We could debate endlessly the effect Heath Ledger’s death had on how people reacted to the Joker. Would he have still won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (probably not) and would The Dark Knight have raked in over a billion at the box office (certainly) had he not overdosed in January 2008? But ultimately, it’s fruitless and distracts from the over majesty of his last fully completed role (his actual final role was Tony in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, but he died before filming was completed).
The Joker embodies everything that was so revolutionary about The Dark Knight Trilogy. He was one of the most comic booky concepts and yet came out of the Nolan think tank as a realistic (as much a psychopathic clown could be), fully rounded human being. What still really amazes me, however, is that while he stole the show as far as iconography goes, the career defining performance didn’t take away from The Dark Knight’s ensemble nature.
But as much as Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s script (taking inspiration from the character’s vast and varied comic history), written with Ledger in mind, had a big part to play in shaping the character, there’s some amazing little tics Heath brought to the role. Famously locking himself away to perfect the characterisation, he came up with these little things that you either don’t notice initially, or don’t appreciate their importance in making such a formidable screen villain. Here are eight of those genius strokes that defined the great actor’s legacy.
Honourable Mention – The Nurse Name Tag Isn’t Anything Significant.
Anyone who says The Dark Knight Trilogy is devoid of laughs really isn’t appreciating the amount of black humour the Joker brought to proceedings. Things like the pencil magic trick are good for a smile, but the biggest chuckle from me has to be the sheer ridiculousness of him appearing dressed in a nurses’ uniform.
Many fans also find a sweetness to this scene; it’s claimed that the nametag of his costume reads Matilda a loving and warped tribute to Ledger’s daughter. Sadly, the only true bit about that is that Ledger did have a daughter called Matilda; the rest is a silly fan rumour no one cared to fact check. The badge is incredibly worn, but if you look close enough on the Blu-Ray you can see it says Nurse Hemming, a little in joke by costume designer Lindy Hemming.
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