The Joker, he’s our favorite psychopath, and despite his deranged mind, he is one of the most beloved characters in comic history. There is just something about him; maybe it’s the fact that he’s not just insane but absolutely brilliant as well. It’s one thing to disdain a madman but when you really look at how he goes about his criminal actions; it’s like watching a symphony. And who doesn’t love a great work of art? The Joker is definitely a memorable character in the movies and I’ve personally always found the Batman movies where he was not the villain almost disappointing. No one else seems to stack up to the awe-inspiring crazy that is The Joker.
Heath Ledger was one of the youngest actors to take on the role of the Joker and did an outstanding job of portraying the man on the brink of madness, despite his predecessors. Heath’s journey into the mind of the Joker almost caused a sense of madness in himself. Rumors swirled that Heath took things too far when he prepared for his role of the Joker and his obsession led to depression and soon death from an overdose. That’s speculation of course, but many people saw Heath change through his portrayal of the character. He truly left no stone unturned and gave us one of the best Jokers in movie history. Take a look at what it meant for Heath Ledger to truly be the man behind The Joker.
15. Heath’s Joker Terrified Michael Caine
Michael Caine has been around for many of the Batman movies, and he’s been a staple of the franchise. He had never seen anything like Heath’s version of The Joker however, and it scared him. Many believed that Jack Nicholson was the best Joker out there, but Caine admitted that there was a clear difference between the two. Jack’s character had a sense of humor, and his makeup was almost clown-like whereas the portrayal that Heath offered the world was one of a true psychopath. The first time that Michael Caine saw Heath in full makeup was during the elevator scene. He seemed like such a terrifying psychopath that Michael forgot his lines. Maggie Gyllenhaal who played Batman’s love interest couldn’t even look at Heath when he came in the room. He scared them both so badly that he proved that he could truly portray a psychopath.
14. Heath Wanted to be Batman
Doesn’t everyone, though? You can’t blame the guy for trying. When it came time to audition for the movie Heath wanted the role of Batman. Personally, I couldn’t even imagine it; it just seems so out of sorts. Apparently, the producers thought the same thing because although they let him audition they told him they weren’t going to go with him. Christian Bale ended up getting the role of Batman, and the rest is history. It wasn’t until later on that they decided he would be good for the role of The Joker. It turned out they were right because it won him an Oscar in the end. It wouldn’t be the first time that an actor went in for one role and came out with another. Jennifer Aniston wanted the role of Monica when she auditioned and how weird would that have been?
13. He Locked Himself Up
Heath went to great lengths to truly become The Joker so that he could be authentic to the character. He was determined to truly be The Joker and stay in character during filming so that he could portray who The Joker really was – an isolated and crazy person. Before filming started, Heath locked himself in a motel for a whopping 43 days to help himself get into character. He wanted to completely isolate himself from the world and his family as well so that he would know what it was like to feel truly alone. He was so isolated in fact during filming that it started to affect his relationship with Michelle Williams. The isolation helped him to perfect the craziness that was inside the mind of The Joker. What you saw on screen was the result of all the crazy things Heath was willing to do to become The Joker.
12. First Actor to Win an Oscar for Playing a Villain
It’s pretty well-known in the film industry that if you are vying for an Oscar, then you should probably avoid making superhero movies. It’s just not something that the Academy looks at when they want to honor an actor for a brilliant acting performances. So it was surprising when the exception was made for Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker. During the 81st Academy Awards, The Dark Night was nominated for eight Academy Awards. Heath won the Best Supporting Actor role for his part in the movie. He was the first and only win in any of the categories for a movie like The Dark Night. He was the first person to win an Oscar in that category after he died. The award went home with his longtime girlfriend, Michelle Williams. Peter Finch also won an award in 1976 after his death for his performance in a movie.
11. Clockwork Orange
The 1971 classic movie Clockwork Orange was a huge inspiration for Heath when he was researching his portrayal of the Joker. The movie is known to be a little crazy and it’s not surprising since Kubrick directed it but it’s been a favorite of many for years to come. The Joker in The Dark Night had a lot of weird mannerism, and a lot of them made the character of The Joker seem so much more authentic. It was the mannerism that you would expect from a crazy person. Heath researched Alex De Large, the main character in Clockwork Orange and that was where he derived his inspiration from for The Joker. Alex De Large was played by Malcolm McDowell, and his portrayal of the character was astounding at that time. Heath went to great lengths to make sure his version of The Joker was truly original, and he did a pretty amazing job of it.
10. The Joker Journal
At times Heath can appear to be a little…well…creepy. He often would do weird things on set in order to stay in the character of The Joker, but many people thought he went a little overboard at times. While on set he kept a Joker diary and was often seen carrying it around. He would write in the journal as if he was The Joker and let all the madness he believed The Joker had in him out. Inside the journal, there was a list, and that list contained some pretty messed up things. These things were meant to be all the ramblings of a madman, things that The Joker might find funny. Some of the things on the list included geniuses that had brain damage, sombreros, and blind babies. The fact that Heath kept this journal might suggest that he may have been a little mad himself, it just goes way beyond what you would expect from someone trying to get into character for a movie.
9. He Wanted Christian Bale to Beat Him
Like I said before, Heath liked to go to the extreme when it came time to prepare for his role. There is a scene in The Dark Knight where Batman is interrogating The Joker. The scene included a brutal beating that looked very real. The reason for this is because it was real. Heath didn’t want to act out the scene, in fact, he wanted it to look as real as possible. He told Christian Bale to actually beat him and to do it as hard as possible so that it would look authentic in the movie. The scene you see is Heath getting a true beating from Batman, and it looks pretty bad. It makes you wonder how badly he must have been marked up for the rest of the scenes. Thank God for all the makeup he had to wear.
8. The Joker Did His Own Makeup
The regular makeup artist wasn’t in charge of the look that Ledger had, not originally anyways. In fact, Heath went about creating his own look for Joker. He wanted the kind of look that would appear as if a professional didn’t do it but just a man with some makeup. After all, the makeup is basically a part of the messed up mind of The Joker. It worked because the distressed look of the makeup is truly terrible and really ends up making The Joker look like a real psychopath. Heath went to a drug store and bought cheap makeup and literally did the makeup himself. He wanted the look to be original and different from all the other Jokers. The director approved of the look, and it was set in stone. Afterward, it was up to the makeup team to try and recreate the look every day for shooting.
7. The Joker Was A True Genius
Many people are on the fence about whether The Joker was just a madman or if there was intelligence behind the things he did. When Heath took on the role of The Joker, he made it obvious that The Joker was not only a psychopath but a brilliant one as well. The scene where the Joker enters the hospital and tries to convince Harvey Dent to go on his side, there is a classic example of how smart the Joker really was. The Joker points the gun at himself and gives Dent an ultimatum, to either kill him or join his crew. What you may or may not have noticed was that the Joker placed his finger in such a way that even if Dent tried to kill him, the trigger hammer would not have gone off. The brilliance behind the act was that The Joker never had any intention of giving Dent a choice, he had no other option but to join his team or be killed.
6. Heath Liked to Improvise
There were plenty of areas in the movie in which Heath added a little extra into the scenes. After all, he made sure that he was literally in the mind of a madman so throughout filming he would start doing random things and most times they ended up in the film. During the scene where James Gordon finds out that he has been promoted to Commissioner, Heath added to it. When the announcement was made everyone in the room was clapping. Well, The Joker wants to join in, and he’s seen mocking the Commissioner by slowly clapping his hands as well. The clapping was not supposed to be a part of the movie; it was something that Heath added in on his own. He believed in unpredictability when it came to the mind of The Joker and was often doing random things on set. It was the perfect addition to the scene and was left in the movie because of that.
5. The Explosion was Unscripted; He Set It Off
The dress alone in the hospital scene really gave you a glimpse into the mind of The Joker, not only was he nuts for wearing it but he clearly had zero fucks to give. He does what he wants when he wants to and doesn’t worry about what people think; it’s not just madness, it’s part of his personality. When it came time for the explosion to happen at the hospital it was agreed by the team that the explosion would be delayed for awhile. Well, the button in Heath’s hand was actually the real button that would set off the explosions. He determined on his own when the explosion would happen; it was totally unscripted. The classic moment in the movie was made that much more epic because of what he did as was most of the unscripted things he did throughout. He seemed to have a genuine knack for what The Joker would have done.
4. Heath Often Looked like a Madman on Set
Not surprising since he often wore The Joker makeup whenever he was on the set, but many people thought that Heath was becoming a little unhinged while on set. He definitely took his acting serious and always wanted to remain in character as much as possible. He loved to skateboard and did it often while he was on set, but it looked a little more disturbing when he would do it with his full Joker costume on. Imagine your surprise if you looked up and saw that crazy Joker face riding by on a skateboard. It might be enough to give you nightmares. He was always in good spirits though and would often try to make the crew and other actors laugh throughout filming. The environment was always a happy one and very relaxed which offset the fact that Heath looked like a crazy psychopath all the time.
3. His Smile is a Glasgow Smile
A Glasgow smile is a gang scar that originated in Scotland some time ago. It was how gang members would scar their enemies. The scar goes from each side of the mouth and often reaches all the way to the ears. It’s usually done with knives but often credit cards were used to keep the mouth open as well. It’s a unique look and one that inspired Heath Ledger’s Joker. The creepy look resembles a grin. He wanted his scars to be different from anything else people had seen. There was no scarring at all for The Joker in the comic books but that didn’t stop Heath. Tommy Flanagan from Sons of Anarchy has a similar scar and his are real from a time that he got jumped after a bar fight. It’s crazy to think that people actually do these sick things to each other. In the case of The Joker, it suits him just fine.
2. His Death Impacted the Movie
Heath Ledger died shortly after the film wrapped which led to rumors that the effect of playing The Joker led to his depression. His death obviously had a huge impact on the movie after; he was not there to promote it and there was a general sadness swirling around the movie. He was also involved in the movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus but was unable to finish it due to his death. Many actors jumped at the chance to become part of the movie in order to finish it without Heath. Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law were all actors that got involved in the film in order to play variations of Heath’s part in order to complete the movie. When it was time to collect their paychecks however they all donated them to Heath’s daughter Matilda. According to sources, Heath had not updated his will to include Matilda so the actors gave up their paychecks for her future care.
1. A Generational Mask
There were so many epic scenes in The Dark Knight that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Heath not only played the role well but he added so many new things to the movie that were never meant to be. It was these random tidbits that allowed for the movie to be so much more special than it already was. During the bank robbery scene, The Joker is seen wearing a mask. It’s a very unusual mask and one that you wouldn’t normally picture on The Joker. There is some symbolism to the choice of the mask that they used for filming The Dark Knight. A very similar mask was seen in an episode of a 1960’s Batman series. The mask has quite a bit of history since Cesar Romero wore it during the filming of the series.