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20 Adventurous Facts About Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Thirty-five years after Indiana Jones made his big-screen debut—and nearly a decade after the adventurous archaeologist's last feature film outing—Disney recently announced that both Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have officially signed up for a fifth Indiana Jones film.

“Indiana Jones is one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history,” Disney chairman Alan Horn said. “It’s rare to have such a perfect combination of director, producers, actor and role, and we couldn’t be more excited to embark on this adventure with Harrison and Steven.”

Though fans will have to wait until 2019 to see what happens next, on the 35th anniversary of the original film's release, we're going back to the beginning with these 20 adventurous facts about Raiders of the Lost Ark.

1. INDY WAS BORN IN HAWAII.

Producer George Lucas first told director Steven Spielberg about his idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark when they were both on vacation in Hawaii in May 1977. Spielberg got away for the weekend from finishing up post-production on his now-classic film Close Encounters of the Third Kind while Lucas wanted to get to anywhere far, far away—Star Wars was coming out that weekend, and he was afraid that the movie would bomb at the box office.

But the film broke the bank that weekend (and would go on to become a massive worldwide phenomenon), which prompted the two to ponder what they wanted to do next. While lounging on Mauna Kea beach, Spielberg told Lucas that he always wanted to do a James Bond film. Lucas promised him he had that beat, and proceeded to lay out his idea for a swashbuckling throwback adventure movie based on Saturday matinee serials that would eventually become Raiders of the Lost Ark

2. ONE DOG INSPIRED BOTH INDIANA JONES AND CHEWBACCA.

Brock Chandler,YouTube

While developing the film with Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Lucas named the main character “Indiana Smith.” But Spielberg protested that it was too similar to the 1966 Steve McQueen western Nevada Smith and requested a change. The three agreed that the last name should be as universal and nondescript as “Smith,” so Lucas threw out “Jones” as a possibility. Indiana came from Lucas’ dog, an Alaskan malamute named Indiana. The big, hairy pup was also the inspiration for Chewbacca from Star Wars.

3. A DENTIST CAME UP WITH THE FILM'S MACGUFFIN.

Brock Chandler,YouTube

Way back in 1973—when Lucas was still cooking up his galaxy far, far away—he was also coming up with nascent ideas for Indiana Jones. He and fellow filmmaker Philip Kaufman got together for a few weeks to throw around concepts about archeology and the Nazis’ obsession with the occult for a potential movie, but Kaufman departed the project soon after when he was hired by Clint Eastwood to develop The Outlaw Josey Wales. The final film bears little resemblance to what the two began with, but Kaufman still has a “Story By” credit on Raiders because he was responsible for the film’s main plot point: the Ark of the Covenant. The two were looking for a mystical plot device to move the story along, and Kaufman suggested the Ark because his childhood dentist had told him the story behind the Biblical artifact and its powers, and it had fascinated him ever since.

4. FOR THE ICONIC DESIGN OF INDY, THE PROOF IS IN THE PAINTINGS.

As he did with illustrator Ralph McQuarrie’s famous concept art for Star Wars, George Lucas commissioned artwork to set the tone and visualize the concepts of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1979 before any frame of the movie was actually shot. Famed graphic artist and illustrator Jim Steranko was chosen to bring the world of Indiana Jones to life, and he created four paintings of the rogue archeologist in thrilling situations that were inspired by—among other influences—Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Doc Savage pulp magazine covers, and a production still from the 1937 film Zorro Rides Again that showed Zorro jumping from a horse onto a moving truck. Steranko’s interpretation of the character effectively defined the Indiana Jones look and persona we would see onscreen—including the iconic hat, beat up leather jacket, and bullwhip.

5. TOM SELLECK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE INDY.

Prior to the production's start date in May 1980, Lucas and Spielberg set up shop in the old Lucasfilm corporate headquarters—located at 3855 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood—to begin the casting process. Actors and actresses in consideration for the lead roles of Indiana Jones and his tough but beautiful companion Marion Ravenwood included Jane Seymour, Debra Winger, Mark Harmon, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Biehn, Sam Shepard, Valerie Bertinelli, Bruce Boxleitner, Sean Young, Don Johnson, Dee Wallace (who would later go on to star as the mother in Spielberg’s E.T.), Barbara Hershey, and even David Hasselhoff.

For Indy, Lucas and Spielberg eventually settled on actor Tom Selleck. But when CBS got wind of what the two were up to, the network legally barred Selleck—the lead of the hit show Magnum, P.I.—from appearing in the film. Spielberg then suggested Harrison Ford as a quick replacement, but Lucas was reluctant to cast Ford because he was already Han Solo in his Star Wars films. But Spielberg’s quick thinking prevailed, and Ford was added to the cast just two weeks before principal photography began. (A similar snafu happened with Danny DeVito, the first choice to play Indy’s jovial companion Sallah, who couldn’t take the part due to his contractual obligation to appear on the popular ABC show Taxi.)

6. MARION RAVENWOOD'S NAME WAS INSPIRED BY LOVED ONES AND LOCALES.

Brock Chandler,YouTube

For Marion, Spielberg and Lucas settled on the young actress Karen Allen, who had previously appeared in National Lampoon’s Animal House. The name of the character she was to play came from an assortment of inspirations from screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan’s life. “Marion” was Kasdan’s wife’s grandmother’s name, while “Ravenwood” came from Ravenwood Court, a small street off of North Beverly Glen Boulevard in Los Angeles that Kasdan drove on to get to the studio every day.

7. MANY OF THE FILM'S SET PIECES WERE MADE AS MINIATURES DURING PRE-PRODUCTION.

In order to shoot fast (principal photography lasted just three months) and stay on budget, many of the film’s more elaborate set pieces were created in a studio during the film’s six-month pre-production as room-size scale miniatures by production designer Norman Reynolds. Spielberg blocked out all of the shots for the Well of Souls, the Egyptian marketplace, the Tanis dig, and the final canyon scene with the Ark prior to getting on set so they could expedite the process and film seemingly off the cuff—similar to the shooting method of the old serials that inspired Raiders

8. THE FIRST SHOT OF THE FILM WAS INSPIRED BY SPIELBERG'S EARLIEST DAYS AS A MOVIEMAKER.

When making films as a kid, Spielberg thought up a phony movie studio he dubbed “Play-Mount Pictures” (a play on Paramount and his name—“Spielberg” roughly translates to “Playmount” in German), and he would try to mimic the famous Paramount logo with natural scenery the best he could. So when he came to direct an actual Paramount motion picture, he thought a similar approach would work with the start of the film; he wanted to have the actual logo dissolve into a real mountain peak. To find a summit that matched the Paramount logo, Spielberg dispatched producer Frank Marshall all over Hawaii where they were shooting the opening scene in order to get the right one. Needless to say they found a picture perfect peak, and the shot lives on as the opening of the film.

9. IT TOOK SOME FEMALE SPIDERS TO MAKE AN EARLY SCENE WORK.

Gordon Freeman, YouTube

While shooting the scene where Indy and his companion Satipo (played by Alfred Molina) carefully pass booby traps to get to a hidden golden idol, some other co-stars nearly ruined everything. In the scene, Satipo stops in his tracks to shoo away a few tarantulas that crawl up Indy’s back, causing Indy to make Satipo turn around and reveal his entire back covered in dozens of huge tarantulas. While shooting the scene, Spielberg wanted the tarantulas to be crawling all over Molina, but the tarantulas stood absolutely still. When he asked why they weren’t moving, the animal wranglers informed Spielberg that all of the tarantulas on Molina’s back were males so they weren’t acting aggressive. When Spielberg directed them to put a female on Molina’s back, the male tarantulas were thrown into a rage, and they got the shot.

10. THE BOULDER SCENE ALMOST WASN'T A SCENE AT ALL.

A boulder nearly crushing Indy as he escaped from the temple with the idol in the opening was always part of the script, but it was originally only supposed to be a minor detail. When production designer Norman Reynolds brought the 22-feet-in-diameter fiberglass boulder onto set, Spielberg fell in love with it so much that he decided to extend the rolling boulder another 50 feet to make it a major part at the end of the thrilling scene.

11. SPIELBERG DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH SNAKES IN THE WELL OF SOULS.

Indy is famously afraid of snakes, but Steven Spielberg is most definitely not. When shooting the scene where Indy and Sallah descend into the Well of Souls to uncover the Ark—only to find it completely covered in slithering asps—the production originally had about 2000 snakes on set at their disposal. But that didn’t satisfy the director, because the 2000 snakes didn’t cover the entire set. Spielberg then estimated they would need at least 7000 more snakes to make it believably scary, so he had the producers raid all the pet shops in London (where they were shooting the film at Elstree Studios) and elsewhere around Europe to get enough of the slithering reptiles. They picked up with the same scene again a few days later, this time with 10,000 snakes, to Spielberg’s devious delight.

12. INDY DIDN'T SHOOT FIRST, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPT.

The famously improvised scene where Indy simply shoots the sinister looking swordsman (played by stuntman Terry Richards) in the middle of the Egyptian bazaar was born out of hellish shooting conditions: The daily temperature in Tunisia where they shot the scenes averaged 100+ degree heat. As originally planned, the scene included an elaborate gag involving Indy, the swordsman, and a nearby butcher. The swordsman was to chase Indy through the bazaar, and just as he was about to cut down the archeologist with a deathblow, Indy ducks causing the swordsman to mistakenly—and conveniently—chop the meat at the butcher's shop, giving our hero enough time to get away.

The gag was scrapped, leading to one of the film’s best moments, but Lucas reportedly wasn’t a fan. He apparently tested two versions of the film at the Northpoint Theater in San Francisco—the same place he first previewed Star Wars—and the audiences liked the version of the scene the way it was, so they kept it in.

13. EVERYBODY GOT SICK, EXCEPT FOR SPIELBERG.

The hellish shooting conditions in Tunisia weren’t just because of heat exhaustion. Apparently, over 150 members of the crew got sick from food-based illnesses—but not Spielberg. The director wisely drank only bottled water and ate canned food from the UK that he brought over in an old steamer trunk that he kept in his hotel room. Despite his relative health, he still called the time in Tunisia “one of my worst location experiences.”

14. THE SCENE BETWEEN BELLOQ AND MARION IN HIS TENT WAS IMPROVISED.

Brock Chandler, YouTube

The script called for Marion to shed her conservative Egyptian garb and don a revealing dress to heighten the tension when she and Indy are fending off snakes as they’re sealed in the Well of Souls—but the script didn't include why she ended up in the dress. In order to get her into the dress, Allen and actor Paul Freeman (who plays Belloq) improvised the scene where she hides a knife with the older clothes she takes off to try to seduce Belloq and escape, and thus giving her character a plausible reason to be in the dress. Allen thought it would also be a good idea to callback to the drinking game scene that introduces her character in the beginning of the movie as well.     

15. SPIELBERG RECYCLED A GAG FROM HIS PREVIOUS FILM, 1941, AND INCLUDED IT IN RAIDERS.

The scene where the devious Gestapo officer Toht interrupts Marion and Belloq and displays what the two characters think is a torture device—only to have it be revealed as a simple coat hanger—was actually a gag Spielberg intended to use in his film 1941. In that film, a Nazi officer played by actor Christopher Lee plans to interrogate an American country bumpkin played by Slim Pickens who inadvertently ends up on a Japanese sub, and produces the would-be torture device only to reveal the hanger. Test audiences didn’t find it funny, so it was cut (though the scene can actually be seen on the DVD of 1941). Even though test audiences didn't like it, Spielberg still thought it was a worthy gag, so he tried it again in Raiders with a more sinister tone—and this time, it worked.

Gags weren’t the only thing recycled for the movie. The Nazi sub used in the film was actually rented from the production of director Wolfgang Peterson’s film Das Boot because it allowed them to cut costs.

16. IT TOOK DAYS TO GET THE MONKEY TO DELIVER A NAZI SALUTE.

The insert scene where the small capuchin monkey gives the Nazi salute to the German spies was part of the film’s post-production pickup schedule—an allotted time to reshoot or tweak scenes from the principal production shoot—supervised by George Lucas at Elstree Studios in London. Despite the animal trainers training the monkey to perform the move prior to the shoot, they couldn’t get the monkey to do it during a take. At first, the animal trainers were tapping the monkey on the head to get a reaction, but days dragged on and the monkey didn’t do the proper salute. Finally, they resorted to dangling grapes with fishing line just off camera to provoke the monkey, and that was what got the little actor to do a good take. The final shot in the film is the monkey reaching for the grapes just above the frame.

17. INDY CAN HOLD HIS BREATH FOR A LONG TIME (BECAUSE OF AN EDIT).

The Great Eye, YouTube

Fans of the film have been wondering for a long time just how Indy managed to swim from the steamer ship to the Nazi submarine and then survive the trip all the way to the secret island where the ceremony with the Ark takes place. The short answer is that he can hold his breath for a very, very long time, but a deleted scene from the film gives a better—if not implausible—answer. The scene shows Indy clutching the periscope of the Nazi sub that is conveniently above the water for the entire trip to the secret island, which explains how he managed to not drown. Spielberg thought the scene looked cheesy and scrapped it, hoping that audiences wouldn’t question the unresolved logistics considering the fantastical elements that would happen in the film’s climax.

18. A RECEPTIONIST AT LUCASFILM HELPED OUT WITH THE FILM'S SPECIAL EFFECTS.

Brock Chandler,YouTube

Advanced CGI was still far off when Spielberg tasked the effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic to create the otherworldly elements for his film after the fact—no easy task when you consider it features flying ghosts interacting with characters onscreen. In fact, Karen Allen recalled it was the first time she’d ever had to act opposite something that wasn’t there. To create the deadly specters that emerge from the Ark, ILM model maker Steve Gawley suspended small puppets with silk robes into a clouded water tank in front of a bluescreen. Puppeteers would shake the model back and forth in the water to achieve the surreal flowing movements Spielberg wanted, which would then be composited onto the actual footage by optical supervisor Bruce Nicholson. To pull off the effect where an idyllic ghost floats towards camera only to reveal a hideous visage, the ILM guys found a receptionist from Lucasfilm and outfitted her in long white robes and painted her face a ghostly shade of blue and white. They then had her sit on a flat trapeze mechanism in front of a bluescreen and swing away from camera—which was run backwards in the final film to achieve a dreamlike quality. The receptionist’s performance was then composited with a grotesque, skeletal model to create the final transformation.

19. A LITTLE DENTISTRY WENT INTO TOHT'S MELTING FACE.

The facial cast of actor Ronald Lacey for Toht’s famous face-melt scene was made of alginate—the same thing dentists use to make impressions of your teeth. Special makeup effects supervisor Chris Walas was responsible for making the melting look effectively hideous. First he used a negative facial mold on top of a stone skull to survive the heat that would make the mold melt. Walas covered the skull with thin layers of gelatin that melted at low temperatures and added colored yarn to mimic muscles and sinews. Two propane space heaters were placed on either side of the head, which, over the course of 10 minutes, melted the face. Walas sat just below camera with a hair dryer to do some on-the-spot melting wherever needed. The final shot was sped up. Belloq’s exploding head was made of mostly the same materials—but some meat and liver were placed inside to make it especially disgusting. It was so gross, in fact, that the effects team had to add in a pillar of fire in the foreground of the shot to tone down the gore.

20. JUST AS HE DID ON STAR WARS, SOUND DESIGNER BEN BURTT CREATED AN ORIGINAL LIBRARY FOR THE SOUNDSCAPE OF THE FILM

Famed sound designer Ben Burtt recorded nearly all original sounds for the film. Indy’s distinct gunshot is an unprocessed live recording of a .30-30 Winchester rifle firing (he uses a .455 Smith & Wesson revolver in the film), and the embellished punching sounds come from Burtt hitting a pile of leather jackets and baseball gloves repeatedly with a baseball bat. The sounds for the snakes in the Well of Souls come from the layered noise of Burtt running his fingers through a cheese casserole made by his wife and of wet sponges being dragged across the grip tape on a skateboard. The strange emanations of the Ark ghosts are sea lion and dolphin cries filtered through a vocoder to give them a musical quality, and the sound of the lid being lifted off the Ark is actually Burtt lifting off the heavy top cover of his own toilet. Surprisingly, the sounds of Indy’s whip-cracks are simply outdoor recordings of Harrison Ford and sound effects recordist Gary Summers practicing snapping a bullwhip.   

Additional Sources: 
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Blu-ray special features
The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, by J.W. Rinzler,

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© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
19 Surprising Facts About The Dark Knight
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Christopher Nolan didn’t set out to make sequels. As the director of hit thrillers like Memento and Insomnia, his personal style never seemed to mesh with the idea of helming a mega-franchise. After reenvisioning the Caped Crusader with 2005’s Batman Begins, though, Nolan couldn’t stop thinking about how his version of Batman would respond to the introduction of The Joker. The result was The Dark Knight, a hyper-real exploration of how chaos shakes up the mission of the righteous, complete with huge stars, incredible stunts, and an Oscar-winning performance by the late Heath Ledger. To revisit this landmark movie, which was released 10 years ago, here are 19 fascinating facts about The Dark Knight.

1. IT HAS MANY COMIC BOOK INSPIRATIONS.

While it doesn’t adapt any one specific story to the screen, The Dark Knight did draw inspiration from several specific Batman stories in the pages of DC Comics. When researching and writing the film, director Christopher Nolan and his brother, co-writer Jonathan Nolan, specifically went back to The Joker’s very first appearance in 1940’s Batman #1 in search of how best to introduce the character. Co-writer David S. Goyer, himself a DC Comics contributor, also cites the classic stories The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Killing Joke as keys to his research, with elements from each making their way into the film.

2. THE JOKER ALSO HAD DIVERSE INSPIRATIONS.

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight' (2008)
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In addition to classic Joker stories like The Killing Joke, Nolan and star Heath Ledger drew on a diverse array of influences both in and out of comics to craft the film’s version of the Clown Prince of Crime. Before attempting to write the character, the Nolan brothers revisited Fritz Lang’s classic film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse as a study in how to write supervillains. Visually, Nolan also specifically cited the work of painter Francis Bacon as a touchstone for Joker’s distorted view of the world.

As for Ledger, he famously locked himself away in a hotel room for weeks, experimenting with voices and mannerisms until he developed something he was satisfied with. Among his inspirations: Sex Pistols icons Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious and the anarchist character Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s classic film A Clockwork Orange.

3. NOLAN WAS INITIALLY RELUCTANT TO MAKE A SEQUEL.

The Dark Knight is the first Christopher Nolan film to be a sequel, and though Batman Begins ends with Gordon handing Batman the Joker card as a kind of setup for the next film, the director wasn't exactly determined to return to Gotham City. Nolan and Goyer had ideas for how a trilogy of films would happen, of course, but after Batman Begins hit big, Nolan instead went off to make magician drama The Prestige. Ultimately, the lure of telling a Joker story proved too enticing for Nolan to pass up, and he eventually re-teamed with Goyer to begin mapping out the story that would become The Dark Knight

“I didn’t have any intention of making a sequel to Batman Begins and I was quite surprised to find myself wanting to do it,” Nolan told Empire Magazine. “I just got caught up in the process of imagining how you would see a character like The Joker through the prism of what we did in the first film.”

4. HEATH LEDGER WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY THE JOKER.

Though other stars like Adrien Brody expressed an interest in playing the film’s key villain, Heath Ledger was the only name on Nolan’s wish list.

“When I heard he was interested in the Joker, there was never any doubt. You could just see it in his eyes,” Nolan told Newsweek. “People were a little baffled by the choice, it's true, but I've never had such a simple decision as a director.” 

5. YES, HEATH LEDGER REALLY DID KEEP A JOKER DIARY.

Because of the actor’s untimely death in January 2008, at the age of just 28, Ledger's performance as The Joker has been somewhat mythologized by fans, so the idea that he kept a secret “Joker diary” while getting into character might sound apocryphal. In fact, Ledger really did make a diary while preparing to play the character. It included various clipped art (Alex from A Clockwork Orange figures heavily), stylized notes, and even lines from the script recopied in his own handwriting. In 2013, Ledger’s father Kim revealed the diary in a documentary, and noted that his son did immersive work like this for every role but “really took it up a notch” for The Joker.

6. MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL WASN’T THE ONLY ACTRESS CONSIDERED FOR RACHEL DAWES.

For the role of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and current Gotham City assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, Nolan had to look for a replacement. Katie Holmes played the role in 2005’s Batman Begins, but opted out of the sequel ostensibly so she could act in the comedy Mad Money. So Nolan went in search of other actresses and ultimately decided on Maggie Gyllenhaal for the role. Gyllenhaal was the final choice, but she wasn’t the only one. Other actresses up for the role included Rachel McAdams and Emily Blunt.

7. GYLLENHAAL TOOK THE ROLE BASED ON NOLAN’S PRESENCE ALONE.

For many actors, the prospect of starring in a sequel to a hit film is a major draw. For others, the prospect of finally being a part of a Batman film would do the trick. For Gyllenhaal, who stepped in as Rachel Dawes, there was only one key reason to say yes: Christopher Nolan.

“When Chris approached me about the film, it was almost incidental that it was about Batman,” Gyllenhaal said. “I was lured into becoming intrigued by the character through the process of making the movie. From the very beginning, Chris was so interesting and engaging—and so interested in me and my ideas about Rachel—that I wanted to be a part of it.”

8. AARON ECKHART WASN’T THE ONLY STAR CONSIDERED FOR HARVEY DENT.

Though The Dark Knight is unquestionably a Batman movie, Nolan and company didn’t consider the Caped Crusader to be the film’s main character.

“Bruce Wayne was the protagonist of the first film,” Goyer said, “but we decided early on that he would not be the protagonist of the second film—that, in fact, Harvey Dent would be.”

To that end, finding the right actor to play Gotham’s district attorney was crucial. Nolan ultimately chose Aaron Eckhart, who reminded him of Robert Redford, to play the part, but Eckhart wasn’t the only star considered. Other potential Harvey Dents included Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Ryan Phillippe.

9. MICHAEL CAINE DIDN’T THINK THE FILM WOULD WORK ... UNTIL LEDGER WAS CAST.

Batman fans weren’t the only skeptics when it came to Nolan’s decision to deliver a new cinematic Joker. Michael Caine, who played Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred, was very apprehensive when  Nolan told him The Dark Knight’s villain would indeed be the Clown Prince of Crime, namely because Jack Nicholson’s performance as the character in 1989’s Batman still cast a very large shadow.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” Caine said.

When Nolan informed Caine that Ledger had been cast in the role, though, the film legend came around.

“I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ [laughs] My confidence came back. And then when I did this sequence with Heath, I knew we were in for some really good stuff.

10. THE JOKER’S SCARS WERE INSPIRED BY A REAL PERSON.

Nolan deliberately resisted the idea of giving The Joker an origin story in the film, opting instead to portray him as a force of pure anarchy with no discernible motivation other than chaos. For this reason, the character’s scarred face—as opposed to the chemically-induced frozen grin given to the character’s previous movie incarnation—had no clear source. In fact, the character deliberately tells different stories to different characters to explain where the scars came from. As a result, prosthetics supervisor Conor O’Sullivan was driven to take inspiration for the scars from real life. So, he used an actual man on the street as a reference.

“I immediately thought of the punk and skinhead era and some unsavory characters I had come across during this time,” O'Sullivan recalled. “The terminology for this type of wound is a ‘Glasgow’ or ‘Chelsea smile.’ My references had to be real. A delivery of fruit machines was made to the estate near my workshop and the man delivering them had a ‘Chelsea smile.' I plucked up the courage to ask him for a photo and he told me the story of how he had got his scars while being involved with “a dog fight”; needless to say I didn't pursue the matter, but the photos proved to be very useful reference.”

11. LEDGER LICKED HIS LIPS BECAUSE OF THE JOKER PROSTHETICS.

One of the most identifiable characteristics of Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is the way he almost constantly licks his lips inside and out, probing his scars with his tongue over and over again. It adds energy to the character as well as a certain menacing quality, but it apparently was not planned. According to dialect coach Gerry Grennell, who worked with Ledger on the film, that tic arose because the scar prosthetics—which extended into Ledger’s mouth—would loosen as he performed. So, he licked his lips repeatedly in an effort to keep them in place.

"The last thing that Heath wanted to do was go back and spend another 20 minutes or half hour trying to get the lips glued back again, so he licked his lips. A lot,” Grennell recalled. “And then slowly, that became a part of the character.

12. THE MOVIE MADE IMAX HISTORY.

Though IMAX cameras are now on the verge of being used to shoot entire feature films, at the time The Dark Knight was made, the format was primarily used for documentary films to showcase things like the wondrous detail of nature. Nolan had longed for years to bring the format to features, and opted to use the ultra-heavy, ultra-expensive cameras to film several major sequences in The Dark Knight. Most famously, the film’s prologue—featuring The Joker’s bank robbery—was filmed on IMAX and released early, in its entirety, as a teaser.

13. THE JOKER FREAKED CAINE OUT SO MUCH, HE FORGOT HIS LINES.

For the scene in which Bruce Wayne is hosting a fundraiser for Harvey Dent in his elegant Gotham City townhouse, Ledger and a group of Joker goons were meant to burst into the party via the elevator. Caine, as Alfred, was supposed to be there waiting to greet guests as the elevator doors opened, only to be frightened by the appearance of The Joker. Caine was there waiting, the elevator doors opened, and he was apparently so frightened by what he saw that any lines he was meant to deliver during the scene completely left his mind.

"I was waiting for Batman's guests, but (the Joker) had taken over the elevator with—he has seven dwarfs and ... oh! wait until you see them,” he said while promoting the film. “So, I'd never seen any of it and the elevator door opened and they came out and I forgot every bloody line. They frightened the bloody life out of me.”

14. THE TRUCK FLIPPING SEQUENCE WAS DONE FOR REAL.

Embracing the hyperrealism of his version of Batman, Nolan opted to do many of The Dark Knight’s biggest stunts practically rather than relying on CGI. That includes arguably the biggest and most visually staggering stunt in the film: When Batman uses steel cables to flip The Joker’s 18-wheeler trailer over cab in the middle of a Gotham street. While another filmmaker might have opted to recreate the moment with computers or models, Nolan wanted to do it for real, on a real Chicago street. The task of pulling it off fell to special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, who ran tests in a more isolated area to ensure the flip wouldn’t harm any member of the crew or any neighboring buildings. With the tests successful, the production was primed to film the stunt … though Corbould still tried to talk Nolan into scaling it down.

“It was a funny thing—and this is always the way working with Chris—where he kept trying to talk me into a smaller vehicle,” Nolan said. “He said, ‘Can't it be one of those SWAT vans, not an articulated truck?!’ I kind of went along with that for a while and we storyboarded it that way and kept talking about it. And I finally just went to him and said, ‘Chris, you can do this, you're fine. It's gotta be a huge truck, it's gotta be a big 18-wheeler,’ and he went ‘Oh, all right,’ in that way he does, and he figured out a way to do it. Nobody had ever done it before and it was really a pretty amazing thing to watch."

15. CHRISTIAN BALE PERCHED ON SKYSCRAPERS HIMSELF AS BATMAN.

One of the most beautiful shots in the film finds Batman, cape billowing around him, perched atop Chicago’s Sears Tower as he surveys his city. It’s a gorgeous image, but also one that easily could have been carried out by a stuntman so Bale didn’t have to take the risk. The star was having none of that. When he found out his stuntman Buster Reeves was preparing to perform the perch, Bale rushed to convince Nolan that he should be the one to stand 110 stories above Chicago for the helicopter shot. 

“It was important for me to do that shot,” Bale explained, “because I wanted to be able to say I did it. 

Bale also opted to perform a similar stunt in which Batman stands on a ledge of the IFC2 building in Hong Kong. By then, he was quite comfortable with the height. 

16. BALE COULDN’T MANAGE THE BATPOD. 

One of the great visual hallmarks of Nolan’s Batman films is the introduction of the Batpod, The Dark Knight’s sleek motorcycle. While it may look like an oversized version of any other bike, the pod didn’t handle the same way, so a specially trained stunt driver was required. Jean-Pierre Goy was the man. He took to the vehicle immediately and trained for months to master the high-speed sequences required for the film. Bale, who was more than willing to volunteer to drive the Batpod, was ultimately only able to ride it when it was attached to camera rigs.

“Jean-Pierre was the only one who could master it,” Bale admitted. “Everybody else just fell off instantly.”

17. THE FILM INCLUDES A SMALL TRIBUTE TO LEDGER’S DAUGHTER.

For the scene in which The Joker sneaks into a panicked Gotham hospital to see Harvey Dent, Ledger dressed up in a nurse’s uniform. If you look closely, you’ll see that the nurse’s name tag reads “Matilda.” Matilda is Ledger’s daughter, who was born in 2005.

18. A SITTING U.S. SENATOR MADE A CAMEO.

When The Joker and his goons crash Bruce Wayne’s fundraising party, almost everyone in the room is intimidated into silence. One man, though, is not. He tells The Joker “we’re not intimidated by thugs,” and The Joker then grabs him and holds a knife to his mouth. That man is Patrick Leahy, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Vermont. A lifelong comic book fan, Leahy has appeared in five Batman films to date, including 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where he sat alongside actress Holly Hunter in a congressional hearing.

19. THE MAYOR OF A CITY CALLED “BATMAN” SUED THE PRODUCTION.

Weird lawsuits surrounding major motion pictures are nothing new, but The Dark Knight inspired a particularly strange one. In late 2008, after the film had opened to rapturous critical acclaim and enormous box office success, Huseyin Kalkan—the mayor of Batman, Turkey—sued Nolan and Warner Brothers for what he deemed a negative impact the film had caused on his city.

"There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us."

Needless to say, given that Batman is still as popular as ever, the suit didn’t go anywhere.

Additional Source:
The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy, by Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy

10 Things That Went Disastrously Wrong on Disneyland’s Opening Day

Disneyland is commonly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it didn’t live up to its now-ubiquitous nickname. In fact, Disney employees who survived the day refer to it as “Black Sunday.” Here are 10 of the most disastrous things that went wrong.

1. FAKE TICKETS FLOODED THE PARK.

Disneyland’s opening day was “invite only” and not for public consumption. Tickets were mailed out and only reserved for special guests, including friends and family of employees, the press, and celebrities, such as Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. However, scores of counterfeit tickets were widespread on opening day. Disneyland was only expecting about 15,000 guests in total, but more than 28,000 people entered the park.

In addition, there were two sets of tickets with designated times: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The time to leave Disneyland was printed on each ticket, so if it read 2:30 p.m., you were supposed to leave the park at that time to make way for the afternoon ticket holders to come in. Unfortunately, the morning ticket crowd didn’t leave, so attendance ballooned when the afternoon attendees were admitted.

There was even some money to be made from Disney's woes: one man set up a ladder outside one of the park's fences and charged $5 per person to climb it and sneak in.

2. TRAFFIC WAS BACKED UP FOR MILES.

Sukarno riding mini car with Walt Disney
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Since Disneyland and the city of Anaheim were not prepared for the amount of people that showed up, California's Santa Ana Freeway that led into the park was backed up for seven miles. The traffic essentially shut down the freeway for hours. In fact, people were in their cars for so long that when they finally made it to Disneyland, there were reports of families taking restroom breaks in the parking lot and on the side of the freeway.

3. THE PARK WAS COVERED WITH WET PAINT AND WEEDS.

Completing Disneyland was a race to the finish. Walt Disney wanted a quick turnaround, and it took exactly one year and one day from announcement to opening day, with construction crews working around-the-clock to meet their deadlines. 

However, once the doors opened, guests could easily see that it was not completely finished. Workers were still painting structures and planting trees all over the park. Along the Canal Boats of the World (now the Storybook Land Canal Boats), weeds had yet to be removed from the riverbanks. And instead of landscaping the area, Walt Disney simply added signs with Latin plant names printed on them to make it look like they were meant to be there.

In addition, a number of rides were still under construction like Tomorrowland’s Rocket to the Moon, which showed a glimpse of what routine space travel would look like in the distant future of ... 1986.

4. NO FOOD, NO DRINK, NO FUN.

For the lucky people who made it into Disneyland on opening day, they experienced a shortage of food and beverages in every restaurant and concession stand in the park. Because of the unexpected influx of guests, virtually all food and drink inventory was wiped out within hours.

5. THERE WAS A PLUMBERS' STRIKE.

Entrance to Disneyland circa 1957
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

While there were plenty of water fountains on site, many of them were not working because of a plumbers’ strike during construction. Walt Disney had to choose between working water fountains or working restrooms for Disneyland on opening day, so he picked the latter because he felt the toilets were more important.

“A few weeks before the opening, there was a major meeting,” Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, explained to WIRED. “There was a plumbing strike. I’ll never forget this. I happened to be in the meeting. So the contractor was telling Walt, ‘Walt, there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the restrooms and to finish all the drinking fountains.’ And this is classic Walt. He said, ‘Well, you know they could drink Coke and Pepsi, but they can’t pee in the streets. Finish the restrooms.’”

6. THE WEATHER WAS SCORCHING.

Although Walt Disney had no control over the weather, it contributed to the disastrous opening day experience at Disneyland. Temperatures reached an intense 100 degrees, which must have been unbearable in a park without working water fountains. The day was so hot that the fresh asphalt became like a sticky tar, with guests complaining that they were getting their shoes and high heels stuck in the pavement of Main Street, U.S.A.

7. THE RIDES WERE BREAKING DOWN.

Like so many of the other workers toiling to make Walt Disney's one-year deadline, both Disney Imagineers and construction workers rushed to complete the theme park. As a result, a number of rides—including Peter Pan’s Flight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland—broke down or were closed altogether because they simply were not finished yet.

The growing pains didn’t stop on opening day. During the first few weeks after opening, the stagecoach ride in Frontierland permanently closed when it was discovered it would flip over if it was too top-heavy; 36 cars in Autopia crashed due to aggressive driving (ironically the ride was designed to help children learn respectful rules of the road); and a tiger and a panther escaped from the circus attraction, which resulted in a “furious death struggle” between the animals on Main Street, U.S.A.

8. THE MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT SANK.

The iconic Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland was filled way over capacity on opening day, with about 500 people cramming into the attraction. This caused the boat to go off its track and sink in the mud, but the ordeal was far from over.

"It took about 20 to 30 minutes to get it fixed and back on the rail and it came chugging in," Terry O'Brien, who was working the ride on opening day, later recalled in an interview. "As soon as it pulled up to the landing, all the people rushed to the side to get off, and the boat tipped into the water again, so they all had to wade off through the water, and some of them were pretty mad."

9. SLEEPING BEAUTY’S CASTLE ALMOST CAUGHT FIRE.

A gas leak in the park prompted the closing of Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland for a few hours, while flames from the leak were seen trying to engulf Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Walt Disney was so busy during opening day that he didn’t learn about the fire until the following day.

10. ABC'S LIVE SHOW FROM DISNEYLAND WAS A TRAIN WRECK.

Walt Disney had a partnership with the broadcast network ABC, which helped finance Disneyland with an investment of $5 million of the park’s $17 million price tag. In return, Walt Disney would host a weekly TV show about what people could expect to see in Disneyland, a full year before it was set to open its doors.

On opening day, Walt Disney hosted a 90-minute live TV special with co-hosts Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future president Ronald Reagan. Over 90 million viewers tuned in to see the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And while the cameras showed the fun and excitement of Disneyland, the TV special obscured the numerous disasters described above.

However, the live broadcast itself was riddled with technical difficulties, such as guests tripping over camera cables all over the park, faulty miscues, on-air flubs, hot mics, and unexpected moments that were caught on camera—namely Bob Cummings caught making out with a dancer just before going on air.

“This is not so much a show, as it is a special event,” Art Linklater said during the live broadcast from Disneyland. “The rehearsal went about the way you'd expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes all erupting at the same time, and you didn't expect any of them. So, from time to time, if I say, ‘We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland,’ and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don't be too surprised.”

The live broadcast also featured the debut of the original Mouseketeers from The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, which premiered a few months later in 1955 on ABC. So at least something positive came out of all of it.

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