15 Things Fans Should Know About 'The Dark Knight' Trilogy
"Then you have my permission to die."
Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins enjoyed both commercial and critical success once released in 2005, and it launched the illustrious Dark Knight Trilogy. Before that, DC Comics' heavy hitters, Superman and Batman, were noticeably absent from the Silver Screen in the early 2000s. Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel hadn’t been a player at the table for Warner Bros. since the 1987 Quest for Peace, and Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher's version of the Dark Knight's cinematic franchise died horribly with the ill-conceived Batman & Robin in 1997.
Marvel Comics, on the other hand, tapped into the superhero market with the enormously successful release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002). And when the sequel Spider-Man 2 (2004) arguably superseded the first film, the revitalization of the comic book genre was firing on all cylinders.
Nolan got DC back in the game with three exceedingly entertaining and successful Batman tales: his Dark Knight Trilogy. But have you heard the full story?
Here are 15 Things Fans Should Know About The Dark Knight Trilogy.
15. Christian Bale Fell Asleep While Acting
Beware of boredom, future thespians. Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) nocturnal lifestyle caught up with him in Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), and the billionaire playboy found himself drugged by the Scarecrow’s (Cillian Murphy) fear toxins. When Wayne finally woke from the poisoning, his loyal friends Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) were there for him.
During the filming of that scene, Bale accidentally added a little flavor of his own to the shoot.
“In Batman Begins, in the first scene I had with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, I fell asleep,” Bale explained. “In the scene, I was meant to be waking up, so I laid down and just fell asleep. And I didn’t hear 'Action.' I woke up with Michael Caine poking me in the ribs and going, ‘Look at that! He’s bloody fallen asleep, isn’t he? He’s bloody fallen asleep!’”
14. Jack Nicholson Was "Furious" About Being Passed Over For The Joker
Heath Ledger’s death rocked the world, and his portrayal as the Joker won him a posthumous Academy Award, but Ledger was adamant about the fact he would not have taken the role if it had been connected to Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).
“If Tim Burton was doing The Dark Knight and asked me to play the Joker, I wouldn’t have taken it because to try and even touch what Jack Nicholson did in Tim Burton’s world would be a crime,” Ledger explained.
Nicholson’s knee-jerk reaction to not being asked to return as the Joker was less than enthusiastic.
“They never asked me about a sequel with the Joker," Nicholson said. "I know how to do that! Nobody ever asked me.”
“It's like, in any area, you can't believe the reasons things do or don't happen,” Nicholson continued. “Not asking me to do the sequel is that kind of thing. Maybe it's not a mistake. Maybe it was the right thing, but to be candid, I'm furious.”
13. Henry Cavill, Anthony Hopkins, Matt Damon and More Almost Starred
The DCEU could have turned out much differently if Henry Cavill had won the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005). Cillian Murphy, Billy Crudup, Joshua Jackson and Jake Gyllenhaal also auditioned for the character, but Bale won out. And Anthony Hopkins was even in the running for the part of Alfred.
Matt Damon was considered for Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight (2008), but he didn't accept the part. The Joker was the coveted role, which was eventually won by Heath Ledger, but it was Sean Penn whom Warner Bros. originally wanted.
While Robin Williams and Steve Carell expressed interest in tackling the Clown Prince of Crime on the big screen, Nolan said Ledger was always on his mind. The other finalists for the part were Sam Rockwell and Hugo Weaving.
Anne Hathaway initially thought she was auditioning for the role of Harley Quinn, but the actress beat out Natalie Portman, Blake Lively and Keira Knightley to become Selina Kyle in TDKR.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling and Mark Ruffalo were all considered for John Blake (Robin).
12. Nolan's Style Of Allusion
Barbara Gordon appeared in the trilogy as Jim Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) little girl, so there was a tease of Batgirl in TDKT.
During The Dark Knight (2008), a greedy Coleman Reese (Joshua Harto) tried to extort money from Lucius Fox. Coleman was connected to the Riddler, and Mr. Reese's name phonetically translates to “Mysteries.”
In The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Killer Croc got a nod from John Blake when the officer discussed his superiors' response to Bane (Tom Hardy) taking up residence under Gotham City: “They asked me if he [Jim Gordon] saw any giant alligators.”
TDKR also included a new interpretation of Roland Daggett played by Ben Mendelsohn. In Batman: The Animated Series, Daggett (Ed Asner) was the name of the infamous Bat baddie businessman connected to Clayface, but Christopher Nolan altered the character’s backstory and changed his name to John for his venture.
When Foley (Mathew Modine) barked orders outside the stock exchange, the officer next to him sported a name patch which read “Allen.” This was a reference to Crispus Allen, aka the Spectre, who was also a police detective in Gotham.
Lastly, Catwoman’s roommate Jen (Juno Temple) represented the comic books’ Holly Robinson who was a prostitute mentored by Selina Kyle.
11. Nolan's Realism Was A Response To The Schumacher Films
Realism and suspension of disbelief played a large part in reviving the character of Batman for the Silver Screen. Batman & Robin (1997) almost irrevocably destroyed the Dark Knight’s stint in movie theaters. Before the film sank like the Titanic, studio executives were busy greenlighting a fifth installment to be directed once more by Joel Schumacher. The picture was titled Batman Unchained, aka Batman Triumphant, but Batman & Robin’s lousy box office returns ensured the new project never saw the light of day.
After a short absence on the big screen, Warner Bros. began looking to resurrect the Bat.
“I first became interested in taking on Batman when I heard that Warner Bros. was looking to renew/reinvent the franchise,” Christopher Nolan said.
“From the beginning, my interest was in taking on a superhero story but treating it in a realistic fashion,” Nolan continued.
Nolan and writer David S. Goyer came up with a gritty origin story for Bruce Wayne’s journey which veered drastically from Schumacher’s brightly colored and campy, catastrophic entries. The Dark Knight Trilogy stood apart from other film versions of the Batman thanks to its graphic novel approach to the source material.
10. Robin's (Easter) Eggs
Robin never was a serious consideration to appear in Christopher Nolan’s carefully-woven narratives featured in The Dark Knight Trilogy, but giving a nod to the Boy Wonder wasn’t something the filmmaker contested either.
In an early draft of Batman Begins (2005), Dick Grayson was mentioned by Katie Holmes’ character Rachel Dawes. Supposedly, Dawes was a distant relative of the Grayson family, but the homage to Robin never made it to the Silver Screen.
Rather, Nolan created an altogether new adaptation of Batman’s sidekick in police officer “Robin” John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) for The Dark Knight Rises (2012). This edgier version of the Boy Wonder may not have shared Grayson’s athletic abilities, but the detective skills were on full display.
There was a subtle nod to the third Robin (Tim Drake) in the film when Blake revealed he knew Bruce was Batman. During A Lonely Place of Dying (1989), Drake also deduced the secret identities of Batman, Nightwing and the late Jason Todd.
9. The Movies Were Mash-Ups Of Many Different Comics
Christopher Nolan’s inspirations for his Dark Knight Trilogy began with Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978).
“What I loved about Superman was the way New York felt like New York, or rather Metropolis felt like New York,” Nolan explained. “Metropolis felt like a city you could recognize, and then there was this guy flying through the streets.”
Key ideas and characters from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One (1987), Blind Justice (1989) and The Man Who Falls (1989) were prominently featured in Batman Begins (2005).
The Dark Knight (2008) storyline was a wonderfully convoluted combination of Batman #1 (1940), Batman #251 (1973), The Killing Joke (1988) and The Long Halloween (1996-1997).
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was most notably linked to Knightfall (1993), but No Man’s Land (1999-2000) and The Cult (1988) also contributed to elements of the story.
Selina Kyle’s part in TDKR was heavily influenced by Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street (2001-2002).
8. First Comic Book Movies To Achieve "Serious" Success
The late film critic Roger Ebert didn’t beat around the bush when the first installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy hit theaters in 2005:
“Batman Begins is the fifth Batman movie, but the first one to get it right – to get it absolutely right.”
The film was also nominated for an Oscar in cinematography.
Batman Begins was not only a critical success, but it was a box office juggernaut bringing in $374 million worldwide. But profits were about to get seriously insane with the release of 2008’s The Dark Knight.
Heath Ledger's Joker helped TDK become the first Batman movie to surpass the $1 billion mark worldwide!
It was the No. 1 movie at the box office four consecutive weeks, and its $535 million domestic take ranks it at No. 6 among the all-time moneymakers. The movie won two Oscars: Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Sound Editing.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) didn't disappoint either, and Bane brought Gotham’s reckoning to theaters. TDKR became the second-consecutive Batman film to surpass the $1 billion mark globally. Richard Roeper called the picture:
“a majestic, gorgeous, brutal and richly satisfying epic.”
7. WB Was Sued By A Turkish Mayor Over The Use Of 'Batman'
Holy swindler, Batman! One can argue Huseyin Kalkan was exposed to the Joker’s brain-altering gasses in November of 2008. Kalkan, who was the mayor of the city of Batman, Turkey, filed a lawsuit against Christopher Nolan and Warner. Bros for using the name “Batman” without permission.
Wait - what?
Kalkan said, “There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.”
As laughable as it all seemed, Kalkan vowed to go forward with his ludicrous intentions. The mayor even blamed The Dark Knight (2008) for a number of unsolved murders and the high suicide rate among the female population!
In the end, a lawsuit was never actually filed. The maneuver seemed more like a shrewd charade to garner publicity for the obscure area.
6. TDKR Ending Really Happened!
Some people just like to argue.
The climactic conclusion to The Dark Knight Rises (2012) became a point of internet chatter and conspiracy theories when Bruce Wayne faked his own death and left his legacy to John Blake. The internet even reflected the opinions of disapproving fans who thought the ending was merely a figment of Alfred Pennyworth’s imagination.
This is one of the most extraneous arguments ever, and the ending of TDKR is clearly an inarguable matter. During the movie’s closing montage, Lucius Fox discovered Wayne faked his death when it was revealed the autopilot on The Bat was repaired by the Dark Knight himself.
Also, the executor of Bruce Wayne’s estate mentioned a string of pearls were missing. That necklace was clearly visible on Selina Kyle’s neck as she visited with Bruce at the café.
And if that overriding evidence wasn't enough, take it from Sir Michael Caine himself.
“They were there,” Caine explained. “They were real. There was no imagination. They were real and he was with Anne [Hathaway], the cat lady, and I was happy ever after for him as I told him during the picture.”
5. Marion Cotillard's Pregnancy Changed The Shooting Schedule
Christopher Nolan moved mountains to have the actress he wanted portraying the vengeful Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Nolan knew Marion Cotillard was perfect for the dual roles of Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter and Gotham magnate Miranda Tate.
“She's so good you don't want to waste that talent,” Nolan said.
And Cotillard was thrilled to be asked to do the next installment in Nolan’s trilogy:
“His [Nolan] next movie is supposed to be Batman,” Cotillard said. “And I've always been obsessed with Batman."
But the actress quickly realized she was due to give birth almost as the production on TDKR began. "I called Chris and said, 'My God, I can't do that!'”
Nolan didn't have any intention of using another actress, so he adjusted the shooting schedule to accommodate Cotillard’s impending bundle of joy.
"She gave birth and was back on set almost immediately,” Nolan explained. “She's Superwoman."
Cotillard gave a riveting performance as the diabolical Talia which left audiences with one of the Batman’s most formidable Silver Screen adversaries ever.
4. "Rub Your Chest..."
Christopher Nolan took a page from Superman: The Movie (1978) director Richard Donner when it came to casting A-List talent for Batman Begins (2005):
“Let’s start by putting together an amazing cast, which is what they had done with that film, but which I hadn’t seen done since,” Nolan explained.
“They had everybody from Glenn Ford, playing Superman's dad, you know, it was an incredible cast,” Nolan continued. “So, we started putting together this amazing cast based around Christian, who seemed perfect for Batman.”
Nolan certainly stuck gold with his actors and how believable they each could be in their performances, particularly when it came to award-winning actor Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul).
"The great thing about Liam is that he can sell you anything,” Nolan said.
During Bruce’s training, Ra’s dropped him into a frigid lake. Afterward, Ghul instructed his pupil on how to avoid freezing.
“He says, ‘Rub your chest and the arms will take care of themselves.’” Nolan said. “I pictured boy scouts all over the world freezing to death because I’d just made up this bit. I never went camping. I have no idea. But he [Neeson] says it, and you believe it.”
3. Christian Bale Wore Val Kilmer's Batsuit To Audition
Even before the script for Batman Begins (2005) had been written, Christopher Nolan was already meeting with Christian Bale to discuss portraying the Caped Crusader. Actor Val Kilmer’s wardrobe from Batman Forever (1995) actually played a small part in Bale’s auditioning process.
"I got there,” Bale explained. “They put me in Val Kilmer's suit. It didn't even fit properly, and I stood in it and I went 'I feel like an idiot.' What kind of guy walks around, dressed like a bat? And is then going to go 'Hello, how are you? Just ignore that I'm dressed as a bat.'”
During that initial screen test, actress Amy Adams read the part of Rachel Dawes opposite Bale’s Batman. Adams, of course, went on and played Lois Lane in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
Christian Bale’s dedication to become the Dark Knight saw him gain over 100 pounds between his performance in The Machinist (2004), as Trevor Reznik, and his portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005).
When Bale showed up on set at 220 lbs, Christopher Nolan was taken by surprise.
“I was kind of like a bear,” Bale explained. “I could see the look on Chris’ face. He looked at me and it was like ‘O Christ, what has this guy done?’”
Some of the crew members whom Bale had worked with before were not too kind in their reactions to his weight gain.
“They were like ‘Bloody O’, Chris, what are we doing here Fatman or Batman?”
In the end though, Bale toned up and dropped 20 lbs. to transform into the Dark Knight fans know and love.
1. Ledger's Legacy
Heath Ledger’s sudden death certainly shocked the world, but his enduring legacy will live for generations to come. Rather than dwelling on his passing, fans around the world revel in the myriad of quirky and compelling characters he portrayed since his acting debut in 1992’s Clowning Around.
Ledger was nominated for two Academy Awards, during his career. The first was for Best Actor in Brokeback Mountain (2005) and then, of course, he posthumously won for Best Supporting Actor in TDK (2008).
Much discussion and speculation has clouded his death, especially in terms of how playing such a dark character as the Joker might have contributed to his state of mind. But Ledger was having the time of his life portraying the Clown Prince of Crime.
“Joker so far is definitely the most fun I’ve had with any character,” Ledger said. “He’s just out of control. He has no empathy. He’s a sociopath, psychotic mass-murdering clown. And I’m just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it. It’s exceeded any expectations I have had in terms of what the experience would be like."
Co-star Christian Bale may have put it best:
“I hope in a small way that The Dark Knight can be a celebration of his work.”
*Originally published on July 28, 2017.