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Heath Ledger Pushed Himself To The Limit For Dark Knight Joker Performance

Jake Massey

| Last updated 

Heath Ledger Pushed Himself To The Limit For Dark Knight Joker Performance

In 2008, The Dark Knight was released to critical acclaim. Heath Ledger's disturbing portrayal of Batman's sinister nemesis the Joker elevated the film to classic status, but tragically, he wasn't around to see it.

The Australian died aged just 28, having accidentally overdosed on prescription medication while the movie was in post-production.

Prior to this, Ledger had gone above and beyond in dedicating himself to the role of the Joker - in a performance that would posthumously earn him an Oscar.

Ledger put in a stunning performance. Credit: Warner Bros.
Ledger put in a stunning performance. Credit: Warner Bros.

As part of his method acting, he locked himself away for weeks, keeping a diary which was subsequently shared with the documentary-makers behind 2012's Too Young to Die.

The diary contained a wide array of manic musings, depicting hyenas, clowns, comic strips and Alex DeLearge from Stanley Kubrick's cult classic, A Clockwork Orange.

In the documentary, his dad Kim said Ledger isolated himself to get into the deranged psyche of the character.

He 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."


Ledger also went all out physically, encouraging co-star Christian Bale [Batman] to actually hit him during an interrogation scene.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Bale recalled: "As you see in the movie, Batman starts beating the Joker and realises that this is not your ordinary foe. Because the more I beat him the more he enjoys it. The more I'm giving him satisfaction.

"Heath was behaving in a very similar fashion. He was kinda egging me on.

"I was saying, 'You know what, I really don't need to actually hit you. It's going to look just as good if I don't.' And he's going, 'Go on. Go on. Go on....'


"He was slamming himself around, and there were tiled walls inside of that set which were cracked and dented from him hurling himself into them. His commitment was total."

Ledger took method acting to the extreme. Credit: Warner Bros.
Ledger took method acting to the extreme. Credit: Warner Bros.

On top of this, he fully immersed himself in every facet of the portrayal, reading comics, training his voice and working with the makeup and costume departments on the look of his character.

Given the great lengths Ledger went to, it was rumoured after his death that the strain of the role had impacted him mentally. However, his sister Kate went on to rubbish these claims, stating that he loved playing the part.


Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2017, she said: "Everything that came to light about the Joker, we were all so confused.

"Honestly, it was the absolute opposite. He had an amazing sense of humour, and I guess maybe only his close family and friends really knew that, but he was having fun.

"He wasn't depressed about the Joker."

Last month, he was voted as the greatest Joker of all time, beating the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Nicholson.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Topics: TV and Film, Celebrity, Joker, US Entertainment

Jake Massey
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