Christopher Nolan’s Hidden Tribute In The Dark Knight Rises Pays Homage To Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger's depiction of The Joker in The Dark Knight was one of the most phenomenal performances in recent memory.

He tragically died during the production of the film, but went on to be posthumously awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.

However, while this is common knowledge, Christopher Nolan's tribute to Ledger in The Dark Knight Rises is less well-known.

You may recall the scene where the Batman statue is unveiled, which at surface level seems to be all about paying tribute to the pointy-masked superhero. But as the camera pans from the balcony above, offering a bird's eye view of the unveiling below, the congregation form a familiar shape.

Two blocks of onlookers form a pair of eyes, the statue in the middle a nose, and the curved rows below form a smile; this is, of course, the smile of The Joker.

It seems safe to say this is Christopher Nolan's way of paying tribute to Heath Ledger. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
It seems safe to say this is Christopher Nolan's way of paying tribute to Heath Ledger. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

While Nolan hasn't openly declared the scene a tribute, it seems safe to say it is. After all, this is Christopher Nolan we're talking about - a master of subtlety and deeper meaning.

It's now 10 years since Ledger was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and yet his portrayal of The Joker only seems more impressively disturbing with every watch.

In order to effectively convey the warped psyche of the character, Ledger prepared extensively, even exiling himself from social interactions in order to develop a disturbing mindset.

In the documentary, Too Young To Die, Heath's dad, Kim, said: "He pretty well locked himself up in a hotel room for weeks. He galvanised the upcoming character.

"That was typical of Heath. He would do that. He liked to dive into his characters, but this time he really took it up a notch."


Since his death, some fans have speculated that Ledger's portrayal of The Joker was based on a 1979 interview with singer Tom Waits.

Whether or not there's any truth to this, it's worth remembering that the piles of awards he received were in recognition of the eerie way he gripped viewers with all facets of his performance - rather than simply acknowledgement of a good Tom Waits impression.

He certainly set an incredibly high bar for Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the villain in Joker, which is released in October.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Jake Massey

Jake Massey is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from Newcastle University before going to live in Australia and New Zealand for a few years, where he wrote a travel blog. He has previously written for the Eastern Daily Press, Giggle Beats, CALM and Front Magazine. Jake enjoys playing football, listening to music and writing about himself in the third person.

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