There's a lot more to Billy Dee Williams' portrayal Harvey Dent from Tim Burton's Batman (1989) than you might have suspected. I know that I certainly didn't think there was much to say, which is why it's taken me this long to finally write about one of the most famous portrayals of Harvey in pop culture.
I'd wager that, for most people around 1989, this was their introduction to the character, even if they weren't yet aware that he was going/supposed to become a major villain. I would imagine that when most people--the non-comics fans whose experience with Batman came only from the Adam West show--were watching the film, their thought was less, "Hey, it's Two-Face" and more "Hey, it's Billy Dee Williams!"
Here's your opportunity to get all the references out of your
If the movie's Harvey didn't especially stand out, it's no surprise: he's kind of a nothing character, mainly there to represent the side of law and order who are there to get screwed with by the Joker. Oh sure, he's introduced as making a bold (but surely doomed) stand against the mob kingpin who has ruled Gotham for years, but that promise is quickly wasted in favor of turning him, Mayor Borg, and Jim Gordon into a three-headed representation of Gotham's ineffectual establishment.
In this scene from the rare Star Trek/Star Wars crossover, Lando is assimilated into the Borg. /rimshot /couldntresist
Almost immediately after his first appearance, Harvey spends the rest of the film as a bureaucrat and accountant whose only job is to make sure a parade happens. This could have worked if it were played for conflict, much like how Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones was brought in to be the King's Hand only to find himself having to scrape together funds for a pointless, wasteful tourney (no spoilers, please, I haven't even finished the first book!), but instead, Billy Dee's Harvey doesn't get to do anything at all except be shouted at by the Mayor and look official. As a result, Harvey Dent in Batman is so damn inconsequential that his role in the comics adaptation (written by our old pal Denny O'Neil!) is reduced to just two panels with no dialogue!
Source: Gotham Alleys
Here's the thing: as the Batman movie developed over the 80's, so too did Harvey's role. Hell, originally, Harvey wasn't going to be in it at all! Back when producers Michael Uslan (whom I've ranted about recently) and Benjamin Melniker purchased the movie rights to Batman back 1979, approached Tom Mankiewicz--screenwriter of several Bond films as well as the first two Superman movies--to write a script based around Steve Englehart's amazing Strange Apparitions/Dark Detective I run, with Englehart himself involved to develop the story! If you'd like, you can download Mankiewicz's unproduced screenplay here and read it for yourself. I haven't read it yet myself, but for those who know my priorities, I can tell you this much: there's no Harvey Dent in it.
That changed (along with pretty much everything else) when Mankiewicz' script was scrapped and a new screenplay was written by Sam Hamm, an apparent newbie screenwriter who would later create Henri Ducard in the comics. Yes, the guy who wrote the script basis for the first Batman franchise movie went on to create a character to would appear (in some form) in Batman Begins, the first film of the NEXT Batman franchise. Even as a reboot, it's still all connected!
And let's not forgot that Hamm also created a proto-Bane character too, just to REALLY make these films full circle!
Hamm's version of the script (which you can read here, no downloading required!) replaced original non-Joker villain Rupert Thorne with an original ganglord named Carl Grissom (who would be played by Curly himself, Jack Palance) and Englehart's OC love interest Silver St. Cloud was replaced by classic love interest Vicki Vale. But Hamm's original script wasn't the final version of the script! No, while many of the same scenes and lines are intact, many others are completely different.
For one thing, Vicki Vale is a somewhat more interesting character than the Kim Basinger version turned out to be: she's more competent, assertive, interesting, and is more than just a bland love interest and shrieking chihuahua-yelping hostage. She actually has scars--literal ones, although possibly emotional ones too--from her time photograpping the atrocities in Corto Maltese, (a reference to a fictional country made by Frank Miller, which was itself a whole other comic reference entirely! WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER. *BRAAAAAAM!*), where she used to spend her vacations with her father when she was young.
She's fascinated and haunted by the evil that men do, and while that's not enough to build a whole character around, it's certainly better than "I just photographed atrocities, now I'm interested in urban myth Bat-Men!" She also never ends up being a hostage, but instead plays an active part in thwarting the Joker's plan with the balloons! Although she does get some assistance on that front from Alexander Knox, whose own character arc is remarkably different. In that he has one.
On the good side, Knox here is actually a competent reporter who suspects Bruce of being Batman even before Vicki does! Remember the scene in the film where Vicki discovers the old newspaper articles on the Waynes' murder? In this version, it's Knox who puts two and two together, while Vicki chalks it up to Knox's own jealousy towards Bruce. Here, check out the whole scene, since it will be relevant later when we talk about Harvey. Also, in a bit that predates Batman Begins, check out who the cop was at the scene of the murders:
A MICROFILM MACHINE. As VICKI looks on curiously, KNOX --
all eagerness now -- threads up a roll of film and begins
cranking through back-issue newspapers.
Okay, here we go. Check it out.
He steps back. VICKI stares down at the display screen. A
FRONT-PAGE BANNER HEADLINE reads:
THOMAS WAYNE MURDERED
Prominent Doctor, Wife Slain in Robbery
Unidentified Gunman Leaves Child Unharmed
Beneath it, a PHOTO: cops kneeling over corpses. Medics
with stretchers. And off to one side, a YOUNG BOY -- BRUCE
WAYNE -- his arms wrapped around the waist of a BEAT COP.
The BOY stares straight at the camera. His face is a mask
of UNFORGETTABLE AGONY. You can't take your eyes off it.
Oh my God... I've seen this picture.
I guess so. Pulitzer Prize, 1963.
His face. Allie, look at his face.
TIGHT ON THE BOY'S contorted face, staring out in shock and
disbelief, his features recognizable across all the years
-- permanently, indelibly traumatized. The same face VICKI
saw in Halliday Plaza.
Yep. He watched the whole thing
happen. -- Recognize the beat cop?
Something like this -- what do you
suppose this could drive a guy to?
INT. RESTAURANT - DAY
A greasy spoon off the lobby of the Globe building. KNOX
and VICKI in a booth.
Alexander, you are on drugs.
He walks out on his own party. Half
an hour later, the Caped Crusader
turns up in full bat-drag.
Sees an execution, freaks out in an
alleyway. No place to change.
Yeah, Vicki, he's "married" all
You're pissing me off, Allie. I know
exactly why you're doing this.
Oh? Why is that, Vicki?
VICKI wilts under the challenge. She holds her silence for
a second, then changes the subject.
He's best friends with Jim Gordon
and Harvey Dent. They would know.
... Okay, Vicki, I have a confession
to make. I'm the Batman.
VICKI snorts, rolls her eyes impatiently.
Don't believe me? Why not?
Alexander... I know you.
Right. And they know him. And
that's why it would never occur to
them for a minute that their old
buddy Bruce puts on a cape at night
and goes out looking for --
This is pointless. I'm leaving.
(grabbing her arm)
Your little chum is out of his mind.
(relaxing his grip)
Next time you call him up and he
can't go out Friday night -- think
First off: hey, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent are best friends with Bruce Wayne in this script! While the idea that Bruce and Jim are friends in civilian life stretches all the way back to their first appearances in Detective Comics #27, this 1986 script is the earliest instance I've ever seen of Bruce and Harvey being friends (as opposed to Batman and Harvey)! Make a mental note about this scene, because it will be coming up again later.
In this one instance, I gotta say, I like this take on Knox and Vicki better for a couple of reasons. Sure, on the surface, it may make Vicki seem less competent that she can't figure it out without Knox's help, but let's face it, Vicki being the only one to figure out that Bruce is Batman is very much a leftover of her being Silver St. Cloud, the perfect woman who is Batman's one true love because Steve Englehart said so.
Considering that Hamm gives her somewhat more depth elsewhere in the script, I don't mind Knox being the one to get suspicious, especially since it gives him something to do other than be comic relief. Unfortunately, he uses this knowledge to be a dick, and tries to blackmail Bruce into dumping from Vicki because he's petty and jealous.
What is it you want?
Simple. You know the score. One
column -- and I can bring all this
tumbling down. I can take you off
the streets once and for all.
(a shaky pause)
I want you to hang up the suit. And
I want you to stay away from Vicki.
I can't do that. Not while the
Joker's still out there.
Then stay away from Vicki. That's
all I want, man. I just want your
BRUCE turns away, evading his gaze. KNOX fumbles in his
jacket for a cigarette.
See, I don't know how it happened --
she's a smart girl and you are an
extraordinarily screwed-up guy -- but
she's in love with you.
There's something I don't
understand. If you've got the story,
why haven't you printed it?
Because I --
Because she'd never speak to me
Yeah, in this version, he's even more of a Ducky-style "Nice Guy" to Vicki's Molly Ringwald, decides to nickname her "Peanut" after getting insecure when Vicki says that she's having dinner with Bruce Wayne, whom he accused of going through women like Planter's peanuts. But then he redeems himself by helping Vicki save everyone from the Joker's death balloons (a plan which causes Knox to utter, "Jesus Christ, the guy's a genius."), and everything seems like a happy ending until Knox coughs up blood and dies.
This moment used to freak me out as a little kid. I thought that he had deflated. Like, the Smilex gas had somehow caused his skeleton to dissolve, and he just prolapsed like Erika Eleniak in The Blob. Did I mention that the 1988 Blob remake scarred me as a child around the same time? Well, it did.
Yeah, in the original script, he was shot saving Vicki's life. The films ends with her at his grave, feeling survivor's guilt over--*dramatic fist clenching*--the one person that Bruce couldn't save. Yeah, Vicki, never mind the fact that the Joker in this version literally kills hundreds of people. At one point, the body count is 786! In ONE movie! You know, for kids!
The Joker in this version is much more of a thug throughout the film, which is to say that it takes a while for his Jack Napier side to be entirely transformed into a Joker who is even worse than any version of the character to appear at that point shy of Frank Miller's (whose influence with TDKR is *all* over Hamm's script). He's even outright called a "terrorist!" Did that ever happen in the comics? Once again, crazy shades of Nolan's TDK! Either Nolan has a major Hamm crush, or Sam Hamm himself is a wizard.
Which reminds me, the original script wasn't centered around the Joker crashing the parade. No, he was just bringing him OWN balloons of death, because why wouldn't the Joker have balloons of death! In the original draft, there was no 200th Gotham birthday celebration parade, so what did the Joker crash instead? He sabotaged the unveiling of an interesting new statue in Gotham, replacing its face with his own.
DAZZLING FIREWORKS explode in the night sky over Gotham
Harbor. SEARCHLIGHTS sweep across the mammoth, welcoming
stone figure of LADY GOTHAM -- still wrapped in canvas,
ready to be unveiled.
THOUSANDS OF RUBBERNECKERS jam every square inch of
Andrew's Island. COPS ON HORSEBACK speak into walkie-
talkies as they patrol the edges of the crowd. Across the
Harbor, Ace Chemical is going up in flames -- but as far as
the crowd can tell, with all the noise and excitement, it's
just another part of the celebration.
At the base of the statue, GOVERNOR GILROY speaks into a
As Governor of this great state, it
is now my honor to unveil for you a
very special lady -- a lady who
stands tall for life and liberty --
America's favorite lady... LADY
The CROWD begins to APPLAUD RHYTHMICALLY, chanting 'LADY
GOTHAM! LADY GOTHAM!' It's like Times Square on New Year's
Eve, waiting for the big ball to drop. GILROY hoists a pair
of oversized scissors and cuts a ceremonial ribbon:
hydraulic CRANES kick into gear: CABLES DROP FREE, and the
canvas cover draws back from LADY GOTHAM's face...
... to a chorus of SCREAMS from the crowd. LADY GOTHAM IS
WEARING A GRISLY JOKER GRIN!!!
Suddenly -- in the midst of the hysteria -- THE
SEARCHLIGHTS DIE. The STAGE LIGHTS BLINK OUT. ANDREWS
ISLAND IS PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS. Instantaneous mass panic:
the GOVERNOR shouts to his aides as ONLOOKERS mob the
stage. COPS are knocked from their horses as the CROWD
stampedes. PANDEMONIUM RULES.
And across the harbor... block by block... GOTHAM CITY IS
Yep, it's Lady Gotham, the lazy Statue of Liberty analogue (seriously, it's essentially the same statue, just with "GOTHAM" in her crown) that would later actually be used in Batman Forever to be defaced by Two-Face! Hell, her face is even the one that's on Harvey's own coin in that universe's fictional city-specific currency! It's amazing to see how much groundwork was laid by Hamm in something which most people haven't read! So yes, Batman Forever also developed/reworked parts of Hamm's unproduced script, including the introduction and origin of Robin!
Just like in BF, his parents are killed by a villain, only instead of Two-Face, it's the Joker. This not only gives Dick a revenge subplot, but it also gives Bruce mega-guilt because he created the Joker. Also, Jack Napier didn't kill Bruce's parents in the original script, so Bruce himself has no revenge motivation like he did in the final film. Instead, Robin gets that, and Batman gets the tragic arc of realizing that he's "created" a villain who caused an innocent boy to suffer the same loss he did. Whoops!
When he takes on Dick as Robin at the end, it looks like he's motivated less by wishing to give Dick a better life and more out of sheer guilt! So I'm glad that was scrapped, but if you're interested in getting a better sense of what it might have been like, check out this storyboarded scene featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.
But look at me, getting distracted by all of these minor supporting characters like Batman and the Joker! I'd almost completely lost focus of the most important player of all! As with the final film version, Harvey Dent is introduced as a gung-ho crime-busting speaker at a political dinner event, promising to take down Grissom while the mobster's "number one *inhales* a-guyyyyy" Jack Napier watches Dent's speech on TV. Notice that the Mayor is NOT in this version:
An oversized CAMPAIGN POSTER fills one wall: "A NEW GOTHAM.
HARVEY DENT FOR DISTRICT ATTORNEY". We TILT DOWN to find
the man himself, determined, dynamic HARVEY DENT,
addressing a crowd from behind his podium.
... it is no longer enough to go
after the small-time punks and petty
criminals who infest the streets of
Gotham City. Crime and corruption
must be attacked at the root!
ANOTHER ANGLE - THE AUDIENCE
Civic-minded politicos decked out in fund-raiser finery.
They applaud DENT's tough talk wildly. They've just shelled
out $500 a plate for a chicken dinner, and by God they're
going to enjoy this.
Tuxedoed WAITERS move among the tables, deftly refilling
water glasses. As they do, we SEE an EMPTY PLACE SETTING --
the only one in the hall. Some well-meaning moneybags has
laid out half a grand and then neglected to show up.
The engraved placecard reads: BRUCE WAYNE.
ANGLE ON DENT
If elected, my first act as district
attorney will be to return an
indictment against Boss Carl
INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT
A woman's apartment, decorated in pastel pinks and mauves.
Original paintings and sculptures everywhere. The place
reeks of money.
In the foreground: a MAN'S HAND, long, elegant, manicured.
Manipulating a DECK OF CARDS, doing a one-handed shuffle
with extraordinary finesse.
In the background: a TV set tuned to the 11 o'clock news,
with highlights of HARVEY DENT's campaign speech.
(on the TV screen)
Together we can make Gotham city a
safe place for decent people to live
and work and play.
THE HAND sets the deck on an end table, raps it twice,
turns up four aces off the top. This most unusual deck
sports a .22 calibre BULLET HOLE straight through the
Decent people shouldn't live here.
They'd be much happier someplace
JACK NAPIER, 32, is right-hand man and chief enforcer to
Boss Carl Grissom. His features are delicate, almost
feminine, and he takes a vain, gangsterish pride in his
appearance. He is also absolutely merciless.
He trains a cold eye on DENT's televised image as ALICIA
HUNT -- 26, beautiful, Carl Grissom's kept woman -- glides
over in her negligee and snuggles up.
The usual gas. If this clown could
lay a hand on Grissom... I would've
had to kill him by now.
ALICIA finds JACK's necktie draped over a nearby chair. She
begins knotting it playfully about his neck.
If Grissom knew about us... he
might kill you.
Pretty much the same scene as the one in the film, right? The big difference, again, is that the Mayor isn't there to introduce Harvey as he was in the movie, nor does he appear anywhere else in this script. So what? Wasn't the Mayor in that film just as bland and inconsequential as Harvey? Yes, and that's just the problem, since his addition came at the cost of altering Harvey's original role considerably!
For one thing, in the actual movie, you'll recall that Mayor Borg was hellbent of scraping together enough money to hold a massive parade and festival for Gotham's birthday celebration (300th in the script, as opposed to the movie's 200th). Not only does this pretty much define most of Harvey's appearances for the rest of the movie, but it also sets the scene for the Joker's eventual death-balloons plan. In the movie, Bruce Wayne holds a huge fundraiser for the parade at Wayne Manor, but in Hamm's original screenplay without Mayor Borg, the fundraiser is actually for Harvey Dent's campaign (he hadn't won yet in this version)! Sound familiar?
The original Hamm version is somewhere between these two.
Just like in places like the comic strip, B:TAS, and TDK, Bruce Wayne backs Harvey Dent as another front on which he can fight crime, only without a costume. Beyond the obvious reasons that I like this because it makes Harvey seem less like a bystander, it also makes Batman seem more cooperative rather than a lone nut vigilante whose only interaction with law and order is to go "Thanks for nothing, guys, here's a giant-ass searchlight in case you need me to come bail you out again! Bye!"
This shows that Bruce actually has confidence in law to help them out, and it's especially well-founded confidence given that Harvey's actions are what kick off the plot for both Jack Napier and Carl Grissom, as well as the corrupt and corpulent Lt. Max Eckhardt*. Unfortunately, as with the final film, this only serves as the impetus for the Joker's origin, and once Napier is fully transformed, Harvey himself slips into the background. But even then, there are some key differences between Hamm's original vision and the final version of the film.
In both, the Joker decides (for some reason, it's never specified just WHY Jack Napier decides to do this after wresting control of the mob) to poison whole batches of the city's makeup and hygiene products with Smilex in order to spread mass terror. In the film we saw, the exact body count we knew of for sure was about three or four. In Hamm's original script, as I've said before, it had gotten all the way up to 786 and counting. Faced with that, the Dent and Gordon in Hamm's original script opt to go for the route of the U.N. and the US President in Superman II when faced with General Zod: they surrendered.
HARVEY DENT at a big desk, flanked by a number of
... We deal.
Harvey, please. I mean --
(shaking his head)
If your first official act as D.A.
is to cut a deal with a
Screw that, Ed. We've got a market
panic of national proportions.
-- We've got 786 people dead.
I won't sacrifice one more life for
the sake of appearing strong.
Harvey's right. We've got the 300th
anniversary gala coming up. The
networks won't even send in a crew.
Harvey, the police are working round
the clock, the feds are coming in.
This thing could break any minute
Tell him, Jim.
COMMISSIONER GORDON reaches into his vest pocket for a
cigar. He clips the end off, lights it, takes a long
drag... and STARES GLUMLY at the floor.
Cut the deal.
While it's miserable to see the civilian heroes of Gotham reduced to cutting a deal with the Joker (which goes as well as one might expect), at least it speaks very well of this Harvey Dent that he'd put the lives of others ahead of his own career, image, and (most notably) vanity. But even still, it's foolish of Harvey to think that he can reason with the Joker, thus he and Gordon not only look like they're capitulating with a terrorist, but they aren't even going to be saving lives in the long run. Bruce knows this too, and this conflict leads us into a scene which made my jaw drop. If ever there was a scene that I wish hadn't been cut, it's this one.
In the third act, the Joker gets the drop on them and kills his girlfriend Alicia (who, in this version, calls up Vicki to warn her that the Joker is coming after her) in her apartment, and shortly thereafter, Bruce finally figures out that the Joker's base is the Ace Chemicals plant where he was "born." But instead of just blowing it to bits like he did in the film (thereby killing a dozen men in the process!), he tries taking this info to Harvey Dent.
... Say, do you remember the earlier interaction between Knox and Vicki, where she argued that Bruce couldn't be Batman because he wouldn't be able to fool his friends Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon?
INT. HALL OF JUSTICE - DAY
Beneath the statue of blind Justice, BRUCE and HARVEY DENT
march through the portico, engaged in a heated argument.
We'll send a team into Ace the
moment the warrant comes through.
He'll be ready when you do. Remember
what happened at the apartment.
All right, Bruce, what do you
I suggest a nice big bomb.
Good. A bomb. On a blind tip from
Bruce Wayne. -- We do have laws.
Then for God's sake, Harvey, cancel
the anniversary celebration.
We've told him we'll deal. What
could he possibly have to gain by --
Do you still think the Joker cares
I don't know. I'm just a D.A. I
don't have access to all your
Mexican standoff. BRUCE stalks off fuming. DENT hangs back
a moment, then turns down the hall.
So holy crap, how about that?! Unless it's mentioned elsewhere in the script and I just missed it, this one scene is all but explicit confirmation that Knox's theory is correct: Harvey Dent (and possibly Jim Gordon too) knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman!
Out of nowhere, with no explanation, we have this scene which shows us two best friends representing a direct conflict of law and order versus vigilantism! This is a major revelation that has far-reaching implications about how Batman operates and how he maintains the relationships in his life, but it gets shoved aside to go back to the Joker's schemes, Vicki's love story, Robin's origin, Batman's angst over having created the Joker, and even Knox's character arc. Yeah, not surprising that it was cut, but man, I can't help but wonder what might have been!
"Whatcha thinkin' 'bout?"
"Oh, I dunno. Justice stuff, I guess."
Now I'm hung up on the idea of a Batman story where Harvey and Jim are both best friends with Bruce Wayne and also in on his secret. That adds a whole new level to their collaboration, and there's so much potential for seeing that conflict and collaboration on several levels. Just in that above scene, they've both got a point. Yes, Bruce, the Joker probably won't deal, but Jesus, you just can't go around blowing shit up! Not even if the actual movie will eventually let you do that! It's still wrong!
Considering what did and didn't survive from the script's first draft, it's clear that Hamm was trying to cram too much in there as it was, so it's not surprising that this Bruce/Harvey scene got cut. But man, I'm now annoyed that neither he nor anyone else tried to work it back in somehow, even for the sequel! If nothing else, it could certainly have made Harvey a more interesting character rather than just being an easter egg for in-the-know geeks of the time.
That said, there was one version of Batman that did add a little something to this version of Harvey: the movie novelization by Craig Shaw Gardner. Like most novelizations, it gives the author an opportunity to explore characters, relationships, and history that was passed over in the film. To top it off, the audiobook version is read by Roddy McDowall, which is worth checking out on that basis alone!
It's like having Jervis Tetch read you a bedtime story! Wait, that's creepy and wrong.
As before, Harvey is introduced at his celebratory banquet at the Gotham City Democrats Club, only this time, Gardner writes it from Jim Gordon's perspective. He paints Gordon as a tired old man who has seen too many men like Harvey come and go, often because they're destroyed by the city they've tried to save. That kind of sober melancholy makes for a nice contrast to the festive tone of the movie version.
Unfortunately, again, it all becomes about the 200th Anniversary Celebration, but Gardner does add a couple touches which give a bit more depth to this scene of pure plot delivery. From Gordon's perspective, Harvey is about to learn what it's really like working in Gotham City, which involves trying to be the voice for reason for a fussy, unreasonable Mayor who wants his damn parade no matter what.
By the time we see these three again, we're in that scene of them scrambling to maintain order after the Joker has aired his "HEY GUESS WHAT SOMETHING YOU OWN HAS PROBABLY BEEN POISONED BY ME LOL" commercial. In the film, this scene just showed Dent on the phone while the Mayor yelled his insistence that the parade go up no matter what. In the book, Gardner allows Dent and Gordon a moment to bond in their common disdain for Mayor Borg with the line, "Dent glanced over at Gordon with a If-you-don't-kill-him-I-will look."
Of course, in the film, the Mayor eventually decides cancel the celebration after all, which is surprising given how desperately he was still pushing for it. What could have happened? In the movie, nothing, but in the book (and in the shooting script by Hamm and Warren Skaaren), he's taken hostage by the Joker in a modified version of the Lady Gotham scene, where she's been replaced with a statue of Gotham's founder, John T. Gotham.
While Mayor Borg is rescued, he's left humbled and (in the book) almost traumatized from the experience, which is enough to get him to cancel the celebration. As a result, Harvey Dent becomes "the new voice of Gotham City" in Gardner's adaptation. Okay, that's not so bad. This way, even though we still get the capitulation, the circumstances make Jim and Harvey look better than full-blown-surrender and negotiation with terrorists. Here's the film version, which is more or less what we saw on screen and what was in the novelization.
The steps are packed with TV NEWS CREWS. The MAYOR,
flanked by JIM GORDON and HARVEY DENT, steps gloomily to
The 200th Anniversary Birthday
Gala has been indefinitely
EXT. CITY HALL - THAT MOMENT - DAY
TECHNICIANS in VIDEO TRUCKS, watching on remote monitors.
We're vehemently opposed to
terrorism in any form. But a
toxin has been found in the coffee
at the police station. With two-
thirds of our police force
disabled we simply can't guarantee
public safety --
INSERT - TELEVISION MONITOR - THAT MOMENT
VIDEO NOISE wipes half the image away, leaving a SPLIT
SCREEN. On one side is the MAYOR. On the other --
sitting in a director's chair with a big yellow HAPPY
FACE behind him -- is THE JOKER. But a very DIFFERENT
Joker indeed. Relaxed and very lucid. With his flesh-
colored makeup on he manages to make his grin almost
Now you guys have said some pretty
mean things. Some of which I
admit were true under that fiend
Boss Grissom. He was a terrorist
and a thief. But on the other
hand he was great at Bridge.
Anyway he's dead and he left me in
charge. Now I CAN be theatrical,
maybe even a bit rough -- but
there's one thing I'm not. I'm
NOT a killer. I'm an artist.
And I looove a party. So truce.
COMMENCE AU FESTIVAL!
Of course, the Joker's lying his ass off, and this leads into the parade and the death balloons and the hubbahubbahubba, moneymoneymoney, who do you trust? In the novelization, this causes Mayor Borg to suffer a complete nervous breakdown, when him basically curled up in a ball and muttering "Gotham City is doomed" over and over again.
"With the Mayor gone," Gardner writes, "Harvey Dent was running police headquarters, if not the entire city, virtually single-handedly." That single sentence gives even this movie's anemic depiction of Harvey Dent a nice little character arc, showing both his leadership prowess as well as putting him in a major position of power for the next film that could have been.
With that said, there's one major bit of Two-Face foreshadowing in Gardner's book that's not present in either version of Hamm's screenplay, and it concerns Alicia Hunt: the kept woman of Carl Grissom and girlfriend of Jack Napier who becomes the Joker's zombie-like "art project." Unlike in the film, the script makes it clear that we're never to see what her scarring looks like, leaving it to the audience's imagination.
Why is she wearing a mask?
Well, she's just a sketch really.
Alicia! Come here, have a seat.
Show the lady why you wear the
Alicia sits down numbly and begins to undo the mask.
You see, Miss Vale, Alicia's been
made over in line with my new
philosophy. Now, like me, she's
a living work of art.
We're looking at Alicia's profile as the mask comes off.
The side that's turned to us is indeed beautiful. But
the side we can't see... SENDS Vicki RIGHT OVER THE EDGE.
Vicki lurches out of her seat, knocking it over, HER FACE
FROZEN IN HORROR.
I'm no Picasso. You LIKE IT?
In the film, of course, we do clearly see the scarring. It's a bit disturbing, but still very PG-13, not quite the sort of horror show that Vicki must have seen in the script. The novelization, however, takes it one step further: "She couldn't look back at Alicia, no matter how hard she tried. The left side was perfectly normal, a model's face. But the right side--skin melted into muscle, which in turn eroded away to scar tissue and bone. How long had it taken the Joker to destroy Alicia's face so completely?" That sounds decidedly more horrible than what she actually looked like in the movie.
Yeah, that sounds like an obvious, direct Two-Face reference, but I can't imagine any way it was meant to be foreshadowing, since the person who did that scarring died at the end. For all I know, maybe she was just meant to be a loose reference of Doug Moench's Black Mask and Circe.
Another Two-Face similarity: Hamm, I should mention, also makes it a point in the script that Alicia is deeply narcissistic and vain, which was meant to be conveyed by the fact that she had a massive photo of herself in her own house. Did anyone else catch that subtext? I sure didn't. Hamm's script is filled with little revelations of his attempt that were lost in the actual film. Take this scene, for instance:
In Hamm's original script, he describes the scene thus: "THE JOKER is at his vanity. He's rinsed his hair black. He's applying pounds of pancake makeup to his bleached face, his puckered cheeks. In the right light he could almost pass for human. In all the city, he's the only person still using cosmetics." All of a sudden, the Joker's recurring use of flesh-tone makeup and the fact that he's poisoning the city's entire cosmetics supply makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE. Did anyone else catch that? That's almost Laughing Fish-esque in its crazy Joker logic!
Sadly, it looks like Harvey's character arc (and character in general) weren't the only things to be lost between the first draft and the final film. Isn't that always the way? I still like and defend Burton's movies, but I can't help but wonder at what they might have been like with some other changes.
More than that, though, I have to wonder what kind of impact these films might have had on the perception of Harvey Dent in pop culture, not to mention within fandom. This question especially comes to mind when one considers that Sam Hamm actually HAD considered including Harvey in Batman Returns, with the idea that he would be scarred by the end. But he already scrapped that idea by the time he wrote his script for Batman 2, which you may already notice in no way resembles Batman Returns.
I've read that Tim Burton hated that script, which is why it was itself scrapped and almost completely rewritten Daniel Waters (the screenwriter of Heathers and co-writer of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Demolition Man, thus making him officially awesome), who gave it a satirical edge coupled with some very Burtonesque touches.
In keeping with Burton's own overtly Caligari-like sensibilities, Waters even created an original villain who shares a name (with one letter difference) with an icon of German Expressionist cinema: Max Shreck, played by Christopher Walken. I bring Walken/Shreck up because, according to persistent rumors, Shreck's role in this film was originally meant to be for Harvey Dent!
I've even read that he was supposed to be scarred when--SPOILERS FOR A TWENTY YEAR OLD MOVIE--he's electrocuted by Selina at the end, except that unlike Shreck, he would have survived to become Two-Face in the third film!
Is there any truth to these rumors? Well, Waters himself has been quoted about Hamm considering using Harvey, so I think that much is true. But could Max have been Harvey, as IMDB says? I'm not so sure. After all, Hamm DIDN'T end up using Harvey for his own script, which did not feature Max Shreck at all. Unless Hamm and Waters attempted to bring Harvey into Batman Returns first before changing him to Max, I think that this is just a rumor that's taken a life of its own.
Waters' quote from the Wiki entry above regarding Harvey being in Batman 2 is as follows: "Sam Hamm definitely planned that. I flirted with it, having Harvey start to come back and have one scene of him where he flips a coin and it's the good side of the coin, deciding not to do anything, so you had to wait for the next movie." Unless the quote's context says otherwise, I'm not seeing anything about Harvey being the Proto-Max, just that Waters had considered having Harvey come back as himself.
But what the heck, let's pretend that Max WAS originally meant to be Harvey. This means that our the blandly heroic D.A. of the first film was going to be revealed as a corrupt, manipulative, even two-faced (ohhh, I see what they did there) political mover and shaker. Honestly, it's somewhat more logical to have an actual politician to be backing Cobblepot for Mayor than a prominent businessman like Schreck, so I can see that subplot working well with a corrupt Dent.
Then again, did Max!Harvey need to be corrupt? Perhaps he could be compromised instead, considering that DeVito's Penguin is a master blackmailer. Could the Penguin have pulled Rupert Thorne and gotten hold of Dent's psychiatric files, thus forcing Dent to help him into high society? Eh, I doubt that anybody at that point thought to give Harvey that much depth, and I've found that it's always best to pessimistically underestimate creators' intent when it comes to how they'd depict Harvey.
Interestingly, there are some who think that Shreck was based on Rupert Thorne. Considering Thorne's connection to the original Mankiewicz script and Harvey's B:TAS origin, the connections almost feel incestuous at this point!
Besides, I'm not sure there's any way that this Harvey could have been anything BUT utterly corrupt. The fact that he was going to still be caught in an explosion at the end leads me to assume that he probably would have played the same role of "creating" Catwoman out of meek, downtrodden secretary Selina Kyle. Yeah, I just can't see Billy Dee's Harvey Dent doing that. Either this was serious character derailment on Hamm/Waters' part, or the Max Shreck rumors are bullshit. You decide.
Amidst all this, Billy Dee Williams was still contractually obligated to play Harvey/Two-Face, but of course, that never happened. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that they wanted Tommy Lee Jones instead, so Billy Dee was paid to NOT be in Batman Forever, and the rest is history. Infamous, infamous history.
What could Billy Dee Williams' have been like as Two-Face? Hard to say. I haven't seen anything to indicate that he could go there as an actor, but if any of you know any performances of his that hinted at that kind of darkness, do let me know! Considering what happened with Tommy Lee Jones and Batman Forever (which I both enjoy on their own merits, mind you), I think that it's a shame that Billy Dee Williams never had a chance to prove himself with the role.
Nonetheless, Billy Dee Williams' performance of Harvey in Batman--truncated as it was--stands as a milestone for the character, paving the way for the character's fame in non-comics pop culture through B:TAS and beyond. Maybe he's the George Lazenby of Harvey Dents, but Lazenby has still earned his plance in the Bond mythos, and so too has Billy Dee with Two-Face. Not too shabby, when all's said and done.