The Dark Knight: behind the infamous pencil scene

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The Batman trilogy conceived by Christopher Nolan is not only the most successful and original franchise ever made in the field of superhero cinema. He was also the one who launched the figure of Heath Ledger into the legend, as one of the best jokers (if not the best) ever transposed on film. The actor, who died shortly after the shooting of the second chapter of the trilogy, gave birth to a series of scenes that entered the cult dimension, as a universal symbol of the destructive force of evil.

Among the most famous scenes in the film is the infamous pencil scene: Joker breaks in the middle of an organized crime meeting, to propose himself as the one who will kill Batman. But the first thing he says, before setting out the proposal, concerns a magic trick: Heath Ledger places a pencil on the table and explains that it will disappear within a few seconds. Meanwhile one of the men gets up to stop him and Joker slams his head hard against the pencil, which magically “disappears” inside his head, killing him instantly.

Recently Charles Jarman, the actor who played the man who was killed by Joker in that scene, revealed the dynamics of that scene and how it turned out to be extremely risky: everything was based on the actor’s ability to move the pencil with the hand just a moment before banging his head on the table. He had only a fraction of second at his disposal: his character practically didn’t have time to approach the table that Joker already grabbed his neck.

The scene had been tried a couple of times at half speed, in order to train the actor, but it required anyway great reflexes. In the scene shot for the film, the risk was very high: Heath Ledger was deeply into that character since months, so there was no way he would control the power exerted in that scene. If the actor didn’t move the pencil in time, he would surely find it stuck in his brain.

In an interview with Movie Web, the actor confessed: “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.”

There are many movies were the actors risked their lives during filming. Here a selection of the most sensational cases:

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