The 2008 movie The Dark Knight took the movie world by storm. The movie about the superhero Batman, and was the second movie in director Christopher Nolan’s hugely popular and successful trilogy of Batman movies. It had Christian Bale, portraying the role of Batman and Heath Ledger playing his nemesis, The Joker. Unfortunately, Ledger passed away before the movie was released due to overdose of prescribed medication. But his portrayal of the sinister Joker was appreciated by both critics and the fans and he ended up winning the Academy award for best supporting actor posthumously.
We have for you, 10 unknown facts about the Joker character and Ledger’s path breaking performance that has become the benchmark for future superhero villains.
He wasn’t the only one considered for the role
Heath Ledger, who lived the role of the Joker was not the first or original choice for the role. Director Christopher Nolan wanted Ledger for the role, but the studio still decided to approach many other actors for the role. Actors such as Steve Carrell, Adrian Brody, Robin Williams and Paul Bettany publicly acknowledged that they wanted to play the psychotic villain.
He completely isolated himself
Heath Ledger termed himself as a method actor and as a practice decided to isolate himself from others and checked himself in a motel room for six weeks. He decided to read all the comics and watched previous actors like Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in the 1989 Batman. But, he decided to model his Joker on A Clockwork Orange’s Alex De Large, played by Malcolm McDowell.
He improvised on the mannerisms
Ledger’s spontaneity and mannerisms as Joker made the character iconic. From the first scene in which we see the Joker robbing the bank, we know there is something very wrong with the character mentally and one mannerism was more of a necessity for Ledger. Joker constantly licks his lips and Ledger had to do that so his lips remain wet to get that unique Joker voice.
The makeup design was by Ledger himself
Ledger really spent time working on the character in that hotel room. He also made sketches about the look his Joker would have right down to the makeup. Ledger applied the makeup himself for the first few days of the movie so that the makeup team could take notes and make a copy of the original design and then do it themselves.
Kept a diary during the 43 days of isolation
Heath Ledger kept a diary during the 43 days of isolation in that motel room and he wrote the character in scary detail. The type of character he wanted his Joker to be, mannerisms, the styling of the character, some really creepy notes about thoughts he had as he prepared for the role. He even wrote out his lines and dialogues for the hospital room scene and how he felt it should be filmed. Many people blame this method acting technique for the death of Heath Ledger. They say that Ledger went too deep into darkness as he prepared for the role and took pills and medication to get back to normal.
He saw the opening scenes of the movie before his death
Though, Heath Ledger made the character, iconic in the movie, he didn’t live to see the whole movie. Heath Ledger was shown the bank heist scene at the starting of the movie after director Christopher Nolan had edited the movie himself. Producer Charles Roven stated that Ledger loved the scene and it blew his mind away and he watched the scene 2 more times.
Made Michael Caine forget his lines and scared the hell out of Maggie Gyllenhaal
Ledger had a profound impact on other actors he had scenes with, in the movie. Michael Caine, who played Alfred Pennyworth, butler of Bruce Wayne had not seen Ledger in the full Joker makeup and when he saw him for the first time coming out of the elevator in the fundraiser scene, he was so terrified that he forgot his lines and Nolan decided to keep the scene as it is in the movie.
He also scared his co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played attorney Rachel Dawes. Ledger had to improvise “Look at me” line because Maggie genuinely kept trying to look away.
Heath wanted to be Batman
Heath Ledger had actually auditioned to play Batman when Christopher Nolan announced that he will be rebooting the Batman franchise. Warner Bros. wanted Nolan to cast someone new in the role and Ledger along with many other actors auditioned for the role, but eventually Christian Bale beat all of them to get the role and starred as Batman in Batman Begins in 2005. But when Nolan wanted to make the sequel, The Dark Knight, he remembered Ledger and called him for an audition and eventually got the role that made him immortal in the movie world.
The Joker videos were directed by Ledger himself
In the movie, the Joker kidnaps wannabe Batman duplicates and proceeds to torture them and he captures the process on the video. Christopher Nolan let Heath Ledger direct the two warning videos in the movie because he wanted the videos to come from the perspective of the Joker and not him.
Lots of improvisation on Ledger’s part
The movie had lots of improvisation from the side of Heath Ledger. For instance, the scene where Gordon is made the commissioner of Gotham PD, the Joker is sitting in the cells after being captured by Gordon and Batman. The fellow police department officers clap when the announcement is made and then Joker joins in the applause with a slight grin on his face. Ledger did that just because he thought Joker would do it and Nolan kept the scene as it is in the movie. The second instance is that of the hospital detonation scene, in which it was scripted that the explosion will be delayed, but Joker starts messing up with the detonator, and it was all Ledger’s idea.