Why Heath Ledger’s Joker is the most iconic villain of the 21st Century

We can hate him, we can love him, we can be terrified of him, but we all will agree on one count: We all miss Heath Ledger.

Heath Ledger was known most of his career for his romantic roles (10 Things I Hate About You) and serious, dramatic ones (Brokeback Mountain).

The crux of his career however came for the Australian actor in 2008, with the release of Christopher Nolan’s second film from the Batman trilogy: The Dark Knight.

Of course tragedy struck when he died shortly before filming the movie. However, the role has attained cult status and Ledger received a posthumous academy award for it, which his family received for him.

Image Source: johnantoni — flickr


Call it intuition or whatever, but Ledger put in his whole soul into being the Joker; as if he knew beforehand that this would be the role he will be remembered by.

There are many interesting facts about the filming process and Ledger’s part in it. Here are some of them.


The appearance of the Joker was visualised by Ledger, who was of the opinion that a person like the clown of Gotham will never someone else design his makeup.

Also, in the course of the film, Gotham City News receives disturbing videos from the Clown. One of the videos has him torturing and later killing one of many fake Batmen. The videos were directed by Ledger himself.


Method actors go to immense lengths to “get into character.” Ledger took it to a whole different level. He voluntarily imprisoned himself inside his hotel room for a staggering 43 days at a stretch.

The resultant claustrophobia gave him his iconic hysteric, demonic laughter.

But like every skilled thespian, Ledger could turn the switches off as easily as he could turn them on. When he interacted with the cast and crew before and after his shooting time, he was totally normal and funny.

Realism was what he was after. He would go to any length to actually feel the madness in himself before putting it out.

Image Source: Imgur


Ledger was a master-improviser. He put in the smallest, subtlest of bits in the role that were not in the script.

It’s those little bits that made his Joker what it is.

One of those scenes is when he starts clapping sarcastically because Gary Oldman’s Inspector Gordon gets promoted to commissioner.

Nolan made sure to keep the camera rolling. The result: beautiful.

Besides, Bale was unofficially word-bound to hit him as hard as he could during the action scenes. The idea was Ledger’s.


Realistic portrayal, more intensely done than for a normal character was what Ledger thought necessary for the character. So how did he make sure to get the needed mental energy to bring the madness out?

He carried a diary, which contained the most horrific sadistic drawings and most disturbing pieces from the news.

These triggered him optimally to help him get into character.



Heath Ledger loved his daughter more than anything in life. Even before his death and subsequent Oscar win, she was a part of the process of making the film.

How you ask?

Remember the name tag of Mathilda on the Joker’s nurse uniform?

That’s her.

He made sure to put in a unique shout out to his daughter in what would end up being his last film.

Besides, the bit where he frantically shakes the remote control while walking away from the hospital? That was an improvisational bit too; something Nolan made sure to get on tape.

These anecdotes do not end.

What matters is, despite his untimely death, if there is one thing that will always keep Ledger on fans’ minds, it is this iconic and bad-ass role.



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