Heath Ledger’s brilliant, Oscar-winning performance
as the Joker in The Dark Knight could have
been just the beginning.
In an interview with News Australia, the late
actor’s sister, Kate, revealed that Ledger
was incredibly excited about his work with
director Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight,
and he was looking forward to playing the
iconic villain again in another movie.
Kate admitted that the supposed “demons” one
critic described Ledger as having didn’t exist.
“He was a really happy person and he had huge
plans for his future.
[…] He was so proud of what he had done
in [The Dark Knight].
And I know he had plans for another Batman
[…] He just had the best time ever doing
When he came home at Christmas he couldn’t
wait to tell us all about it and he was doing
the voice and laughing, showing me all the
We had a great time.”
Kate also mentioned that she spoke with Ledger
the night before he died of an accidental
prescription drug overdose, and as she describes
it, the siblings spent time “laughing and
Ledger’s unexpected death came on January
22nd, 2008, six months before The Dark Knight
arrived in theaters.
The Australian actor was just 28 years old
at the time of his passing.
The Dark Knight, one of two of Ledger’s posthumous
releases, opened in theaters in July 2008.
Ledger’s turn as the deranged criminal Joker
redefined the iconic Batman villain, and impressed
both fans and critics alike.
He had delivered what went on to be an Oscar-winning
performance as one of DC Comics’ most famous
bad guys – and he’d never be able to do it
Writing for The New Yorker, critic David Denby
had only positive things to say about Ledger,
“It has one startling and artful element:
the sinister and frightening performance of
the late Heath Ledger as the psychopathic
murderer the Joker.
That part of the movie is upsetting to watch,
and, in retrospect, both painful and stirring
to think about.
[…] His performance is a heroic, unsettling
final act: this young actor looked into the
A lasting, but totally unfounded consensus
amongst fans is that Ledger’s performance
as the Joker may have contributed to his death
in one way or another – which would suggest
that the experience was far more traumatic
than anyone knew, and that he wouldn’t have
wanted to revisit the character if he got
However, according to the New York Times,
Ledger himself had said,
“[Playing the Joker was] the most fun I’ve
ever had, or probably ever will have, playing
“Why so serious?”
Filmmaker Terry Gilliam – who directed Ledger
in his final performance as Tony in the fantasy
flick The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
– also shot down gossip about the late actor,
telling The Talks that the stories about the
Joker role making him unstable were all hogwash.
“They were trying to [imply] that playing
the Joker had made him crazy.
Heath was so solid.
His feet were on the ground and he was the
least neurotic person I’ve ever met.
Heath was just great and that’s why it became
so impossible to understand.
[…] There was none of this twisted neurosis
that a lot of actors suffer from.”
“The minute we said cut he’d be telling a
joke about something, we were back to having
It seems clear that Ledger truly had an amazing
time playing Joker.
What isn’t clear, however, is whether Nolan
had planned to include Ledger in 2012’s The
Dark Knight Rises.
At the time, Nolan wasn’t even sure that he
himself would be back for a third film, as
there wasn’t an overarching narrative in place
If Ledger had lived to churn out another Oscar-caliber
performance, perhaps it would have secured
more Batman movies from Nolan and an entirely
different future for the DC movie universe.
At least fans will always have The Dark Knight
and Ledger’s haunting embodiment of the Joker
to look back on.
What they also have is more Joker heading
to the big screen, as Joaquin Phoenix is bringing
the Clown Prince of Crime to life in director
Todd Phillips’ Joker, set to hit theaters
on October 4th, 2019.
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