The Secret Behind Ledger’s Disappearing Pencil Trick

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan displays mastery of his craft. The man is responsible for the revival of the superhero genre. Before Bale and Ledger, the best representations we’d gotten of the characters outside of Batman: The Animated Series were Nicholson and Keaton. Nolan imbues his films with a magical energy that crackles up on the big screen. On top of that, the man’s films are basically a license to print money. Not only did it earn crazy money but the series has received glowing reviews from fans and critics. Something DC is still trying to replicate today. Nolan’s trilogy achieved that without sacrificing story or character development. Nolan makes great films comprised of great moments.

Remember that famous scene where Heath Ledger’s Joker makes that pencil disappear right in front of Michael Jai White’s Gamble? I do. I recall seeing it at a theater and there were audible gasps when that happened. I was pretty sure CGI was used to accomplish that. Boy, was I wrong as it appears Nolan employed a little sleight of hand to make that trick work on screen.

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Recently the crew from The Dark Knight spoke to Vulture, and let the secret slip to the scenes mechanics. Here’s what the crew had to say.

  • Wally Pfister (cinematographer): There was no trick pencil. There was no pencil when his head hit the table so there is no place it’s disappearing into. There was nothing there when his head hits the table.
  • Nathan Crowley (production designer): Everyone was like, “Oh, how are we going to do it?” There are always loads of meetings and people wanting to do prosthetic stuff.
  • Richard Ryan (stunt coordinator): There was talk of it being a CGI pencil. Would the whole thing be a visual-effects gag?
  • Nathan Crowley (production designer): At the end of the day, you just shoot it twice: one with the pencil and one without the pencil. Then the edit does its magic. The previous film Chris [Nolan] and I did was The Prestige. We spent like a year on this Prestige thing learning magic tricks and how you do tricks of camera.

There it is. Nolan is a master of his craft. Could you tell there was no pencil? Wouldn’t it be great if Nolan signed on to direct another DC film?

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SOURCE: Vulture

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