Batman fever is on again. It’s The Dark Knight Rises Weekend, but I was able to catch it yesterday on IMAX and I was more than satisfied. Movie review coming up! But before that, let’s look up at these interesting facts from the Dark Knight franchise, brought to us by IGN.com
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As The Dark Knight Rises casts a fearsome silhouette on the cinematic horizon like some giant symbolic flying rodent thing, we look back at Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight saga so far and pick out the most interesting tidbits of trivia you may have missed first time around.
- More Bat-Nipples
It’s unthinkable to imagine what state the Batman franchise would be in without Chris Nolan’s reboot, but there were plans for a fifth movie, post Batman & Robin. Batman Triumphant would see Joel Schumacher return to direct a Mark Protosevitch script, with George Clooney’s caped crusader fighting The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn (written here as The Joker’s daughter). Nic Cage and Madonna were touted; thankfully it was canned.
- Cillian Murphy ISN’T Batman
Christian Bale wasn’t always the frontrunner to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins: other actors considered included Joshua Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Billy Crudup, Eion Bailey, David Boreanaz and Cillian Murphy, who Nolan liked so much he cast as The Scarecrow. Bale, however, was adjudged to be the best man to play the duality of Batman: “He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for,” said Chris Nolan.
- Oh Sit Down, Oh Sit Down, Oh Sit Down…
Did you feel a sudden urge to ‘sit down’ while watching Batman Begins? That may have been a subconscious side-effect from a bizarre piece of casting, whereby Arkham inmate – and famed comic-book villain – Victor Zsasz was played by former James frontman Tim Booth in a dialogue-free cameo. Booth’s only previous film credit? Schlock horror Skarecrow in 2004.
- Christian Bale ISN’T Robin
Thought Christian Bale has been vocal in his dislike for the character of Robin in the past (“If Robin crops up in one of the new Batman films, I’ll be chaining myself up somewhere and refusing to go to work”), he’s less chatty about the rumour that he auditioned for Robin in Batman Forever. He’s since denied it, but if you lost out on a role won by Chris O’Donnell, wouldn’t you?
- Easter Egg Alert
Eagle-eyed fans who wanted a slice of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s impeccable Batman Begins score for themselves might have noticed a few hidden treats in the CD’s track listing. Not only are all the track names Latin variations of the different species of bat, but the first letters of tracks 4-9 clearly spell the word ‘BATMAN’.
- Killing Joke
The Joker’s pervasive influence over Batman even extends to the films he’s not in. Look closely in Batman Begins’ final scene – where Commissioner Gordon hands Batman an evidence bag containing The Joker’s calling card – and you’ll see the officer listed as recovering it is ‘J. Kerr’. If you missed the subtle wordplay, ‘Joe Kerr’ is one of The Joker’s favourite aliases in the comics – three years before his reappearance and he was already playing tricks.
- Riddle Me This…
We all know Bane is the villain in The Dark Knight Rises, but according to writer David S. Goyer, Warner Bros had some ideas of their own. He claims he was approached at The Dark Knight premiere by a presumptuous Warner executive, wanting to talk villains for the third instalment: “Obviously it’s gonna be The Riddler and we want it to be Leonardo DiCaprio.” Ironically, DiCaprio is just about the only Inception cast member not to play a part.
- They Wanna Be, Anarchy
Among Heath Ledger‘s inspirations for The Joker’s mannerisms was snarling Sex Pistols bassist and punk icon, Sid Vicious. Costume designer Lindy Hemming, on the other hand, cited Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten as her muse when working on The Joker’s look. All we need now is for Chris Nolan to reveal that The Dark Knight was actually inspired by The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.
- Smoke and Mirrors
Naturally Chris Nolan’s crew can’t broadcast that they’re shooting a Batman film on location, otherwise the set would be swamped by press – hence the need for working titles. Batman Begins was shot as ‘The Intimidation Game’ (for obvious thematical 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).
- Kick-Ass Fan
One mega-fan who stopped by The Dark Knight shoot was comic-book writer Mark Millar, who was in Chicago overseeing filming of Wanted. Millar was invited onto the set by David S. Goyer but got into trouble when he failed to respect Batman’s boundaries. “[Chris Nolan and Emma Thomas] caught me sitting on the Bat-Pod just before I left and without permission,” Millar told us. “Total shame. From pro to geek. Literally asked by a security guy to get off and get behind the line.”
- IMAXED OUT
Even a director of sure-fire hits like Chris Nolan gets his knuckles rapped every now and then. While shooting the chase sequence in The Dark Knight, Nolan’s crew managed to wreck one of only four IMAX cameras in the world at the time. Failing to learn his lesson like a champ, Nolan managed to bust another IMAX rig on The Dark Knight Rises, when Anne Hathaway’s stunt double slammed her bike into it. Don’t worry Chris, it’ll come out of your wages.
- Dick Who?
One early draft of Batman Begins did contain a reference to Robin – albeit not a direct one. Katie Holmes‘ character Rachel Dawes was revealed to be a distant relative of the Grayson family – the family name of Dick, boy wonder. Chris Nolan allegedly removed the nod in case fans expected him to debut Robin in future Batman movies, which he claims he has no interest in doing.
- Pair of Jokers
Though Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman was more than memorable, his voice was dubbed by actor Giancarlo Giannini for the Italian version. 19 years later, when it came to providing an Italian voiceover for Heath Ledger’s jocular villain in The Dark Knight, it was decided that Giancarlo’s son, Adriano Giannini, would provide the perfect link between the two films.
- Scar Central
“Wanna know how I got these scars?” Chances are we’ll never know which version of The Joker’s story is accurate in The Dark Knight, but the cuts on his mouth were inspired by those inflicted on Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia murder victim. In The Black Dahlia movie, it was suggested that her gruesome facial wounds were inspired by creepy 1928 horror The Man Who Laughs – which was Bob Kane’s original inspiration for The Joker.
- Fired Up
A contentious one, this, but it could well be an SFX easter egg. When Harvey Dent’s face catches fire near the climax of The Dark Knight, the flames in the first few frames of the close-up look suspiciously like the flaming Batman logo on the film’s poster. Or maybe we’ve seen The Dark Knight too many times.
- The Joker Sucks
One of several reasons Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was so mesmerising was the unnerving way the actor kept sucking at his cheeks and licking his lips. This facial tic was a result of Ledger’s initial discomfort with the prosthetic scar make-up, but was eventually adopted as a character idiosyncrasy after Chris Nolan was suitably freaked out.
- Billion Dollar Baby
Just how rich is Bruce Wayne? Apart from just ‘filthy’? Well, the latest Forbes Fictional 15 rundown places Bruce Wayne as the 8th richest character in fiction, with an estimated net fortune of around $6.9 billion. For comparison, Tony Stark boasts a net worth of $9.3 billion, Carlisle Cullen of the Twilight movies is rich to the tune of $36.3 billion and Smaug the Dragon has stockpiled booty worth $62 billion in his cave.
- Keira Knightley ISN’T Catwoman
The Dark Knight Rises co-writer Jonah Nolan has stated he expects Anne Hathaway to “steal the movie”, but the former theatre-kid wasn’t the only actress in the frame to play cat burglar Selina Kyle (never actually referred to as Catwoman in the movie). Gemma Arterton, Kate Mara, Jessica Biel and Keira Knightley all allegedly auditioned for the role, but Hathaway – denied the role of Black Cat when Spider-Man 4 was canned – won out.
- Potential Spoiler Alert
Liam Neeson steadfastly refuses to comment whether Ra’s al Ghul will return for The Dark Knight Rises but set reports seem to suggest he was present during portions of the London shoot. We do know that Josh Pence – the body, if not face, of the second Winklevoss twin in The Social Network – plays a young version of Neeson’s character, while leaked photos seem to suggest the healing powers of the Lazarus pit might play some part in the plot.
- Rocking Robin
The first jaw-dropping money shot in The Dark Knight Rises trailer saw Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward score a touchdown for the Gotham Rogues only to turn around and discover his team mates have been swallowed by the field. The scene required 10,000 rowdy extras in the crowd, who proved difficult to moderate. One crafty fan brought his own Rogues sign to hold up – with the ‘R’ looking suspiciously like the Robin logo.
- Family Affair
In Batman Begins, when Bruce feigns a drunken rant to ensure guests leave Wayne Manor ahead of his fight with Ra’s al Ghul, the disapproving man who says “The apple has fallen very far from the tree, Mr Wayne” is actually Chris Nolan’s uncle, John Nolan, an actor who trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Of all the frivolous lawsuits faced by Hollywood’s lawyers, this one has to be the weirdest. Just before The Dark Knight was released on DVD in 2008, Warner Bros found themselves threatened by legal action from the Mayor of Turkish city Batman (pronounced “Bot-min”). He claimed he was not asked for permission to use the name ‘Batman’, and blamed Warner Bros and Chris Nolan for unsolved murders and a high female suicide rate in his city. Unsurprisingly, the case never made it to court.
- Don’t Try This at Home!
The Joker’s pencil-related magic trick is perhaps the most astonishingly violent scene to ever make it into a 12A movie in the U.K., and is perhaps the reason that The Dark Knight triggered over 200 complaints to the British Board of Film Classifcation – the most complaints lodged of the decade. The BBFC reckoned that 42% of all letters they received in 2008 were from disgruntled Batman viewers.
- Follow Your Dream
Chris Nolan’s 1998 directorial debut Following is often forgotten by his fans, but one incidental piece of set-dressing does hint towards the director’s impending popularity: the lead character, Jeremy Theobald’s Bill, has a Batman sticker on his door. Theobald has a cameo in Batman Begins as a Gotham Water Board technician, while Following’s female lead, Lucy Russell, plays Bruce’s dinner guest at the restaurant.
- The Ultimate Mystery?
As Chris Nolan and Christian Bale have both said The Dark Knight Rises will be their last Batman movie, it appears we won’t see the director’s vision of fan-favourite bad guy, The Riddler… unless we’ve already seen him, that is. The character in The Dark Knight who discovers Batman’s identity is named Coleman Reese, or Mr. Reese. Mister Reese. Mysteries. Geddit? It’s a bit too similar to The Riddler’s alter-ego of E. Nigma to be mere coincidence, but it’s more likely an easter egg than a serious suggestion of riddling to come.