The Dark Knight star Michael Jai White didn’t know his impatient mob boss Gambol was dead until he attended the movie’s premiere — because according to the actor, the character was supposed to survive past his encounter with the Joker (Heath Ledger).
“It was the kind of thing where they had deeper intentions for Gambol; it was a character who was written for future use, I think,” White told The Hollywood Reporter. “There were other plans to do stuff with that character and some things that were cut out. I think it's because of unfortunately losing Heath Ledger.”
In the finalized cut, Ledger’s Joker famously monologues — “Wanna know how I got these scars?” the clown criminal asks, knife to Gambol’s lips — before uttering his iconic “Why so serious?” line and slashing Gambol’s face, a violent act concealed by cutting away to a reaction shot. Gambol’s apparently lifeless body slumps to the floor — but some fans have argued the gangster survived his encounter with the Joker.
“I think that people can tell by the strange cut that I never shot a death scene,” White said. “The character wasn't supposed to be gone. That is something that happened in editing later. You don't see mistakes in a movie of that magnitude. When you see something that is somewhat a mistake or is not clarified, there is something behind that.”
Because of a career both behind and in front of the camera, White understood director Christopher Nolan’s decision.
“Being that I have been on both sides of the camera, I understood,” he said. “I was as surprised as anybody. The next few moments after Gambol hit the ground, I was in a state of confusion, like ‘What the hell happened? I guess I am not coming back.’ But, I have a producer's and director's mind-set, so I was able to look at it and think, ‘I guess they must have wanted to go this way.’”1comments
White praised the late Ledger as a giving actor and a consummate professional, recounting how Ledger “would go through hours of makeup for the benefit of his fellow actors.”
“I love Dark Knight,” White said of his time on the blockbuster, now nearing its 10th anniversary. “I love the fact that when superhero movies go dark, it is well appreciated because that really gets into the psyche of someone who would feel it necessary to fight crime. That is a dark idea. If that happened in reality, that comes from a very troubled place. So, psychologically, I think that is just great.”