Christian Bale shared a reflection of working with Heath Ledger while filming The Dark Knight. For the second film in the Batman trilogy, directed by writer and director Christopher Nolan, Bale returned as the Caped Crusader and Ledger played his iconic antagonist, the Joker. The film was a huge commercial and critical success, grossing over $1 billion on a $185 million budget. The Dark Knight arguably paved the way for sharper-toned comic book movies to garner mass appeal, and Ledger’s Joker cemented The Clown Prince of Crime as one of the audience’s favorite personas on screen.
Prior to Ledger, the Joker had been played by Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero in a way that seems almost cartoonish by today’s standards. The earlier versions relied on vats of acid or highly diagnosed illnesses that disfigured the character. Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, with facial scars, hand-applied makeup and a more believable psychosis, brought the character up to date with the realism demands of the 21st century and changed the course of comic book villains in cinema for always. Bale’s Batman, who spent initial film training with Ra’s al Ghul, was given room to grow in response to the arrival of Ledger’s Joker.
In an interview with GQBale thought about working with Ledger during the production of The Dark Knight. Read Bale’s full comments below:
Heath Ledger, oh my God, what a performance. What a pleasure to have worked with him, and to see him and how much he put into the Joker. And I saw him say, ‘Yeah, this is absolutely fantastic. Are we in trouble here?’ When Chris [Nolan] and I sat down first, we said, the problem with Batman is that the villains are always more interesting, right? And so Batman is actually very close to being a villain himself. So let’s never let him get boring in comparison, and unfortunately I sat there and thought, ‘I feel a little boring in comparison because Heath just kills this.’ But I’m so proud of that movie, I love it, The Dark Knight is absolutely extraordinary, and it was such a pleasure to have worked with Heath.
Why Heath Ledger’s Joker Remains So Iconic
Ledger’s Joker was the perfect foil for Bale’s Batman and an important part of The Dark Knight‘s success. Numerous repeated lines such as “Why so serious?” and “Do you want to know how I got these scars?are etched in history as undeniable jokes belonging to Ledger’s villain. It’s no wonder Bale suggests Ledger’s Joker outdoes his Batman, and given the beginnings of the villains-as-protagonist style stories seen in the suicide squad franchise and Harley Quinn animated series, it’s easy to see how Ledger’s achievements led to those projects.
The Joker in general became a much more interesting and sought after character after Ledger’s turn in The Dark Knight. There’s been debate about whether it’s wise to prop up a murderous villain in such a big way, but it hasn’t stopped actors like Jared Leto, Joaquin Phoenix, and Barry Keoghan from taking their take on the character. to offer. Still, Bale is right in his claim that Ledger is fully committed to his performance as the Joker, in a way that could be argued to be hard for anyone else to top. It’s no wonder the actor looks back fondly on his time working with Ledger.
Next: Affleck’s Batman Was The Perfect Successor To The Dark Knight (Sorry, Pattinson!)