“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) THE DARK KNIGHT

This is the most famous line from Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT that has transcended the film and become part of pop culture vernacular.

And Chris didn’t write it…his brother Jonathan did.

Not only did Chris not write that line of dialogue that took place between Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), he didn’t get it…initially.  Via DEADLINE

I’m plagued by a line from THE DARK KNIGHT, and I’m plagued by it because I didn’t write it.  My brother wrote it. It kills me, because it’s the line that most resonates. And at the time, I didn’t even understand it … 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 [OPPENHEIMER], it’s absolutely that. Build them up, tear them down. It’s the way we treat people.

So what does the author of that famous line say about it?  Here’s what Jonathan Nolan told THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER recently…

It came later in the script. We’ve done a version or two of the script where we were looking for something that would distill the tragedy of Harvey Dent, but that would also apply to Batman. The richness of Batman is in the way this principled, almost Boy Scout-like figure is wrapped up in this kind of ghoulish appearance and his willingness to embrace the darkness. So I was looking at Greek tragic figures.”

Continued Nolan: “The first part of that line is ‘you either die a hero’ — and that part’s important, because not everybody wants to be a hero; it’s engaging in heroics that puts you in this space, where you have this binary outcome. The idea is there are people who put themselves on the line and so often that wager turns on them. It’s also that old idea of absolute power corrupting absolutely. It felt uniquely resonant to the tragedy of Harvey Dent and the tragedy of Batman. The fact that it resonates with people beyond the film is gratifying. I was proud of that line.


I’ve long wanted to hear Christopher Nolan talk about that line because I assumed that he wrote it…though I’m not surprised to find out that it was actually Jonathan who came up with it.

Back in June of 2008, I had the chance to interview both brothers Nolan during the big press day for THE DARK KNIGHT.  I actually had written a note to myself while prepping to ask Chris about it during our 1 on 1 interview, but my time with him expired before I got around to it (You can read that interview HERE).  If I had asked him and he told me that Jonathan actually wrote it, I certainly would’ve asked him later that day when we chatted (You can read that interview with him and David Goyer HERE).  A quick anecdote in BOF history.

For the full story via THR, CLICK HERE. – Bill “Jett” Ramey