Filming on location with The Dark Knight

By: Steve Mathie
Staff Writer
FilmingLocations.com


September 4, 2009

CHICAGO, Ill. - If you haven’t already seen The Dark Knight, you know someone that has seen it and raved about it to you. This summer, the box office saw one of the most successful and highly touted films to ever hit the screens.

By the end of August, The Dark Knight had grossed more than $500 million in the United States alone, good for 2nd all-time at the box office, passing Star Wars and chasing Titanic.

The Dark Knight fan sites, IMDb, YouTube and other Hollywood sites are littered with discussions of Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as The Joker, making him a shoo-in for an Academy Award as best supporting actor. As someone who has seen the film, I call his performance unforgettable and an Oscar would be worthy and a great cap on an amazing career for a man who died much too young.

Christian Bale is back as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Christopher Nolan film, as is Oscar winner Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox. Replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes is Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film also stars Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and Michael Caine as Alfred.

A large portion of this action packed thriller was shot on location in the Chicago area of Illinois, California, England and China. In order to capture the real essence of what was going on in the film, Nolan wanted to choose filming locations that would make it seem as real as possible.

“We were looking for ways to expand the scope of this film, so I was determined to take the location filming much further than what we did in Batman Begins……..The real world is built on a scale you could never reproduce in a studio,” said Nolan in the production notes for the film.

The cast and crew actually began production on location in Chicago before they began initial photography. Nolan, who spent some of his childhood in Chicago, wanted to shoot some of the movie in IMAX as opposed to 35mm, and when viewed in the theater, the opening scenes that graze the rooftops of downtown Chicago’s famous architecture are overwhelming.

Filming with IMAX cameras meant additional hard labor for the cameramen and grips, as IMAX cameras are substantially heavier than 35mm. The key grips had to increase the stability and strength of the camera mounts in order to support the cameras.

Filming locations included the banking area on LaSalle Street, where the production crew successfully sent a semi-truck end over end smashing into the road, while avoiding damage to the infrastructure. Upper and Lower Wacker drive were used in the high speed chase scenes, as were Columbus and Randolph.

Chicago’s picturesque architecture is showcased in the form of architect Mies van der Rohe’s last ever American design, the IBM Building. The structure overlooks the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, and was a filming location for Wayne Enterprises, Harvey Dent’s office, as well as the offices of the Mayor and the Police Commissioner.

Bruce Wayne’s loft may have looked like it was toward the top level of a building, but it was actually filmed in the lobby at One Illinois Plaza. The bedroom set was constructed on the 39th floor of Chicago’s Hotel 71 on the Chicago River at Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue.

In one scene, Batman is standing at the top of the Sears Tower – 110 stories up. Christian Bale performed this stunt on his own, claiming that there was no way he was going to pass on the exhilarating opportunity of looking down from so high up.

Other filming locations for The Dark Knight include the newly remodeled Millennium Station, the Convention Hall at McCormick Place on Lake Shore Drive, popular tourist attraction Navy Pier and the brand new Trump Tower.

One small business on Chicago’s south side was used as a filming location for a scene involving Harvey Dent. Twin Anchors Restaurant, who had Return to Me filmed there for five weeks in 1999, invited Christopher Nolan in for a couple days of filming.

General Manager Christian Manrique described the experience as nothing but exciting and positive in an interview with FilmingLocations.com.

“We’re the 4th oldest establishment in Chicago, but having The Dark Knight filmed here keeps us in the public eye and with a positive view,” says Manrique.

The crew did only one day of setting up and one day of filming at the restaurant, which is located in a historic building that was constructed in the late 1800s.

“The best part of the filming was meeting the behind the scenes staff, they are all very professional,” says Manrique. “Batman aficionados have been coming into the restaurant now which is cool, its special being part of a blockbuster movie like this.”

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