The actor was knocked out three times by Heath Ledger as they attempted the stunt
A stuntman on The Dark Knight has revealed how Heath Ledger, playing The Joker, could have killed him with a brutal pencil trick.
The iconic scene sees The Joker perform a magic trick in front of an assembled group of villains. He makes a pencil ‘disappear’ by lodging a pencil onto a table then smashing a stuntman’s face onto the table. Instead of using special effects, director Christopher Nolan wanted the actors to perform the stunt.
Speaking to MovieWeb on the film’s 10 year anniversary, stuntman Charles Jarman explained: “I remember Christopher Nolan saying to me, Look, we’re going to do a couple of shots where you need to be able to take that pencil away.
“We did a couple of half-speed rehearsals just to get the hand action of my right hand sweeping across, taking the pencil as my body was going down, and my head striking the blank surface. It was a little hairy, because the pencil’s stuck in the table.
“If, for some reason, I didn’t get my hand in time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Well, possibly through a Ouija board.”
Watch the infamous scene below.
Over two days, they attempted the stunt with different tables and after 22 takes, achieved the brutal effect.
Ledger famously stayed in character for the duration of filming. In 2009, Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Dark Knight. The method actor only broke character when Jarman was knocked out, asking the stuntman “are you okay? Are you okay?”.
Nick Davis was visual effects supervisor for Dark Knight, he explained the choice to move away from CGI: “It’s not particularly difficult to build a CG pencil and track it in and kinda make it disappear out. But we shot it in IMAX, so you see it on a giant, great, big canvas.
“Wherever possible, we tried not to do unnecessary visual effects shots because, digitally, you can never really re-create an IMAX image.”
Jonathan Nolan, brother to director Christopher Nolan, recently revealed that he and the studio “didn’t get” Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight casting.
Earlier this year, Ledger’s sister Kate revealed that her brother had every intention of working with director Christopher Nolan and Batman actor Christian Bale on another film in the franchise.