Dark Knight, The: Bruce Wayne and the Joker

The Dark Knight reunites several members of the ensemble cast from Batman Begins, leading with Christian Bale in the title role.

Christian Bale

Bale says he welcomed the opportunity to once again inhabit the solitary figure, who has had to relinquish much of his personal identity for the greater good. He offers, Bruce is certainly sacrificing, both mentally and physically, as a consequence of this character of Batman whom he has unleashed and now is unable to rein in anymore. More than a persona, he has created a symbol, and that symbol cant have limits. He cant show weakness ever. So you have the conflict between what is good for Bruce Wayne and what is the right thing for Batman to do, because the two of them are not always compatible.

Working with Christian is a joy and just a lot of fun. He is a very engaging presence to have on the set, says Nolan. He also has an intensity about him; he is incredibly focused on tapping into the psychological reality of whatever character hes playing. He applies the same disciplined approach to finding the truth of that character and sticks to it. That is a great help to me as a filmmaker because I know he is prepared and has a handle on how his character is going to move through the story. In fact, he has a lot of the same qualities that Bruce Wayne brings to bear in changing himself from an ordinary man into this extraordinary crime-fighting figure.

Christian brought everything to his performance that you could want for the characterthe stature, the emotional resonance, the complexity, Roven states. It was amazing to be on the set watching him. He took his role to another level in this film.

Nolan adds that although Bale portrays the same character in The Dark Knight that he did in Batman Begins, the two films presented the actor with very different challenges. On Batman Begins, it was a lot of physical efforthe had to get himself in terrific shape and learn all kinds of skills in terms of the way Batman fights, the way he moves. On this film, I would say it required more of an internal process because Bruce is realizing the personal toll of living this double life and is questioning the choices hes made. Christian conveys that emotional struggle very convincingly, often without saying a word.
Nevertheless, the role of Batman has an inherent physicality, so Bale immersed himself in a refresher course on the Keysi Fighting Method (KFM) that Batman employs against his enemies.

A relatively young martial arts discipline, KFM is an intuitive fighting method with a strong emphasis on mental focus, but Bale also had to be in peak physical condition. He trained with Keysi fight coordinators Andy Norman and Justo Dieguez for two to three hours every day. In KFM, you learn to develop every part of your body as a weapon, and its not easy, Norman relates. We worked Christian extremely hard, and it was fantastic how quickly he absorbed everything. There was a definite progression in his training since the first film. He understands KFM a lot better, so he was more powerful and his movement was incredible.
Its a fascinating fighting method, says Bale, because it uses the adrenaline that everyone feels entering into a threatening or violent situation. It really comes from the gut. Rather than the kind of Zen calm that some martial arts call on, KFM is based on animal instinct and honing those instincts to be
lethal, so its perfect for Batman.

Heath Ledger’s Joker

But The Dark Knight is about to confront a singular criminal called The Joker, who has little regard for Keysi or any other fighting method. In a fair fight, Batman would obliterate him, Bale asserts, but The Joker doesnt fight fair. He has other tricks up his sleeve, so its more of a mind game. But he finds in Batman a very worthy opponent, and I think he enjoys that.

Heath Ledger plays the role of The Joker, the malevolent clown who is arguably the most recognizable of Batmans arch-nemeses. In casting the part, Nolan says that the defining quality he was looking for was fearlessness. I needed a phenomenal actor, but he also had to be someone unafraid of taking on such an iconic role. Heath created something entirely original. Its stunning, its captivatingits going to blow people away.

The director recalls that he first met with Ledger about the role even before there was a script. We talked about how we saw this character and we both had exactly the same conceptthat The Joker was about the threat of anarchy and revels in creating chaos and fear on a grand scale. Heath seemed to instinctively understand how to make this character different from anything that had ever been done before.
Roven elaborates, The Joker is one of the great villains in comic book lorepsychopathic, enigmatic, clever, diabolical, charming, funny and completely enjoyable to watch. We knew it would take an extraordinary actor to play him and Heath delivered on every front. From every physical nuance to each vocal turn of phrase, its just an unforgettable performance.
In The Dark Knight, The Joker arrives on the scene without warning and climbs ruthlessly to the top of Gotham Citys criminal food chain.

We never wanted to do an origin story for The Joker in this film, but we wanted to show the rise of The Joker, Nolan maintains. In a sense, The Joker is the logical response to Batman, who has instigated this kind of extremity of behavior in Gotham.

Bale adds, The Joker wants to break Batman, to prove that everybody has a price and even Batman can be leveraged in such a way that he would compromise his principles. I actually think hes delighted to find that Batman wont do that, and it creates for The Joker an even better opponent in this game hes playing. Hes a fascinating character, and Heath did an extraordinary job with it. I dont think the movie would have worked as well if we hadnt had an actor of the caliber of Heath Ledger, who was able to really up the ante, much as The Joker does in Gotham.

We wanted The Joker to represent pure, unadulterated evil, in the sense that he has no logical motivation for his actions. That is what we wanted to unleash on the city of Gotham. He is an absolute, Nolan sums up simply.

Yet, Emma Thomas is quick to note, He is very funny. I know it sounds somewhat bizarre, because how could someone so deplorable be funny Heaths take on the role was not campy but still hilarious, both physically and in a dry, sardonic way. With The Joker, I think youll find yourself being horrified and terrified, but hugely amused at the same time.

Harvey Dent

On the other side of the law, another figure has risen to prominence in Gotham City: Harvey Dent, the newly elected District Attorney, who is on a mission to break organized crimes stranglehold on his beleaguered city. Harvey Dent is played by Aaron Eckhart, who offers, Harvey has charged himself with tackling organized crime and cleaning up the streets. He is the shining new hope of Gotham City, the White Knight, as he is called. He starts out full of optimism and enthusiasmwhere he ends up is somewhere completely different, he hints. Its a great role and Im a big fan of Chris Nolans, so when he approached me about doing the film, it was a no-brainer.

Nolan says that while Eckhart looks every inch the part of the handsome and charismatic DA, his reasons for casting the actor ran deeper. We were looking for somebody who could embody that All-American charm because you have to invest in him as a very attractive, heroic figure at the beginning of the movie. But he also had to have an edge; he had to suggest this undercurrent of anger and darkness that Harvey Dent needed to have, so where he goes in the story is believable. You cant present a character like this as simply a heroic figure with no flaws, no dark side. Aaron captured all of those qualities very, very well.

As the new Gotham City DA, Harvey Dent not only has to contend with a rise in crime, but also with a masked vigilante known as Batman. Its an interesting dynamic, Eckhart remarks, because Harvey sees Batman fighting crime in a way that he would like to but cannot. Harvey has to stay within the boundaries of the law. He has to do overtly what Batman is doing covertly. He admires Batmans intentions, even if he cant publicly support his methods. But what he thinks of Bruce Wayne is quite different. He sees Bruce as nothing more than a playboy about town without any real credibility.

Harvey thinks Bruce is a complete upper-class twit, Nolan affirms. It would astonish him to find out he is really the man behind the mask.
Dents opinion of his public persona notwithstanding, Bruce Wayne appreciates the new DAs efforts on behalf of the city. Nolan comments, It seemed most logical to us that Bruce initially saw Batman as a short-term crusade, as a symbol to inspire the good people of Gotham to take their city back. In Harvey Dent, he finally sees the response he was looking for. Harvey is the hero that Gotham needsthe hero with a face, not one wearing a mask.

But, Thomas says, There is a certain amount of personal opportunism going on there, as well, because if Harvey Dent can succeed, then maybe Bruce can stop being Batman. Maybe there is a world in which he can return to a normal life. Theres a big part of him that does wish he could hang up his cape. Whether Bruce would actually enjoy hanging up Batmans cape at this point, I dont know. I dont think even he knows. But there is definitely a part of him that feels he has started something that has spun out of control, and Harvey Dent may be his only hope for being able to end it.