How The Dark Knight Took Over The World

Illustration for article titled How The Dark Knight Took Over The World

How unstoppable was the marketing machine behind The Dark Knight? Enough for Heath Ledger's death and Christian Bale's predilection for family communication with fists to be easily cast off, apparently, leading to a movie whose success surprised even its studio head. The Hollywood Reporter looked into the efforts required to teach America to ask "Why so serious?"Unlike Batman Begins, which offered very few marketing tie-ins, The Dark Knight started life as a merchandising bonanza, according to the report:

Batman Begins" had played down its tie-ins, but for "Knight," Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Comics ramped up their efforts more than a year in advance of the picture's release, selling the master license to toymaker Mattel, with additional toys from Lego and Halsall and everything from Batman-branded underwear to a deal for Kmart to serve as the "Official Batman Headquarters." ...It was Nolan who came up with the idea of using the film's nearly six-minute opening sequence, a bank robbery, as a second teaser attached to the Imax release of "I Am Legend" in December. "He wanted to make the movie into even more of an event," [Producer Chuck] Roven explains.


The death of Ledger threatened to derail all of the marketing plans... until his family stepped in, as Warners COO Alan Horn explained:

"We were already out with the 'Why so serious?' campaign," he notes. "We said (to Ledger's family), 'Look, is this an issue? Would you like us to pull this?' And here's what they said: 'Heath loved the movie, was very proud of it. This was just an accident.' They were fine with it — more than fine, they were completely supportive."


Sue Kroll, Warners' President of Worldwide Marketing, continues the story:

t became very clear when the family and others started to see some of Heath's bravado performance, and what a centerpiece it was to the movie, that there was no thought of marketing the film without him, as some suggested in the press around that time.

And news reports of Bale beating his family? Also easily avoided by the studio, according to Horn:

We just ignored it because it was his personal business... If he had asked us to involve ourselves, we would have been willing to discuss that, but he didn't mention it, and we didn't mention it.


That's right; Warners now operates on a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" basis when it comes to scandals. Or maybe that's just if your movie is about to become the second highest-grossing of all time. Anatomy of a hit: The Dark Knight [Hollywood Reporter]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Chris Braak

Do they mean "bravado performance" or "bravura performance"?