of $500,000!

The final IMAX print of the movie is 9.5 miles long!


Are there any deleted scenes we’ve missed?

dark knight deleted scenes

There are almost no deleted scenes in Christopher Nolan films, the director believing in writing and directing efficiently, so everything you see on-screen was in the script. Some scenes did get cut, for example, after the Joker crashes Bruce’s party, he heads to a getaway car, seen in this photo above.


Wait, where’s Robin?

dark knight robin

Robin is conspicuously missing in Nolan’s Batman films. The director wasn’t a fan of the character and left him out.

He almost made a nod to Robin, though, by writing Rachel’s character as a distant relative of the Grayson family, making her a tiny step closer to Robin. In the end, however, that idea was scrapped, and Robin with it.

dark knight voice actor

Some European movie releases dub the film into their own language instead of adding subtitles. Funnily enough, the voice actor who read for the Joker in Italy is the son of the man who read for Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Family reunions are probably really fun over there!


Marilyn Manson auditioned for a role in the film?

dark knight scarecrow

Cillian Murphy, who plays Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow, auditioned for Batman. He showed up in costume, which impressed Nolan, but ultimately the director felt that this British actor would do better in the role of The Scarecrow.

Other actors who auditioned for The Scarecrow included Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor, and (seriously!) Marilyn Manson.


How did Nolan keep filming hush-hush?

dark knight aliases

Since revealing that they were filming would have caused swarms of press to descend on the film site, they were filmed under aliases. Batman Begins was shot as ‘The Intimidation Game’ (for obvious thematic reasons), The Dark Knight had the codename ‘Rory’s First Kiss’ (Rory being one of Nolan’s sons) and The Dark Knight Rises was known as ‘Magnus Rex’ (Magnus is another of Nolan’s children).

Finished prints of the film were delivered to theaters under the alias “Oliver’s Army.”


Where does the movie stand on IMDb’s ranking?

dark knight imdb best movie

Within 2 days of theater release, it was already #1 on IMDb’s list of best films. Currently it stands at #4, with The Shawshank Redemption at #1, and The Godfathers 1 & 2 next.


Who directed the Joker’s ransom films?

dark knight homemade video

Heath Ledger actually directed the homemade videos that the Joker sends to GCN himself. Nolan supervised the first film, and liked the result enough to trust Ledger to film the second on his own. He was pleased with the way it came out and both versions ended up in the movie.


What PR stunt for the movie went horribly wrong?

dark knight cake

In an ill-advised PR stunt before the film’s release, a website related to the film sent out cakes to local news stations containing a cell phone inside which made the cake vibrate, and had wires sticking out, making the cake look like a bomb.

This was based on a more well-thought-out PR campaign run by Warner Bros., an incredibly complicated task which involved identifying oneself as Robbin Banks and calling a number on a cake, with the cellphone being inside the cake.

One news station who received the copycat PR stunt cake actually evacuated their studio, believing it to be a real terrorist threat.


What was behind the Joker’s nervous tic?

dark knight tic

One memorable tic the Joker had was his weird lip-licking and tongue darting. This was actually just a result of an uncomfortable prosthetic, but Nolan loved the look and suggested that Ledger incorporate it into his look.


Why does his uniform say ‘Matilda’?

dark knight matilda

In the hospital scene, the Joker is wearing a nurse uniform that says ‘Matilda’ on it. Matilda is the name of Heath Ledger’s daughter. She is due to inherit his Oscar statuette on her 18th birthday, which will be in 2023.


So how did the Joker get his scars?

dark knight scars

The Joker frequently tells tall tales about how he got his scars, and viewers will probably never know which version was true. However, they were inspired by Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia murder victim, which, in turn, were inspired by 1928 horror The Man Who Laughswhich was Bob Kane’s original inspiration for The Joker.


Who else is the film dedicated to?

dark knight dedicated to

The movie is dedicated to Heath Ledger, who died while filming was still going on (though he’d filmed all his parts) and also contains a dedication to Conway Wickliffe, a stuntman who was killed when the car he was driving crashed.


How many awards did Ledger win?

dark knight oscar

Heath Ledger, who the role of the Joker was written for, won 32 posthumous acting awards for his role as The Joker, including an Oscar. He is only the second actor in Academy Awards history to win a competitive Oscar after he died, the first being Peter Finch for his role in 1976’s “Network.”


We have a great video for you, next!

Finally, watch this video where Christopher Nolan talks about the amazing creation of the Joker and how Ledger created this spellbinding character.

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