In one of his final TV interviews, viewable online, Heath Ledger can be found refuting any posthumous speculation that the Joker role somehow got inside his head, contributing to the circumstances surrounding his death. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had—probably ever will have—playing a character,” he says, his future-tense prediction all too heartbreakingly accurate. He found a worthy fun-mate in Christopher Nolan, a mind-warp specialist who broke through in 2000 with Memento and successfully rebooted the Batman franchise in 2005 with Batman Begins. “My thoughts [for the Joker] were identical to his,” Ledger said of his director, and the result—a barmy, creepy hybrid of Beetlejuice and Ratso Rizzo—is compellingly odd and worlds apart from Jack Nicholson’s hammy 1989 version. “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you,” Ledger’s Joker says, in a killer entrance line, “simply makes you … stranger.” Hunched and stringy-haired, slathered in Robert Smith–like makeup gone horribly wrong, Ledger is unrecognizable as the man who played Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain or as the handsome, deep-voiced, Australian-accented 28-year-old he was in real life. As the Joker slouches across the screen, Ledger’s commitment to Nolan’s conception of the role comes off not as some black journey into the depths of the soul but as a hoot.
Morreu Miguel Ferrer
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