- "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain"
Harvey Dent was the newly elected district attorney of Gotham City. He was supported by his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes, and was responsible for locking up many of the city's corrupt officials and mobsters. However, both he and Rachel were captured and put in warehouses full of oil drums, and though Dent was rescued by Batman, half of his face was disfigured in the explosion. Driven insane by a desire for revenge for Rachel's death, Dent pursued those he felt responsible, ultimately holding Commissioner Gordon's family at gunpoint. During his confrontation with Batman, Batman rescued Gordon's child while Dent was pushed and fell to his death. Batman took the blame for Dent's murder to preserve Dent's reputation, which soon led to the creation of the Dent Act. He was portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight.
Born in Gotham City to Harry Dent, a police officer, and Lucy Gold-Dent, a disrespected housewife, Harvey Dent was frequently abused by his father. Each night, the senior Dent used a coin to decide whether his son would get a beating. Unbeknownst to Harvey at the time, the coin was double-headed, meaning that no matter which side it landed, it would always result in him getting being beaten by his father's nightstick. His father's status as a retired cop also prevented the proper authorities from intervening, and Harvey even learned of the Gotham City Police Department's disrespect for his mother when he was hiding under the stairwell of his parents' apartment and overheard a group of cops saying that she was once "one of them". Although he didn't know what that meant, the boy was sure that it was not a compliment. Harvey was very close to his mother, and he always loved the way she would comb his hair and dress him, telling him how handsome he looked. His teachers at school agreed to that and gave him good grades. Although Harvey himself didn't believe that his father was nothing more than an abusive lout, he realized that as long as others believed it, he might one day find an opportunity for a better life with his mother.
His wish came true at age 10, when his father moved out of the house, saying that he couldn't stand the sight of either of them, and took up residence in a rented room near the precinct where he worked. Since then, Harvey only saw him once on the street accompanied by a middle aged woman who closely resembled his mother, and he never visited nor sent cards. One night at age 16, he came home late from his after-school job at a local pharmacy and found both of his parents dead in the same room; his father lying on the floor with a gun against his head (which bore a bloody hole) and his mother hanging from a knotted sheet attached to the ceiling around her neck. Despite letting Detective Al Grooms look into the case of their deaths, the police could not determine whether the Dents committed suicide or were murdered. As a result of this incident, Harvey was left to grow up alone in the dark apartment filled with an unidentifiable odor and the crack and groans of the old building, pitied by his classmates at school and the priests at the church that his mother sometimes attended.
Following his high school graduation, Dent spent his entire time at Gotham University and law school at State University studying with no intention of attending any proms, dances, football or basketball games. It was in his studies that he simply found his vocation within the law, which made sense to him since it transformed the chaos of human existence into logic, fairness, and reasonable rules that could be obeyed, offering stability and structure. By the time the law revealed itself to him, Dent became aware that his looks were what many thought was his greatest asset. Oddly, although he didn't believe it possible for him, he was willing to use his face as a tool to reap whatever benefits it conferred. Earning his history and pre-law majors from both colleges at age 21, Dent began his law career as the clerk for a supreme court judge and rose rapidly to popularity by playing hard by the rules, hoping to stand up for Gotham by cleaning up the crime and corruption that he came to hate. He was driven by memories of abuse from his father, as well as the police's failure to stop it, which gave him a deep hatred of corrupt cops and led him to pursue a place in Gotham's Internal Affairs Division sometime later. After acquiring this position, he spearheaded an initiative to weed out police corruption by investigating each cop, including those who ended up working in the city's recently-established Major Crimes Unit (MCU). While many of these cops, along with several corrupt courthouse officials, gave him the unflattering nickname "Harvey Two-Face", others became inspired by Dent's investigations and offered to promote him to District Attorney following the death of previous DA Carl Finch. Dent was sometimes slow to prosecute, but he won every case and became more determined than ever to rid the city of organized crime by means of the law and the courtroom, much to the applause of its citizens.
The White Knight
- "The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, dawn is coming."
- ―Harvey Dent, during a press conference[src]
Having won Gotham City's election for District Attorney, Dent wastes no time in bringing well known mob boss Sal Maroni to trial. Some tension is revealed between Dent and the assistant DA, Rachel Dawes when Dent arrives late, to which he suggests that they flip his father's lucky coin to see who presents first.
The basis of his case was made around the sworn testimony of a mafia wiseguy, leading Dent to accuse Maroni of seizing control of Gotham's organized crime while Carmine Falcone remains in Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, the statement quickly becomes perjury when the witness jokingly states that he was, in fact, the leader of the Falcone Crime Family, stating that Sal was nothing but a fall guy. With permission from the presiding judge, Dent treats the witness as hostile to which the wiseguy produces a handgun and points it directly at Dent's chest.
Fortunately, the gun jams, and Dent subdues the witness with a punch before the man is taken down and handcuffed by officers. Dent takes the handgun and quickly discerns that it's a Chinese weapon, laying it before Maroni and taunting him, "If you want to kill a public servant, Mr. Maroni, I recommend you buy American".
Then, as a show of theatrics, Dent turns to the witness as he's being dragged off and suggests that he's not done despite his near death experience. The observing crowd laughs and applauds the confident DA.
After the court case, Dawes makes Dent promise to play fair with Jim Gordon, the lieutenant in charge of the MCU. Upon meeting with Gordon, Dent confirms that because of the perjury, Sal Maroni could not be indicted, but also notes that the mafia will constantly be giving people second chances.
Gordon at the time, was seeking five search warrants for an equal number of banks, as these were suspected of being holding reserves of the mob's life savings. Although as interested in shutting down the mob's funds as Gordon is, Dent is curious as to Gordon's involvement with the vigilante known as Batman, as the police made use of lightly irradiated bills in order to track down which banks the mob uses. The conversations also reveals a thorn of distrust between the two men, as much of Dent's experience and first-hand attempts to stop corruption within Gotham began with his time in Internal Affairs, investigating officers Gordon would later work with. Dent knows first-hand that there are men within Gordon's unit who cannot be trusted, and the difference makes a rift between the two. It was here that Dent alludes he knew the nickname he had been called behind his back, but agrees to get the warrants for Gordon.
While at an impressive dinner with Dawes, Bruce Wayne happens to arrive at the same time with well known ballerina, Natasha. Under Bruce's urgings, the couples break bread, giving Wayne an opportunity to get to know Dent. It was during this time that Dent not only defends Batman, but also idolizes him. He admits that he perceives him as a necessity, needed during these dark times. He believes that Batman isn't looking to fight crime for the rest of his life and is searching for a successor. This earns the admiration of Wayne, who offers to throw Dent a fund raiser, promising him that he would never desire for campaign donations ever again.
Because Dent had ended all other money laundering operations in Gotham, it doesn't take long for the DA to peg Lau as the one who seized the funds before Gordon's unit could. Frustrated, Dent goes to the top of the MCU and activates the Bat-Signal, waiting for Batman to appear. It was then that Gordon, Dent and Batman hold a meeting as a triumvirate of Gotham's finest. Dent explains that the Chinese will not extradite one of their own, and if Batman is able to bring Lau back to the States to stand trial, he can get him to testify.
When Lau is dropped off in front of the MCU, Dent observes the negotiations between Dawes and Lau. Lau makes an offer to hand over information on the mob's investments, Dent realizes he could charge virtually every member of the mafia in one giant RICO conspiracy case. Again, the distrust between Gordon and Dent is revealed when Dent reveals he does not trust Gordon's men. Regardless, Gordon does not permit Lau to be sent to County, in fear that the man would not survive lock up.
With Lau's evidence, Gordon takes all members of the mafia into custody, including Sal Maroni and the Chechen. Before Judge Surillo, Dent pushes for an absolutely absurd number of charges in a single case: 712 counts of extortion, 849 counts of racketeering, 246 counts of fraud, 87 counts of conspiracy to commit murder, 527 counts of obstruction of justice and possibly more felonies go unlisted. All leveled against 549 suspects.
Before the mayor, Dent is called to explain this extremely difficult conspiracy case. Rather than say that this is a deep stab at justice, Dent suggests instead that this be viewed as a tremendous break from crime for Gotham. Even though the head mafia leaders would post bail, the middlemen would not. 18 months would go by between appeals, giving the mayor enough time to clean up and make considerable improvements to Gotham City. The mayor agrees to this, but gives Dent a powerful warning that the mob aren't his only enemies, that anyone within Gotham who took pay from them would turn against the District Attorney. The meeting is interrupted as a dead Batman copycat slams into the window.
Later that night, Dent arrives at Bruce Wayne's fundraiser with Rachel Dawes, scared at the prospects of meeting Gotham's upper class. After a humorous and short meeting with Alfred, Dent is greeted by Wayne openly, receiving an embarrassing welcome as Wayne gives his support for Dent and encouraging a round of applause from all of the guests.
A few moments later, Dent interrupts the conversation between Dawes and Wayne to speak to his girlfriend. Quietly, Dent builds the conversation to ask Dawes how she would feel about marriage. At first, Dawes is somewhat reluctant to discuss it, but before Dent could further the conversation, Wayne grabs him from behind, incapacitates him, and locks him in a closet to protect him as the Joker storms the party.
During the mayhem that ensued during the Joker's attack, Commissioner Loeb was killed after ingesting an acid thought to be his preferred alcoholic beverage. Soon after, a memorial service is held in his honor. During which, the Joker and his goons, dressed as the firing squad, turn their guns upon the mayor and fail to kill him, striking down Gordon. While the faux firing squad attempted to escape, one of these men was captured. After escorting Dawes to safety, Dent gets into an ambulance with the suspect and seeks to question him, before realizing that his name tag lists the Joker's next intended target: Rachel Dawes.
Frustrated, Dent climbs into the cab of the ambulance and drives off to an undisclosed location. After a phone call warning Rachel to get to safety, away from the MCU, he then goes on to interrogate the captured thug. Using a hand gun and the flip of his coin, Dent threatens to kill the man unless he tells him everything he knows about the Joker. After the second toss, the coin is caught by Batman, who had just returned from interrogating Sal Maroni. Batman explains that the henchman's name is Thomas Schiff, a paranoid schizophrenic who could not tell Dent what he desired. Batman then goes on to explain that if anyone saw what Dent was doing, the prosecution against the mafia would be destroyed, and the only way to stop the Joker is for Batman to turn himself in. As Batman turns to leave, Dent screams his disapproval.
The next day, Dent goes before a crowd of police, media and observers to explain that Batman has offered to turn himself in and give into the Joker's demands. But before accepting this, he makes a desperate plea to the people not to give into the whims of a terrorist. Despite his assertions, the people demand that the Batman surrender. Before Bruce Wayne could step forward to confess his identity, Harvey demands that the police arrest him as Batman.
In lock up, Dent is cheered for by the GCPD as he marches towards the escort van to take him to county. Despite Rachel's pleas, Dent explains that in doing this, Batman will have a chance to capture the Joker, and promises Rachel that he will go through with this with a flip of his coin, leaving it with her.
While locked within the van, Dent is unable to affect the battle that ensues mid-transit. It's only after Gordon reveals himself as alive and well, and that the Joker has been captured, that Dent is set free. Immediately, Dent goes on television to explain his gamble to capture the Joker, until at last he is escorted back to a car to be driven home. Unfortunately, the car is driven by Michael Wuertz, a corrupt cop on the payroll of Maroni.
- "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
- ―Harvey Dent, unwittingly foreshadowing his own transformation into Two-Face[src]
After being captured by Wuertz, Dent awakens in a warehouse stacked with drums of fuel. On the opposite end of a rigged landline phone, Rachel Dawes screams, having also been captured by Maroni's men. Dent reassures Rachel as he begins to struggle while tied to his chair. Rachel explains that the timer set before them is set to detonate by the warehouse Dent was in as well as her own whereabouts, and that she was told it was their friends who would have to choose which one of the two would survive. Unfortunately, Dent's efforts to free himself not only throw him to the floor but also knock one of the barrels of gasoline to the ground with him.
The gasoline leaks from the top, spreading across the floor and covering the left side of Dent's face. While Dent struggles to stand, Rachel confesses to loving Dent and agrees to his earlier marriage proposal. It was immediately after this that Batman finally bursts in, having been tricked by the Joker. With no time left, Batman immediately dashed forward and dragged the struggling Dent away. The two make it clear of the building just as the timer reaches zero and the building explodes. The gasoline soaked half of Dent catches on fire and the man drops to the floor, writhing and screaming as flames consume half of his face.
Dent is rushed to Gotham General Hospital, where half his face is bandaged. When he awakens, he finds his father's lucky coin, left there from an earlier visit by Batman while he was still unconscious. Remembering Rachel was the last to have it, he turns the coin over, discovering that one half is greatly burnt. A torrent of emotions envelops him, as Dent is overwhelmed by grief.
The next day, Jim Gordon visits Dent. Gordon reveals that Dent is refusing medication and skin grafts. Dent changes the subject, asking Gordon again what the nickname was members of the MCU called him. With reluctance, Gordon calls him "Two-Face." Dent turns to stare at a horrified Gordon, revealing the extent of the damage to his face. His left side is horrifically burnt, leaving muscles and an eye exposed. But even as Gordon apologizes and turns to leave, Dent swears to him that he is not truly sorry, "Not yet."
During the crisis that his threats against the city cause, the Joker disguises himself and infiltrates Gotham General to speak to Dent. Apologizing for the death of Rachel Dawes, the Joker manages to deflect the blame from himself onto Gordon, Batman, Maroni and the corrupt officers. Explaining that he is an agent of chaos, the Joker offers his life to Dent, giving the District Attorney a hand gun and forcibly holding it to his own head. It was then that the Joker explained a point which finally pushed Dent over the edge, "Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair."
Dent, baffled by the Joker's actions, finally comes to a conclusion - whether or not the Joker lives would depend upon the toss of his lucky coin. Should the flipped coin land on the unblemished side, the Joker would live. However, should it fall on the burnt half, he would die. The flip of the coin lands in the Joker's favor however, and Dent lets the man leave. It was then that Two-Face was truly born.
- "You thought we could be decent men, in an indecent time! But you were wrong..."
- ―Two-Face to Batman and Gordon[src]
Motivated by his need for vengeance, Two-Face begins to pursue those responsible for the death of Rachel and his disfigurement. He begins by visiting Michael Wuertz, and after a brief interrogation to find the other traitor in Gordon's unit, answers that he does not know. Two-Face spins his coin on the table to decide the man's fate. It lands black, and Wuertz' life ends in the gunshot.
Two-Face then visits Maroni, having waited for him in his car. As the two sit in the back seat, Maroni is tricked into revealing that the other traitor in Gordon's unit was Anna Ramirez. Although Two-Face flips the coin for Maroni's judgement, it lands in the mob boss' favor. However, Two-Face circumvents this by also judging Maroni's driver. When it lands bad heads, Dent buckles in and shoots the chauffeur in the back of the head, resulting in a car crash that leaves Maroni's fate uncertain, but likely dead.
Then, having kidnapped Ramirez, Two-Face forces her to trick Gordon's family into leaving their dwelling and coming to the warehouse where Rachel Dawes had died. The deed done, Two-Face chastises Ramirez for her betrayals of both Gordon and Rachel, and she in turn pleads that she only did it to save her mother, who desperately needed the funds for her hospital fees. Two-Face silences her with a vicious "Don't!", and flips the coin. Fortunately for Ramirez, it lands in her favor, and Two-Face just knocks her unconscious.
With Gordon's family as his hostages, Two-Face then calls and taunts Gordon into coming to the ruins of what was originally his apartment. Gordon arrives and is knocked down and disarmed. As Gordon pleads with Two-Face to release his family, the former D.A. plucks Gordon's son from his mother's arms and prepares to judge him, believing that in taking who Gordon loves is equal to the loss of Rachel's death.Before he could flip the coin, however, Batman appears and reasons with Two-Face, saying that those responsible are the three of them, and that only the three of them deserve punishment. Two-Face believes this to be a fair assessment, and flips the coin for Batman. It lands bad heads, and with a shot to Batman's stomach. Then, assuming this has killed Batman, Two-Face points the gun to his own head, but the flipped coin comes out on good heads, permitting him to survive by his own judgement. Finally, Two-Face turns to Gordon, still intent to decide the boy's fate. But as he flips the coin, Batman, who was wearing body armor and is unharmed, tackles him off the edge of the floor, letting the vigilante plummet to his death.
With Dent dead, the problem remains that his murders that day would destroy the prosecution for good, and cause the people of Gotham to lose hope. With no choices left, Batman agrees to take the blame for the murders, preserving Dent's public image. Gordon is reluctant, but agrees, holding a memorial service to honor Dent.
The Dent Act
- "This man has been given to you as the shining example of justice! You have been supplied with a false idol, to stop you from tearing down this corrupt city! Let me tell you the truth about Harvey Dent from the words of Gotham’s police commissioner, James Gordon. "The Batman didn’t murder Harvey Dent, he saved my boy, then took the blame for Harvey’s appalling crimes so I could, to my shame, build a lie around this fallen idol. I praised the madman who tried to murder my own child, but I can no longer live with my lie. It is time to trust the people of Gotham with the truth, and it is time for me to resign.”"
Harvey's death inspired the creation of the Dent Act, in which a criminal that was arrested would be denied parole, thus allowing the streets of Gotham to be clean of crime. His death also led to "Harvey Dent Day" where the city celebrates the honor of their former White Knight. Eight years after his death on Harvey Dent Day, Gordon attempts to tell the people about the truth behind Dent's death, but felt that they were not ready and resolved not to. However, Gordon's speech was stolen by Bane, who read aloud the paper he holds about the "madman" that tried to kill Gordon's son, causing all the inmates of Blackgate Prison to become angry and inspire them to help Bane take over the city.
After Gotham was retaken by Batman and the GCPD, the Dent Act was then eliminated.
Harvey Dent starts off as selfless, charismatic, astute, idealistic, fearless and cerebral. He showed slight cynicism and borderline cruelty towards criminals, such as Lau and Thomas Schiff. He was also extremely self-confident and rationally independent. He was motivated by his care for the people of Gotham and was selfless enough to do anything in order to protect them, even endanger his own life to the mercy of someone as sadistic and masochistic as the Joker. Largely because of his past of being a victim of repeated child abuse by his father, a retired cop, and the cops' failure to help him and his mom, he also had a pronounced hatred of the corruption that infamously plagued the Gotham City Police Department. However, after Rachel's death, Harvey was embittered beyond sanity and became murderous and smug. He also implied when encountering Detective Wuertz that he considered himself "half-dead." He became vengeful and obsessed with killing the men whom he believed to be responsible for Rachel's tragic death. He was ruthless, callous and showed all the signs of becoming a sociopath: High intelligence, paranoia, carelessness, violence, manipulation, elusiveness, mercilessness, and disregard for the people's, and his own life. He also showed signs of deep-seated nihilism (although not to the extent of the Joker) during this time by declaring his belief his murderous actions were the closest thing in the world to true fairness during his final confrontation with Batman and James Gordon. Similar to the Joker, he also was shown post-transformation to back out of earlier promises and at the same time technically keep his word, which is best demonstrated by how he dispatched Sal Maroni: After confirming who the cop who sold Rachel out was, he tried to flip a coin while threatening Maroni at gunpoint, doing so because he said earlier it "didn't hurt [Maroni's] chances" at surviving, and later proceeded to technically spare Maroni from being directly shot by him due to the coin landing good side up, but then proceeded to shoot Sal Maroni's driver after choosing his fate via coin flip due to it going bad side up. During his final confrontation with both Batman and James Gordon, Dent, when told by Gordon that the cops became concerned with his disappearance and that the place was surrounded, Dent said "You think I want to escape from this? There is no escape from this!", implying that he by that point was willing to commit suicide or at the very least embrace being killed by the cops. This was also reinforced when he willingly put a gun to his own head when deciding to judge via coin toss those most responsible for what had occurred, with it being strongly implied that he was willing to kill himself had the coin gone bad side up. After his death, he became incredibly charismatic: The people of Gotham looked up to his legacy and for what he was believed to have stood for. Batman decided that Harvey Dent was the hero of Gotham, not him, showing that he knew that Dent would appeal to the people as the fallen idol. However, Harvey Dent's legacy was demolished when Bane revealed the true circumstances of his death.
Appearance and Clothing
Harvey Dent is a pretty tall young man dressed in a dark business suit consisting of an Arrow-tailored dark blue or gray jacket, matching dress pants and a navy silk necktie with double pin stripes. Underneath it he wears a high-collared white dress shirt. He is always seen with a handsome face consisting of a strong jaw, sparkling blue eyes, wavy blond hair and winning smile.
As Two-Face, Dent is dressed light gray framed notch lapel suit with the jacket's left side darkened with scorch marks, a red and navy slim-cut repp striped tie and a low-collared white dress shirt underneath. The left side of his face is burnt away as well, leaving behind a hideous expanse of blackened muscle and scar tissue, consisting of a bloodshot eye bulging from a naked socket, a ragged gap in his cheek offering the glimpse of an exposed jawbone and a strip of raw gristle stretching vertically across what remains of Dent's smile, furtherly implying his unstable psyche.
In other media
Aaron Eckhart appears as Harvey Dent in the Gotham Tonight special episodes.
Behind the Scenes
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face: The Gotham district attorney who is hailed as Gotham's "White-Knight"; Dent's battle with the Joker turns Dent into a murderous, disfigured vigilante called "Two-Face". Producer Charles Roven described Dent as initially the "white knight of the city". Wayne sees Dent as his heir, which comes back to the theme of him realizing that being Batman will be a lifelong mission, and the tragedy that follows when Dent is corrupted. Whereas Two-Face is an evil villain in the comics, Nolan chose to portray him as a twisted vigilante to emphasize his role as Batman's counterpart (he also seemed to act as a tragic villain), and Eckhart, who has played corrupt men in films such as The Black Dahlia, Thank You For Smoking and In the Company of Men, notes: "He is still true to himself. He's a crime fighter, he's not killing good people. He's not a bad guy, not purely," while admitting: "I'm interested in good guys gone wrong."
Nolan and David S. Goyer had originally considered using Dent in Batman Begins, but they replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized they "couldn’t do him justice". Before Eckhart was cast in February 2007, Matt Damon was rumored to have passed on the role, and he confirmed in December 2009 that he was unavailable for it due to scheduling conflicts. Additionally, Liev Schreiber, Josh Lucas, and Ryan Phillippe had expressed interest in the role. Nolan chose Eckhart, whom he had considered for the lead role in Memento, citing his "extraordinary" ability as an actor, his embodiment of "that kind of chiselled, American hero quality" projected by Robert Redford, and his subtextual "edge".
For Two-Face's make-up, Eckhart warned, "When you look at him, you should get sick to your stomach. Being the guy under all that, well, that was a lot of fun for me. It's like you would feel if you met someone whose face had pretty much been ripped off or burned off with acid... There are fans on the Internet who have done artist's versions of what they think it will look like, and I can tell you this: They're thinking small; Chris is going way farther than people think."
Before the premiere of Batman Begins, co-story author David Goyer had considered ideas for future Batman films. "The next one would have Batman enlisting the aid of Gordon and Dent in bringing down the Joker... but not killing him, which is a mistake they made in the first one. ...In the third, the Joker would go on trial, scarring Dent in the process." Some of these ideas were discarded during the pre-production for The Dark Knight.