Christopher Nolan may have moved on from Batman, but we certainly haven’t. The British filmmaker is currently readying his next mind-bending blockbuster ‘Interstellar’ for release next month, so while we wait to see what he has up his sleeve next, let’s take a look back at his revered ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, which changed the shape of superhero films and blockbusters forever.
Here’s some interesting Bat-trivia you might not know about Nolan’s revisionist take on the Caped Crusader.
Ken Barlow’s son plays Bruce Wayne’s father
Did you know that the actor who plays Dr Thomas Wayne is actually Linus Roache the son of Coronation Street stalwart William Roache, AKA Ken Barlow? Well, now you do.
Linus loved Nolan’s directing style, revealing, “When I actually did my dying - which was supposed to be to the young Bruce who was underage and had to go home - I was holding Chris’s hand.”
Cillian Murphy nearly played Batman
Just days before Christian Bale was officially cast as Batman eight actors, including Bale, were called in for last minute auditions in which they donned Val Kilmer’s cape and cowl. The Welshman won out over Joshua Jackson, Eion Bailey, Hugh Dancy, Billy Crudup, Cillian Murphy, Henry Cavill and Jake Gyllenhaal, thanks to his gruff Bat-voice. Nolan liked Murphy so much, he gave him the role of the Scarecrow instead.
There’s an Easter egg on the soundtrack
Hans Zimmer’s iconic score would go a long way in forging a new mythic approach to Batman. He named tracks on the soundtrack after different genii of bats, and as a nice little hidden secret the first letters of tracks 4-9 in the soundtrack, spell out “BATMAN”.
Scarecrow was nearly in Batman 5
‘Batman Begins’ marked the screen debut of the Scarecrow - he never made the cut for the 1960s TV show – but he nearly made it to screen six years earlier. It seems scarcely believable now, but apparently Warner Bros. execs were so enamored with the dailies coming from ‘Batman & Robin’ that they asked director Joel Schumacher to return for a third Batman film. The film, titled ‘Batman Triumphant’ would have seen Bats taking on the Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, with Nic Cage lined up to play Dr Jonathan Crane, before the film was canned due to ‘Batman & Robin’ tanking both commercially and critically.
Lost In translation
‘Batman Begins’ was the first Batman movie in which the name Bruce Wayne was not changed to Bruno Diaz for Latin audiences. South American audiences have always known Bruce Wayne as Bruno Diaz, James Gordon as Jamie Fierro, Dick Grayson as Ricardo Tapia, and Vicky Vale as Rita Rios.
‘The Dark Knight’
Michael Caine was genuinely scared by Heath Ledger
The scene where Heath Ledger’s Joker crashes the fundraising party was the first time Michael Caine had seen Ledger in full-make up and in character. The look of shock on his face in the final film is priceless and the veteran star was so taken aback with his co-star’s performance, he actually forgot his lines.
There was a slow start to the shoot
No footage was shot on the first four days of production. Instead, Nolan gathered his cast and crew to screen eight movies, two a day, with a break in-between to ensure they were all on the same page thematically. Those eight films were ‘Heat’ (1995), ‘Cat People’ (1942), ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941), ‘King Kong’ (1933), ‘Batman Begins’ (2005), ‘Black Sunday’ (1977), ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), and ‘Stalag 17’ (1953).
Adrien Brody wanted to play the Joker
Although Nolan says he only ever wanted Heath Ledger to play The Joker, other actors actively pursued the role including Robin Williams (who had worked with Nolan before on ‘Insomnia’), Adrien Brody, Steve Carrell, and Paul Bettany. The filmmaker had actually approached Ledger about playing Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman Begins’, but both decided he wasn’t right for the part.
There’s a voice connection with Tim Burton’s film
In the Italian-dubbed version of ‘The Dark Knight’, fans in Italy would have noticed an interesting family connection between this film and Tim Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’. The actor who dubbed Heath Ledger’s lines was Adriano Giannini, the son of Giancarlo Giannini (Rene Mathis in ‘Casino Royale’), the man responsible for dubbing Jack Nicholson’s lines in ‘Batman’, providing an interesting link between two unconnected films.
The Joker’s mask may seem familiar
The mask worn by Heath Ledger during the film’s opening heist is almost identical to a mask worn by Cesar Romero during his first appearance as the Joker in the original 1960s television show. The sequence saw the Joker appearing in a performance of ‘Pagliacci’ an Italian opera about clowns.
‘The Dark Knight Rises’
Notice anything weird about this photo? This climactic battle between Bats and Bane is the first time, in any Batman film (the Adam West one doesn’t count), that the Dark Knight is seen in the bright light of daytime. The massive scene which required hundreds of extras was consequently one of the most papped scenes of Nolan’s trilogy.
Tom Hardy’s memorable performance as the physical brute Bane wasn’t the first time the Batman villain had appeared on screen. The character made a cameo appearance in 1997’s ‘Batman and Robin’, albeit in a much more cartoony and outlandish manner. The beefed-up heavy was portrayed by American wrestler Jeep Swenson who sadly died of heart failure three months after the film’s release.
The Pittsburgh Steelers played the Gotham Rogues
For the American Football sequence the real-life Pittsburgh Steelers - which is part-owned by the film’s producer Thomas Tull - stood in for the fictional Gotham Rogues team. They played in yellow jerseys – like the Steelers - in the Heinz Field stadium packed with extras in replica Gotham Rogue kits, while Bane delivered his chilling ultimate to Batman.
Wayne Manor is actually in Nottingham
The real-life Wayne Manor seen in 'The Dark Knight Rises' is actually a stately home in Nottingham called Wollaton Hall. The Tudor Mansion, which is open to the public, is situated about 8 miles from a tiny Nottinghamshire village called Gotham which - in a roundabout way - is actually the village that inspired the name of the city in the original Batman comics.
Legend has it that in the Middle Ages the people of Gotham pretended to be “mad” in order to deter visits from the King, inspiring the phrase “There are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it.” This was then used by American author Washington Irving, who drew parallels between New York and Gotham, until it became a nickname for the East coast city. When creating Batman, writer Bill Finger was looking for a name for his “teeming metropolis” and saw the name “Gotham Jewellers” in the phonebook.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Image credit: Warner Bros.