Over a decade has passed since the release of “The Dark Knight,” and Heath Ledger‘s performance has remained unforgettable. Ledger’s role as the Joker is undoubtedly one of the best performances in cinematic history, and the most acclaimed superhero movie role of all time.
The actor reportedly went down several arguably extreme routes to prepare for the role, and they worked. One of those routes was locking himself in a hotel for several weeks before filming to work on his character’s posture and famous chilling laughter.
That wasn’t all. While on set, Ledger took things a step further. A few interviews with Ledger, director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, who played Batman, were recently unearthed. Here Bale revealed that the actor wanted him to hit Ledger for real in one of the scenes to make it more authentic.
Ledger’s Initial Casting Was Met With Controversy
When Nolan brought Ledger on board as The Joker, many fans were confused, even his brother Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan co-wrote the script and was baffled by the director’s unconventional decision. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the writer said, “Chris had a good meeting with Heath Ledger, and no one got it.”
“I didn’t get it. The studio didn’t get it. Everyone was kind of coming at Chris and saying, ‘We don’t see it.’ And the fan community was….we were f*****ng pilloried for,” he added. “‘ This is a disaster. This is the worst casting decision ever made.’ And Chris just hunkered down and stuck to his guns and just kept moving along.”
Nolan’s decision led to one of the most successful and unforgettable performances in superhero history. This position was hard-won for Ledger because the actor reportedly went through several processes to give his all to the performance and immerse himself in his role.
Ledger Wanted To Get Beat Up
Not long after “The Dark Knight” was released, Ledger revealed that he asked Bale to actually hit him while filming their scene in the interrogation room. The scene showed the sworn enemies in a face-off. A simple interrogation turned into heated words and then a vicious assault from the masked crusader.
Bale told THR about Ledger’s commitment to the role and how he kept egging him to hit him. “As you see in the movie, Batman starts beating the Joker and realizes that this is not your ordinary foe. Because the more I beat him, the more he enjoys it. The more I give him satisfaction,” Bale recalled.
“Heath was behaving in a very similar fashion. He was kinda egging me on. I was saying, ‘You know what, I really don’t need to actually hit you. It’s going to look just as good if I don’t.’ And he’s going, ‘Go on, Go on, Go on.” According to Bale, Ledger even went further by slamming himself around the tiled walls and breaking and cracking them, showing that his commitment to the role was total.
Ledger Was Supposed To Be Cast As Batman
Before “The Dark Knight,” Nolan had already approached the “Brokeback Mountain” star to join the superhero universe. Rather than the role of The Joker, Hindustan Times reported that the director wanted Ledger to play the role of Batman, but the actor declined.
“He was quite gracious about it, but he said, ‘I would never take a part in a superhero film,'” Nolan said. But after seeing what the director did with “Batman Begins,” the actor changed his mind.
Nolan also spoke about the belief Ledger’s involvement in the role led to his tragic death. “He didn’t like to work too much,” Nolan explained. “He liked to do a character and then stop working and let enough time go by until he was hungry for it again. And that’s what happened when he came in; he was really ready to do something like that.”
How Ledger Prepared For The Joker
For his famous role as The Joker, Ledger reportedly locked himself alone in a hotel room and kept a diary for the duration. In a 2007 Interview with Empire, the actor revealed, “It’s a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it.”
“I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices — it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath — someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown,” he said. Director Nolan revealed that Ledger studied Ventriloquist dummies while practicing several suitable voices for the Joker and his terrifying laugh.