Christopher Nolan Reflects On Heath Ledger As The Joker

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Posted by No_Name_ (17403 posts) - - Show Bio

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Heath Ledger as the Joker in director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight film. Many fans of the franchise feel that the actor truly defined the Joker for film in a way unlike anyone before, which is why it is so interesting that initially, when Nolan first met with Ledger prior to the production of his first film in the franchise (Batman Begins), Ledger was against the idea of acting in a "comic book movie."

Nolan had met with Ledger early on when he was putting together "Batman Begins" because he was meeting with most young actors in Hollywood at the time. And Ledger politely explained to the director why he would never be involved in a comic book film.

It was only after the release of Nolan's first venture into the Batman mythos that Ledger realized Nolan's vision for the character and the film, and for the comic book movie genre. Because regardless of whether you enjoyed Nolan's Batman trilogy, flaws and all, his way of making the genre "relatable" completely redefined comic book movies. At last, superheroes could be ground in a sort of realism, or as Nolan calls it, "relatability."

== TEASER ==

The term “realism” is often confusing and used sort of arbitrarily. I suppose “relatable” is the word I would use. I wanted a world that was realistically portrayed, in that even though outlandish events may be taking place, and this extraordinary figure may be walking around these streets, the streets would have the same weight and validity of the streets in any other action movie. So they’d be relatable in that way…You feel these things in a way because the world isn’t intensely artificial and created by computer graphics, which result in an anodyne, sterile quality that’s not as exciting…If I can believe in that world because I recognize it and can imagine myself walking down that street, then when this extraordinary figure of Batman comes swooping down in this theatrical costume and presenting this very theatrical aspect, that’s going to be more exciting to me.

And perhaps it is that "relatable" quality that has made his franchise such a tremendous success. Even Ledger's Joker, as creepy as he was, was sort of grounded in reality. He was psychotic, twisted and very, scary and setting him in a "relatable" and "realistic" environment only served to enhance Ledger's onscreen performance as this very dark, twisted character. The heralded director of the film franchise recently spoke at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, New York City as part of the Film Society's "An Evening with…" The event, which was hosted by Scott Foundas (Variety)focused specifically on Christopher Nolan's experience as director of the Batman trilogy, and one of the most compelling points of the discussion that evening was Nolan's reflection on Health Ledger's performance in the second film. It seems that when Nolan first met Ledger, that it may have been for the role of Batman, which he politely declined. Yet Nolan went on to describe how meticulously Ledger studied the Joker's character before he really "found" him.

Ledger spent months and months obsessing on and thinking about how he would play the character. Nolan sent him some materials, like Anthony Burgess's novel "A Clockwork Orange" and some work by painter Francis Bacon, just "tangential" things that fed into his vision of the Joker…"Like a lot of artists, he would sneak up on something," Nolan said. "So you couldn't really sit and go, 'Okay, you're going to do the Joker. You're going to show me what it's going to be.' You had to sort of say, 'Let's read this scene. Don't act it, just read.' And he'd sit with Christian and there would be a line or two where his voice was a little different, throw in a little bit of a laugh…The voice, though, worried the director at first, he said, because of its odd shift in pitch. "He had figured out this whole thing that was all based on the Alexander Technique, where if you hit a high note, you're then able to hit sort of two octaves below afterwards," Nolan said. "It's a way of lowering your voice. So you had this character who you'd never quite know which way the pitch was going to go of his voice. Just as in his physical movements -- you don't know how he's going to move; it's always a surprise -- the actual tone of his voice was always a surprise, too. Sometimes it would go incredibly low and threatening and other times it was light, in a way."

The interview reveals that Ledger was in fact quite nervous about his portrayal of the Joker, and explains that the actor had to go to a very dark place for the role. In general, however, The interview is a great piece of commentary by the director of a franchise that truly changed the superhero movie genre, whether we want to admit it or not and it is great insight into how Ledger's Joker came to be.

What did you think of Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight? Could you imagine if the actor had been Batman? What do you think the Batman trilogy did for superhero movies? Are we giving Christopher Nolan too much credit or is it deserved?

Source: HitFix, FilmComment

#1 Posted by McKlayn (1008 posts) - - Show Bio

That was great movie, great job by ledger glad he changed his mind

#2 Posted by Mucklefluga (2434 posts) - - Show Bio

Man i love The Dark Knight, such great performances. I wanna watch the film again now!

#3 Posted by xAnimosity (182 posts) - - Show Bio

I dont know how anyone could hate on the first 2 movies.

#4 Posted by The Poet (8196 posts) - - Show Bio

interesting...

Moderator
#5 Posted by ArtisticNeedham (2157 posts) - - Show Bio

That was the best Batman movie yet, Ledger was a terrific Joker. I'd have missed his Joker if he played Batman.

#6 Posted by mickoreo_LZ (250 posts) - - Show Bio

Nolan proved that you could make a truly compelling comic book film series, not just one full of gimmicks and flash. The casting choices were for the large part impeccable, and Ledger's performance will likely go down as one of the best of our generation

#7 Posted by slade_wilson (297 posts) - - Show Bio

Truly one of the best performances I have ever seen. Absolutely unforgetable.

#8 Posted by ccraft (3962 posts) - - Show Bio

I cant wait for the trilogy

#9 Posted by wessaari (613 posts) - - Show Bio

He was the Joker, I wouldnt want to take that away just to make him Batman.

#10 Posted by G_Money_Christmas (862 posts) - - Show Bio

One of my favorite movies of all time and one of my favorite characters/portrayal of characters ever. It wouldn't have been the same with anyone but him. He did a stellar job.

#11 Posted by LoganRogue24 (1165 posts) - - Show Bio

i only wish joker had his harley quinn.

#12 Posted by pacewun (21 posts) - - Show Bio

Nolan deserves the credit. His "relatability" is noticed in every comic film post Batman Begins. Whether he intended to or not, he changed comic book movies into comic book films. He raised the bar and made these films credible to general audiences. Essentially, Batman Begins is the blueprint for new movies in the genre.

#13 Posted by BlackArmor (6121 posts) - - Show Bio

He was a great actor. I would have loved to see what his Batman looked like even though I wouldn't trade his Joker for it

#14 Posted by haydenclaireheroes (8755 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath Ledger will always be the best Joker

#15 Edited by VictorVonDoom_1 (142 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath Ledger portrayed The Joker the best.. I don't care what anybody says. It was genius.

#16 Posted by JasonTodd13 (423 posts) - - Show Bio

I totally agree that Heath Ledger is the best Joker.

#17 Posted by dcfox (143 posts) - - Show Bio

The Dark Knight was a great movie and Heath Ledger stole the show. I wonder how different Rises would've been if Ledger was still alive.

#18 Posted by baron2011 (1151 posts) - - Show Bio

@haydenclaireheroes said:

Heath Ledger will always be the best Joker

#19 Edited by Jonny_Rogers (115 posts) - - Show Bio

Although I agree that the trilogy, specifically the first film, are among the best films of the past ten years (and perhaps ever), I hate it when people give too much credit to The Dark Knight, even more so when people claim it to be adding something to a lifeless or previously lame concept.  
The films undoubtedly contributed to the superhero movie genre in such a way that no other films had done so for a while, but it's not like that it was the single act that defined the Joker; for 20 - 30 years, as all here should be aware, both Batman and the Joker have been portrayed in such a similar tone, so to ignore the many stories from which the film took inspiration from is just an insult to the characters.  
What I do agree, however, is that no one could portray this character in the format of a film in the way that both Christopher and Heath managed to, but what I think has happened is that they set out to display what the genre has to offer, but instead made people think as if they were attempting to reshape the character to fit the modern era.  
 
This is not to say that the film is bad in any way, nor that Bat-fans should not be thankful for what these films have done, but rather that it feels as if they are stealing the credit (intentionally, or unintentionally...) from the works of actual comic book writers - something that comic book fans should be trying to fight against. The subject of this blog questions the integrity of this site's proposed commitment to these characters, because it seems as if most people's interest in the subject is purely based on the possibility of knowing something more than an average moviegoer does about a film.

#20 Posted by Kesho_Ronin (209 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath Ledger has define on how to act for a comic book character.And the dark knight franchise won't be that great if it wasn't for his role

#21 Posted by arnoldoaad (1007 posts) - - Show Bio

Ledger spent months and months obsessing on and thinking about how he would play the character. Nolan sent him some materials, like Anthony Burgess's novel "A Clockwork Orange"

thats pretty interesting

#22 Posted by dementedtheclown (747 posts) - - Show Bio

He was a fag worst joker ever

#23 Posted by Delphic (1342 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm probably going to go against popular opinion here. Heath Ledger in my opinion played a decent Joker. He wasn't bad, but I feel like people give him too much credit. When I think of the Joker, Heath Ledger's Joker is not the first that pops into my mind, but instead I think of Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker as much more definitive. Ledger does a much better job of playing the chaos incarnate side of things, and he made you feel the fear that the characters victimized by him were feeling. When I think of Nicholson's performance I remember all the strange things he did that was so out there, and though it was more laughable than anything it was one of the most memorable performances I've ever seen. I'm still a little creeped out till this day when Joker Jack was lying there dead on the pavement with a smile and that creepy animatronic laugh. Next to Nicholson I think of Mark Hamill's voice over for the Joker. When I read a comic with Joker in it, that is the voice I'm hearing in my head.

Don't get me wrong, Ledger was good, but he's just not my favorite Joker.

#24 Posted by Danial79 (2207 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath's portrayal of the Joker is the only thing I like about the entire trilogy...

#25 Posted by They Killed Cap! (2243 posts) - - Show Bio

Batman Begins was Decent...LEDGER MADE THE DARK KNIGHT FRACNCHISE...Plain and simple.

#26 Edited by Gambit1024 (9890 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath Ledger's Joker can never be topped... But that doesn't mean that Hollywood should retire the role. As long as there's a Batman movie franchise, the Joker needs to be a part of it.

#27 Posted by COBRAMORPH (1411 posts) - - Show Bio

It was an ok movie, but hopefully this will keep people away from the Joer as I dont really care about the character that much & would rather see some of the others before getting Joker Version 3. As much as Nolan might be a good choice, I find his argument that certain characters wont work in "his vision" a cheap excuse for his limited abilities. Everyone else can use them, some good, some failed, so honestly, it just shows he is limited.

#28 Posted by Dberg (1 posts) - - Show Bio
Nolan's Batman did so much to the genre that I have trouble enjoying the stuff Marvel makes. I can really get on board with movies like Kick-ass, Chronicle and Super though even if they can be pretty grim affairs.
#29 Posted by JamDamage (1105 posts) - - Show Bio

So the new Batman movie is coming out on DVD and Blu R and we're talking about Ledger. Not the great performance done by Tom Hardy as Bane. Kind of shitty if you ask me. Sure Ledger did a great job, but to us Batman fanboys it's Mark Hamill who is the Joker. I always say when I've been asked who I like more. Ledger or Nicholson, and I always relpy. You need to combine the 2 of them to really get the Joker down. The clowny side of Jack, and the darker evil side of Heath. Then you get Hamill

#30 Posted by SpideyIvyDaredevilFan26 (4822 posts) - - Show Bio

@Mucklefluga:

I'm actually watching it right now..:-)

#31 Posted by Asok (336 posts) - - Show Bio

@COBRAMORPH said:

It was an ok movie, but hopefully this will keep people away from the Joer as I dont really care about the character that much & would rather see some of the others before getting Joker Version 3. As much as Nolan might be a good choice, I find his argument that certain characters wont work in "his vision" a cheap excuse for his limited abilities. Everyone else can use them, some good, some failed, so honestly, it just shows he is limited.

I don't think it's reasonable to call Nolan limited, given his other films. He had no problem with fantastical elements in The Prestige. He wanted to create films that were grounded in reality for Batman. Having a freeze gun, a giant scaly human, or a man of clay wouldn't go well with that, and would detract from the atmosphere he set up.

#32 Posted by bunkerbuster05 (294 posts) - - Show Bio

It still saddens me, knowing Ledger is dead. He was really growing into an actor's actor. If it wasn't Dark Knight, he would have won an Oscar for something else.

I'm just glad he gave us a new perspective on such a classic villain. He truly made it his own. It makes me curious what TDKR could have been.

#33 Posted by Yung ANcient One (4358 posts) - - Show Bio

Given the fact that he didn't want to be Batman; it makes it hard to imagine what it would have been like if he did in fact accept. Now imagining that he was totally up for it, and accepted is different. I see him just doing a great job, but ultimately mediocre comparing it with his Joker performance. He created a NEW Trendy Halloween costume to wear, a new iconic movie villain, and IMO gained more NEW fans for Joker.

It is always sad to see a positive person leave this Earth. Only adding to the sadness, when they still had so much potential, so much to still give.

His Legacy will Live On

(+)

#34 Posted by dreamfall31 (473 posts) - - Show Bio

I know this make me sound like a super comic nerd, but I'd love to go to a parallel dimension where Heath Ledger didn't die and see what TDKR would have been. I still liked the movie, but it could have been something amazing if Nolan had anything special planned with The Joker.

#35 Posted by evilvegeta74 (4517 posts) - - Show Bio

Look, he blowed bad! He hammed it up, he did things as the street level villian joker, we'd never seen, it's over and done time to move on . Bat - Fanatics don't pm me, I;m not trollin here, I expected much more from Nolan and Bat- Fans deserved much more, these movies blowed , give us the real Bat. We don't want love stories and what not, give us violence and fear, who cares if it makes since or it's a good story, it's the Bat , so bring it and get over this Nolan crap.Im'm pissed and and all Bat-Fans should be as well, and I'm not a Batman fan, just a comic book fanatic, who has been let down again.Thank goodness for the Avengers movie, they made a great attempt, successful in my eye.

#36 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6885 posts) - - Show Bio

A fine acting job he did in portraying the Clown Prince of Crime, even if the Clown Prince in this case acted more like crazed domestic terrorist than anything else. At least he motives for why he did what he did was very consistent with the Joker we all know and love. His portrayal is what made the Dark Knight so great and for why that movie will be one of the highest grossing flicks of all time. It almost begs the question whether the movie did as well as it did because of Ledger's death but somehow I just can't believe that to be true.

#37 Posted by theTimeStreamer (2841 posts) - - Show Bio

they should've stopped at a duology. the 3rd one really isnt necesarry.

#38 Posted by RustyRoy (9239 posts) - - Show Bio

Best CBM Villain Ever.

#39 Posted by Markus_Langbourn (388 posts) - - Show Bio
@xAnimosity said:

I dont know how anyone could hate on the first 2 movies.

Anyone hating on any of the three films is an imbecile who has no concept of what good cinema is. Which is, of course, a statement that includes most of comicvine. 
#40 Posted by Markus_Langbourn (388 posts) - - Show Bio

Mother of God there are some cretins in this thread. Like, "how were you the sperm that got through?" level cretins. 

#41 Posted by Om1kron (1168 posts) - - Show Bio

@xAnimosity said:

I dont know how anyone could hate on any of the movies.

corrected.

#42 Posted by spiderturtle (66 posts) - - Show Bio

I guarantee you with their relationship, if Ledger were alive when TDKR was being filmed, he would have been in it. That would have been grand. But all in all, TDK is still my favorite movie of all time. Then IP Man. :)

#43 Posted by AdamWarlox (11 posts) - - Show Bio

Heath was really one of the best actors of his generation. He created an iconic figure with his performance as the Joker.

#44 Posted by Cole_Mercer (214 posts) - - Show Bio

I was just very shocked that he passed away, that would've been his breakout role

#45 Posted by BritishMonkey (309 posts) - - Show Bio

I remember around the time when Ledger died there was a couple rumours going around that TDK wouldn't be released because of his death, but it was a very good thing it was still released. Would've been the dumbest thing ever to not release it.

#46 Posted by csl316 (168 posts) - - Show Bio

The fact that I had zero expectations and was quite stumped by the choice made the pencil trick scene that much more impacting. He just walked in that room, owned the damn scene, and proceeded to own the whole movie.

It was excellent, it fit it Nolan's world, and Ledger deserves all the praise he received for the performance. His theme music elevated it even further. When that slow burn happened, you knew things were about to get a little crazy.

#47 Posted by Deranged Midget (17598 posts) - - Show Bio

@dementedtheclown: C'mon mate, not necessary to post demeaning comments.

Moderator
#48 Edited by InnerVenom123 (29331 posts) - - Show Bio

I love the people who sh*t on Nolan's Batman to feel smart. The same type of people who say comics like DKR or Watchmen are overrated. What people will say to make themselves feel special, really. It's great to watch.

#49 Posted by Billy Batson (56933 posts) - - Show Bio

@InnerVenom123 said:

I love the people who sh*t on Nolan's Batman to feel smart. The same people who say comics like DKR or Watchmen are overrated. What people will say to make themselves feel special, really. It's great to watch.

Pffft some find Watchmen/DKR overrated but not Nolan's Batman or vise versa :p
BB

#50 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29331 posts) - - Show Bio

@Billy Batson said:

@InnerVenom123 said:

I love the people who sh*t on Nolan's Batman to feel smart. The same people who say comics like DKR or Watchmen are overrated. What people will say to make themselves feel special, really. It's great to watch.

Pffft some find Watchmen/DKR overrated but not Nolan's Batman or vise versa :p
BB

You're right. What I meant was that they're the same "type" of people. Edited.

Thanks Billy. You silly little bastard. :P

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