Suicide Squad came out recently, so naturally, the Joker is on our minds. Jared Leto has large shoes to fill, though, because the most recent version of this iconic villain was Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning Joker from The Dark Knight. Ledger’s performance as the Joker was unforgettable, and this is likely due to the fact that Ledger poured his heart and soul into the role. Read on to learn the insane lengths Ledger went to in order to shape his legendary Joker.
It should go without saying that any actor would kill for the chance to play the role of the Joker, as he is one of the most iconic, complex and disturbed villains in pop culture. Even though Heath Ledger had always been a frontrunner for the Joker in the mind of Christopher Nolan, actors like Adrian Brody, Steve Carrell and Robin Williams all expressed interest in the role.
You probably were too disturbed by the Joker’s blow-up-a-hospital antics to notice this small detail: Heath Ledger paid tribute to his daughter, Matilda, by putting the name “Matilda” on his nurse’s uniform.
Anybody who has seen The Dark Knight knows that the Joker’s character is dark. Really dark. To put himself in the mindset to play such a troubled character, Heath Ledger isolated himself from society for six whole weeks. During this lengthy, lonely stay at a motel, Ledger focused on perfecting his Joker’s voice and sadistic laugh.
The Joker’s lip-licking was one of the character’s signature mannerisms, so it might surprise you to know that it was not written into the script. Heath Ledger added the lip-licking habit himself, as he needed to keep wetting his lips in order to maintain his gravelly Joker voice.
That messy, imperfect Joker makeup is all thanks to Heath Ledger. He felt that the Joker would never allow somebody else to apply his own makeup, so Ledger initially did his own makeup. After the look was established, though, the film’s cosmetics team stepped in to make things a bit easier on Ledger.
If you haven’t been able to tell by now, Heath Ledger took his role as the Joker very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he would show up to set in full costume and makeup even on days when he didn’t have any scenes to film.
Director Christopher Nolan let Heath Ledger direct the videos filmed by the Joker, as Ledger wanted to make sure that each video stayed true to the Joker’s character. Nolan agreed that Ledger nailed it with these videos.
It must have been difficult for Ledger, who was known for being incredibly kind and humorous, to turn on a switch and dive back into the Joker’s dark, distorted mind. To assist in this, Ledger carried around a “Joker Diary,” which contained disturbing news clippings and twisted images. Keeping this diary on hand helped Ledger get into character before filming.
Heath Ledger's performance of the Joker is nothing short of iconic, and he certainly set the bar high for other actors following in his footsteps. Only time will tell if another actor can best this unforgettable performance.