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04 August 2008
Curse of the Dark Knight?
If you haven't heard of such a thing, you probably will now, regardless of whether Morgan Freeman recovers from his car wreck. It's just a matter of time before some supermarket tabloid declares it. They've probably been itching to do so since Heath Ledger died, and some may have been ready to go when Christian Bale was arrested. People need to impose patterns on events, which must have "meaning" if we're not all to succumb to nihilistic despair (so some apologists for religion will tell you) and just as some have already speculated that Ledger's performance affected him and hastened his end, so they may also believe that the actor may well have unleashed something larger than himself that is now exerting a malign influence on his co-stars. If people decide to believe this, then anything unfortunate that happens to Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Gary Oldman, for starters, for the next few years could likely get attributed to the "curse." I offer this as a prediction, so don't forget that I warned you -- and here's another: the more that people suspect that a curse is at work, the more likely that The Dark Knight will be the number-one movie at the box-office again this weekend.
Probably the most famous "cursed" movie in the public mind is Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955), whose three lead juveniles -- James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo -- all eventually met death by misadventure, Dean having already died before the film was even released. The nearest thing to a really cursed movie, however, is Dick Powell's The Conqueror (1956), the infamous Genghis Khan biopic with John Wayne in the title role. Powell filmed the movie near a nuclear test site, with the apparent consequence that many of the actors, including Wayne and his leading lady, Susan Hayward, died of cancer. There are so many carcinogens in our world, however, that it would be hard to attribute all the casualties to the Conqueror shoot. It might all be just as coincidental as the mishaps that have befallen some Dark Knight performers, but the tragic image of a photoplay filmed in the shadow of the Bomb lends "meaning" to the Conqueror curse story that few films can match.