How The Dark Knight Originally Handled Michael Jai White’s Character’s Fate

Michael Jai White as Gambol in The Dark Knight

A decade after his turn as Spawn, Michael Jai White returned to the comic book realm for The Dark Knight, where he played Gotham City crime boss Gambol. Arguably the third biggest mob character in The Dark Knight after Eric Roberts' Sal Maroni and Ritchie Coster's The Chechen, Gambol is best remembered for putting a bounty on The Joker's head after the villain disrespected him, only for the Clown Prince of Crime to later kill him. However, according to White, originally Gambol wasn't supposed to die after his encounter with The Joker; he was just supposed to walk away with a Glasgow smile. White explained:

I think that people can tell by the strange cut that I never shot a death scene. The character wasn't supposed to be gone. That is something that happened in editing later.

Admittedly, we never actually see Gambol die in The Dark Knight. In case you need a refresher, Heath Ledger's Joker staged it so that some goons of his would deliver his body to Gambol's hideout under the ruse that they'd killed the clown, only for Joker to rise up and hold a knife to Gambol's mouth. After telling the first story of how he got his infamous scars, the camera panned to one of Gambol's captive men, who winced at what the Clown Prince of Crime did to his boss, and the next shot showed Gambol's body falling to the ground. Joker obviously killed Gambol, but we never actually see how he did it, whether it was slicing the side of the crime boss' mouth or slitting his throat. Going off what Michael Jai White says, it sounds like the original plan was for Gambol to have the sides of his mouth carved up just like Joker's, serving as another example of the main antagonist's motto, "Whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you stranger." But in the final cut, Gambol was quickly taken out, and Joker proceeded to hold "tryouts" for his newly-acquired gang.

During his interview with THR, Michael Jai White also noted that not only was Gambol supposed to survive his second meeting with The Joker, he also had a bigger role in The Dark Knight's script. As White put it:

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. 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.

Michael Jai White also mentioned that while he was shocked to learn Gambol had been killed off at The Dark Knight's world premiere, the director/producer side of him understood that sometimes changes need to be made later on in the production process. So ultimately he sympathized with director Christopher Nolan on making that creative choice, calling it a matter of "tying up loose ends."

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Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.