In 2012, Christopher Nolan released his final instalment in what is now widely considered to be the greatest superhero series of all time. We didn’t know it then, but this final film would – in its own bombastic, occasionally credibility-stretching way – prove hugely prescient.
As much as The Dark Knight, the second film in Nolan’s Bat-trilogy, might stand today as possibly the greatest comic book movie ever made, six years on, its sequel The Dark Knight Rises looks like the most relevant.
In its story of anti-establishment figures – in particular Tom Hardy‘s crude, charismatic Bane – gleefully blowing up the established order in order to give power back to ‘the people’ (while secretly just giving it to themselves), The Dark Knight Rises now seems like a parable for our times.
Here, we run down 25 things you never knew about this revolutionary superhero movie.
25. Heath Ledger’s Joker was supposed to cameo
As if The Dark Knight Rises didn’t have enough villains, there was nearly another in the mix.
The Joker, played by Heath Ledger in Nolan’s previous Bat-film, was almost carried over to TDKR from The Dark Knight for a cameo.
According to Kate Ledger, Heath’s sister, Ledger was “so proud of what he had done in Batman…and I know he had plans for another.”
Production sources have said that Nolan even continued to mull over having Ledger’s Joker appear in TDKR after the actor’s death.
Nolan purportedly considered a Joker resurrection using a combination of unused Dark Knight footage and CGI.
In the end, out of respect for Ledger, The Joker wouldn’t even get a mention in TDKR.
24. There’s a Joker reference you probably missed
Though there’s no trace of Heath Ledger in TDKR, Nolan still managed to sneak a reference to The Joker into the film.
The sly nod arrives early in the movie, shortly after Selina Kyle has broken into Bruce’s safe and made away with Martha Wayne’s pearls.
When Bruce traces the fake fingerprints left on the safe, his investigation leads him to a familiar name.
The fingerprints, Bruce finds, belong not to Kyle but to a career criminal by the name of Nikolai Ondrejko.
This was the same name that, in The Dark Knight, The Joker used as author of the Mayor’s obituary.
It’s an oblique reference that only eagle-eyed viewers would spot – but one that suggests The Joker may in fact have links to the League of Shadows.
23. Two-Face was originally the main villain
Ever think it was odd how Harvey Dent’s Two-Face, a legendary figure in Batman lore, was given short shrift by featuring only briefly in The Dark Knight before being killed off?
Dent’s demise seeming premature might have something to do with the fact that his death in The Dark Knight wasn’t always the plan.
At least, it wasn’t in Batman Begins screenwriter David S Goyer’s original treatment for the trilogy.
In Goyer’s treatment, which was submitted along with his script for Begins, Dent’s scarring by the Joker at the end of The Dark Knight was to set Two-Face up as the third film’s villain.
As Chris Nolan took over writing duties for the sequels, however, the original plan was altered.
It was Nolan who would decide to both introduce Dent and remove him from the series in film two.
22. Bane’s accent was based on a bareknuckle boxing champion known as the ‘King of the Gypsies’
The iconic Bane voice used by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises, much-imitated and much-parodied, was inspired by an unlikely source.
Bane’s bizarre accent was actually based on that of a British bareknuckle ‘gypsy’ fighter named Bartley Gorman.
Gorman, who went by the nickname King of the Gypsies, was undefeated in the world of illegal bareknuckle boxing.
Hardy has said he found inspiration in Gorman because of Bane’s latin roots in the comics: “I wanted to underpin the Latin, but a Romani Latin opposed to Latino”.
Gorman’s underground brawler style also undoubtedly inspired Hardy, who called Bane’s fighting “nasty”.
“The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed… It’s not about fighting, it’s about carnage”.
21. Donald Trump quoted Bane’s Blackgate speech at his inauguration
We know his favourite film is Citizen Kane, but it also looks likely that Donald Trump is a Bat-fan as well.
It was noted in the run-up to Donald Trump’s taking the presidency that there were similarities between Trump and Bane.
Specifically, commentators saw parallels in Trump’s charismatic bluster, anti-establishment attitude and extreme isolationist vision.
Likely nobody, however, expected to hear Trump repeat Bane’s words at his inauguration.
In his speech, Trump echoed the sentiment of Bane’s Blackgate Prison speech while also repeating the words “We give it back to you: the people” verbatim.
Trump was, however, at least smart enough to substitute ‘Washington DC’ for ‘Gotham’ in his speech.
20. Producers wanted The Riddler instead of Bane
Bane, as one of the lesser-known Batman villains, was certainly a leftfield choice for lead bad guy duties in The Dark Knight Rises.
But with Two-Face already despatched and Heath Ledger’s death making a Joker reappearance impossible, Nolan was faced with a tough choice.
As Nolan leaned towards Bane, producers suggested he consider having another familiar Bat-villain appear.
According to David S Goyer, execs wanted Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler, to be TDKR’s big bad.
Goyer has also revealed that producers wanted none other than Nolan’s Inception star Leonardo DiCaprio to play the character.
Nolan apparently decided that The Dark Knight’s Joker was one sociopathic trickster too many for him, however, and decided to go a different route instead.
19. World premieres of the movie were cancelled after a man dressed as the Joker shot up a US cinema
In late July 2012, just as the movie was due to be released worldwide, Warner Bros cancelled all Dark Knight Rises premieres.
This was an almost unprecedented move by a studio looking to promote their latest expensive blockbuster – but there really was no other decent option.
This was because, on July 20, 2012, just prior to the general release of The Dark Knight Rises in theatres, a gunman shot up a midnight screening of the film in Aurora, Colorado.
James Holmes, who had bright dyed hair and identified as the Joker when police arrested him, killed 12 and injured 58.
In response to the shooting, Warner Bros cancelled the Paris, Mexico and Japan premieres scheduled for the film.
Meanwhile, Christian Bale used the time he was supposed to be on the red carpet to instead visit the Aurora survivors in hospital.
18. Anne Hathaway thought she was playing Harley Quinn
Christopher Nolan’s secretive approach to making Batman films might have worked wonders for audiences, but it left Anne Hathaway positively baffled.
When Anne Hathaway got the chance to audition for The Dark Knight Rises, she had no idea the part would be the iconic Catwoman.
Initially, the actress thought she would be playing Harley Quinn, at that point still unseen in the live-action Batman films.
Hathaway even auditioned as Quinn, believing that was the character that Christopher Nolan wanted her to play in the film.
“About an hour into the meeting he said, ‘It’s Catwoman’ and I went, ‘Oh, no, I played this wrong'”.
It wasn’t until four years later that Harley Quinn would finally appear on-screen, played by Margot Robbie, in Suicide Squad.
17. Tom Hardy had to wear 3-inch lifts to play Bane
At 5 foot 9 inches, Tom Hardy was perhaps not the most appropriate casting choice for the colossal Bane.
To make the actor appear larger and more intimidating on-screen, the Dark Knight Rises team gave Hardy shoes with three-inch lifts.
This was so Bane could equal the size of or tower over Hardy’s cast mates.
This wasn’t the only help Hardy got from the production to transform into the super-villain, however.
Hardy was caked in makeup each day on the TDKR set, to conceal the many tattoos that cover his body.
If you look at some productions stills, though, you can still see evidence of the dense foundation that went into making Bane appear tat-free.
16. Lady Gaga could have played Catwoman
For The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan auditioned some of the biggest actors in Hollywood.
In particular the role of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, was a predictably hotly contested one.
Anne Hathaway’s fellow Oscar winner Natalie Portman was considered to play the part, as was future Fantastic Four star Kate Mara.
Also in the running were Keira Knightley, Gemma Arterton, Jessica Biel and Blake Lively.
Most intriguingly of all, Lady Gaga was also on Christopher Nolan’s wishlist of potential Catwomen.
This would be years before Gaga’s acclaimed performance in A Star Is Born, and – had she got the gig – would have constituted her first ever appearance in a feature film.
15. Tom Hardy’s wife was also in the running for Selina
If it seems like all women in Hollywood were in competition for the Selina Kyle role, you’d not be far wrong.
It wasn’t just big name actresses – some lesser known faces managed to get in the room with Nolan.
Also in the mix to play Catwoman was Charlotte Riley, aka wife to Tom Hardy and mother of his second child.
At the time, Riley was Hardy’s fiancee, with the two having met on the set of TV’s Wuthering Heights in 2008.
Though a screen reunion on The Dark Knight Rises didn’t pan out, it wasn’t the couple’s last opportunity to star in a project together.
Between 2014 and 2017, Hardy and Riley also appeared alongside one another in the BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders.
14. Jennifer Lawrence almost starred
It wasn’t just Selina Kyle that seemingly all of Hollywood’s best and brightest were lining up to play.
The role of Jen, Kyle’s young accomplice from the streets, was popular with up-and-coming young actresses.
In the running along with Juno Temple was Chloe Grace Moretz, at the time best known for Kick-Ass.
Another young comic book movie star also auditioned to play Jen: Jennifer Lawrence.
At the time she was auditioning, Lawrence was hot off Winter’s Bone and had just filmed her part in X-Men: First Class.
She was, however, still pre-Oscar and pre-megastar status. Nolan opted for Juno Temple instead.
13. Ryan Gosling was considered for Robin
John Blake, also known as Robin (or Nightwing, if you like), wasn’t always Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role to play.
Nolan considered future superhero star Mark Ruffalo as one of several that could play Batman’s successor.
Ruffalo would instead, in the same year that The Dark Knight Rises was released, make his first appearance as the Hulk in The Avengers.
Ryan Gosling was another name in the mix for the John Blake role. In the end, he took 2012 off.
Before Nolan finally decided on Gordon-Levitt, he had another Inception star in mind to play the part.
After Nolan rejected the studio’s suggestion to have The Riddler appear in The Dark Knight Rises, Leonardo DiCaprio’s name re-entered the casting conversation. Years after he turned down the opportunity to play another Robin in Batman Forever, he was passed on the chance to play Nolan’s Robin, too.
12. Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet could have been Miranda Tate
Miranda Tate is such an important figure in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan was inevitably going to court some of the best actresses in the business to play her.
Before Nolan drew again from his Inception cast to settle on Marion Cotillard, he mulled over casting someone he’d never worked with before.
Actresses considered included Eva Green and Naomi Watts, who instead respectively went on to make Dark Shadows and The Impossible.
Nolan also turned to Cotillard’s fellow Best Actress Oscar winners, Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet.
Instead, they instead went on to star in The Bourne Legacy and Labor Day, while Nolan plumped for Cotillard.
This was in spite of Cotillard being, at the time she was cast, heavily pregnant with her first child.
11. Marion Cotillard shot TDKR simultaneously with another film just one month after giving birth
When Marion Cotillard was cast in The Dark Knight Rises, she was six months pregnant.
While filming was due to begin shortly, rather than cast a different actress, Christopher Nolan did the unexpected.
Altering up the production schedule, Nolan worked his $300 million film around Cotillard’s pregnancy in order to keep her on the project.
After the schedule had been rejigged, Cotillard was able to shoot her scenes post-pregnancy – albeit just a month after giving birth.
Nolan went further, making space on the TDKR set for Cotillard’s family, including new son Marcel. Incredibly, Cotillard would spend some weeks of TDKR’s production simultaneously shooting the film French-Belgian drama Rust & Bone.
Recognising Cotillard’s commitment, Nolan would come to refer to Cotillard as ‘Superwoman’.
10. It’s the longest superhero movie ever made
When Christopher Nolan was developing The Dark Knight Rises, he had a superhero epic in mind.
This was reflected in the first draft of the film’s screenplay, which ran to a whopping 400 pages.
Even after Nolan had filmed a trimmed version of the screenplay, however, he was still left with an epic running time.
In the end, The Dark Knight Rises ran to 164 minutes, or just 16 minutes shy of three hours.
This made Nolan’s third Batman film the longest superhero movie ever made – a record it still holds today.
In comparison, Marvel’s longest movies to date, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, don’t even reach two-and-a-half hours.
9. Nolan shot fake scenes to avoid spoilers leaking
A notoriously secretive filmmaker, there was no way Christopher Nolan was going to allow information about his final Batman film to leak.
The director had a few solutions to the persistent problem of Hollywood movies being spoiled by the press.
First off, to put people off the scent, the production filmed under a fake title: Magnus Rex.
Nolan also shot scenes filled with fake information, the most notable being Bruce Wayne’s funeral.
In the film, we see Bruce has been buried in the family plot alongside his parents, his gravestone marked, simply, ‘Bruce Wayne’.
Any paparazzi nearby during filming, however, would have seen a grave instead marked ‘Miranda Tate’. This was changed to Bruce Wayne in post, using CGI.
8. Nolan told the actors the ending verbally to prevent leaks
Christopher Nolan wasn’t going to let something as precious as the ending for his final Batman film get spoiled.
TDKR ends with a series of climactic set-pieces set in Gotham, followed by a quiet finale between Alfred, Bruce and Selina Kyle.
The man behind brain-twisting films like Inception and Interstellar had his ideas of how to keep this quiet before release, of course.
Says Gary Oldman, the ending of The Dark Knight Rises was revealed to the actors verbally only.
Rather than writing the twist-heavy climax down in script form and handing it around set, Nolan told only a chosen few personally.
It was also a good preventative measure: if there had been any leaks, Nolan would have known that only one of a select few would be to blame. Predictably, no information on the ending got out.
7. The ending is less ambiguous than you think
As The Dark Knight Rises followed the deliberately open-ended Inception, many viewers assumed the ending of Nolan’s third Batman film was also intended ambiguously.
According to the actors, this isn’t the case: TDKR was actually made with a very definitive ending in mind, and it didn’t involve a dream sequence.
Christian Bale told Entertainment Weekly in 2014 that, whereas with most films “I tend to say ‘It’s what the audience thinks it is'”, TDKR is different.
“No, it was not a dream. That was for real and he was just delighted that finally he had freed himself from the privilege, but ultimately the burden, of being Bruce Wayne.”
Meanwhile, Michael Caine said in a 2012 interview: “They were there….They were real. There was no imagination.”
Nolan’s shooting script also confirmed as much: it makes note of the fact that Bruce is very much alive in the final scene.
6. The film was inspired by silent movies and Charles Dickens
Aside from the treasure trove of Batman comic books – TDKR was an amalgam of the 1993 Knightfall series and 1999’s Batman: No Man’s Land, as well as the 1986 Dark Knight Returns miniseries – The Dark Knight Rises had a few more surprising inspirations.
These included the historical epic Dr Zhivago, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and the silent films of Fritz Lang.
Nolan has said he learned from Lang the art of “staging very large events for the camera”.
Nolan drew on A Tale of Two Cities for its class and revolutionary themes, while also taking direct inspiration from one character.
The kangaroo court scene in which Bane sits at the back of the room knitting is an allusion to Two Cities’ Madame Defarge, who likes to knit as she watches executions.
This being Nolan, the James Bond franchise also gets several nods, with the opening sequence in particular lifting a scene almost wholesale from Licence to Kill.
5. Hans Zimmer used the sound of Batman fans in the score
The working relationship between Christopher Nolan and his regular composer, Hans Zimmer, has been a fruitful one to say the least.
Together, Nolan and Zimmer have crafted some of the most innovative and influential scores of the 21st century.
Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises score, the result of months of experimentation, is no different.
For his final film in Nolan’s trilogy, Zimmer got the fans involved, crowdsourcing their chants via Twitter for the film’s standout track.
It was Zimmer’s way of getting the “hundreds of thousands of voices” he wanted for the chant for free.
As to what that repeated chant, ‘deshi basara’, actually means? It’s the Arabic for ‘rise’.
4. Tom Hardy improvised one famous Bane line
Though you’d think a perfectionist filmmaker like Christopher Nolan would insist on his actors following the script, he does allow a little leeway.
On The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy was – like Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight – permitted to build his villain using his own ideas.
The result was a unique baddie that, in Hardy’s hands, was occasionally allowed to go off-script.
In the stadium scene, for example, Bane’s darkly comical line about the national anthem singer – “That’s a lovely, lovely voice” – was entirely improvised by Hardy.
Hardy also added his own flourishes in his final scene with Ben Mendelsohn’s Daggett.
Bane threateningly resting his hand on Daggett’s shoulder just before he kills him was also Hardy’s idea.
3. The Gotham Rogues are played by the Pittsburgh Steelers
If you know anything about Pittsburgh, where The Dark Knight Rises was predominantly shot, you’ll probably recognise the arena that plays Gotham City Stadium.
Heinz Field isn’t the only Pittsburgh attraction that gets a starring role in TDKR, however.
Those ‘actors’ playing the Gotham Rogues aren’t actors at all, but real Pittsburgh Steelers players.
Included in the Gotham Rogues lineup, before the team is (presumably) wiped out, are Pittsburgh players like Hines Ward and Willie Colon.
The then-Pittsburgh mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, also apparently plays for the Rogues as a kicker.
Getting the stadium as well as the team was all down to TDKR producer Thomas Tull, who just so happens to be co-owner of the Steelers.
2. Christian Bale packed on some serious muscle for the film
It’s become a Christian Bale tradition for the actor to massively fluctuate in weight between roles.
For The Machinist and Batman Begins, Bale actually set the records for most weight lost for a role and most weight gained for a role.
He then proceeded to lose the weight post-Batman Begins for Rescue Dawn (55 pounds), got back in fighting shape for The Dark Knight before losing it all again for The Fighter.
After The Fighter, Bale was 145 pounds, or just over 10 stone. But with The Dark Knight Rises shoot approaching, he had to bulk up once more.
By the time TDKR came around, Bale had piled on 53 pounds of muscle to reach almost 200 pounds, or over 14 stone.
Of course, Bale went on to change again for 2013’s American Hustle, undoing all his TDKR training to play a balding, overweight con man.
1. It took a year to design Bane’s coat
Never let it be said that Christopher Nolan isn’t a stickler for detail.
After putting the hours in to create cinema’s most iconic version of The Joker, Nolan went even further with Bane.
Says The Dark Knight Rises’ costume designer Lindy Hemming, it took a whole year just to create Bane’s signature coat.
According to Hemming, the coat had two main sources of inspiration: a Swedish army jacket and a French Revolution frock coat.
While his ‘animalistic’ mask was designed with “silverback gorillas and snarling teeth” in mind, the coat was honed and perfected until it made Bane appear both dictatorial and revolutionary.
The idea was to have Bane’s coat look “like an amalgam of all sorts of bits and pieces he cobbled together as he passed through some very remote places”.