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Christopher Nolan Reveals Story Behind One Of The Dark Knight's Iconic Lines And Why He's 'Plagued' By It

 Christopher Nolan speaking in Tenet behind-the-scenes featurette.
Christopher Nolan speaking in Tenet behind-the-scenes featurette.

Over the course of the past year, Christopher Nolan has become more famous than ever before with Oppenheimer’s success, but his place among the biggest 2024 Oscar winners is the amalgamation of over two decades in the business. Among the movies he constantly gets recognition for, and always will, is 2008’s The Dark Knight. Touted as one of the best superhero movies ever made to date, Nolan is getting praise for the Batman flick all the time. However, the filmmaker recently admitted he’s tired of one iconic line following him.

While speaking to Deadline, Christopher Nolan shared that there’s a major line in the beloved movie that pits Christian Bale’s Batman against the late Heath Ledger’s Joker that he's "plagued by." Explaining the line and his reasoning, he said:

I’m plagued by a line from The Dark Knight, and I’m plagued by it because I didn’t write it. My brother [Jonathan] wrote it. It kills me, because it’s the line that most resonates. And at the time, I didn’t even understand it. He says, ‘You either die a hero or you live long enough to become the villain.’ I read it in his draft, and I was like, ‘All right, I’ll keep it in there, but I don’t really know what it means. Is that really a thing?’ And then, over the years since that film’s come out, it just seems truer and truer. In this story, it’s absolutely that. Build them up, tear them down. It’s the way we treat people.

Nolan is talking about a line that Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent says while having dinner with Bruce Wayne and Rachel early in The Dark Knight before he becomes Two-Face. While the line has become massively popular since the movie’s release, Nolan can’t really celebrate it because it wasn’t him who came up with it. Actually, as he notes, it was his brother Jonathan Nolan who wrote the line, and when Christopher Nolan initially read it, he didn’t understand its potential to resonate with so many.

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Christopher Nolan often gets all the credit for The Dark Knight, but he co-wrote the movie with Jonathan Nolan, who also worked with him on the entire Batman trilogy. Additionally, Jonathan Nolan was a co-writer on Memento, The Prestige and Interstellar with his brother directing. Jonathan has also served as a writer, director and producer on shows like Person of Interest, Westworld and the upcoming Fallout series, which he actually recently compared to his work on The Dark Knight trilogy.

Christopher Nolan comes off as a humble fellow, so the idea that one of the biggest lines isn't his, apparently is something he’s “plagued” by. Of course, we wouldn’t know who wrote what line without Nolan mentioning it, but it’s certainly interesting to hear that it's Jonathan Nolan who deserves his flowers for one of the movie’s great lines.

As Nolan spoke about during the interview, Oppenheimer has connections to The Dark Knight trilogy because it's where his longtime collaboration with Cillian Murphy originally began. Of course in the case of the Oppenheimer cast, Murphy got to play a central role for the first time in a Nolan movie. Now, following his reflection on The Dark Knight and Oppenheimer winning Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this month, check out our ranking of the best Christopher Nolan movies.