After nearly a decade, which is how long the Marvel Cinematic Universe has existed, nobody has managed to top Heath Ledger's iconic performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. What Christopher Nolan managed to craft is something that transcends the comic book genre, and that is in no small part due to Ledger's now legendary turn as the clown prince of crime. Now, nearly 10 years later, it's been revealed that Christian Bale was actually asked to hit Ledger while filming The Dark Knight. Talk about dedication. Here's what Bale had to say about it.
"Our first scene was in an interrogation room together, and I saw that he's a helluva actor who's completely committed to it and totally gets the tone that Chris [Nolan] is trying to create with this. We're not going for actors revealing their enjoyment of playing a wacky caricature. We're treating this as serious drama. You go into character and you stay in the character. I love that. I find that so ridiculous that I love it, and I take that very seriously. Heath was definitely embracing that. When he was in the makeup and the garb he was in character the whole time; and when he took it off he was absolutely fantastic company to be around As you see in the movie, Batman starts beating the Joker and realizes 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."
Christian Bale's comments were made during an interview conducted by Joseph McCabe, who has published this, along with other interview clips and a lot more in a new book, 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. The book also features an interview with Christopher Nolan and another newly revealed excerpt reveals the director talking about how he and Heath Ledger crafted their version of The Joker.
"Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, these kinds of punk influences were some of the things we talked about. We also talked about the character of Alex in A Clockwork Orange. He's very anarchic and yet somehow has great charisma, both in the book and in the film. We talked about a lot of different influences, and he talked about an extraordinarily diverse set of influences like ventriloquist dummies. The way they would talk and the way they would move and all kinds of peculiar ideas that I wasn't really able to get a handle on until I saw him start to perform the scenes, and start to show how the character moved and how the character gestured and how the character spoke, with this extraordinarily unpredictable voice. The range of the voice, from its highest pitch to its lowest pitch, is very extreme, and where it shifts is unpredictable and sudden. The thing with the tongue was...he had this prosthetic that was covering his lower lip and it would come unglued sometimes. I'd seen him sort of sticking it back with his tongue, and it was only after a few weeks of shooting that I realized that wasn't what he was doing, that he had started to adopt that actually as part of the character. It was an interesting balance, editing the performance, because he has all kinds of interesting facets, all kinds of mannerisms and things. What I like about them all is they all feel that they come from the character. They don't feel like actorly touches. I read them as genuinely part of the fabric of a real human being."
Sadly, Heath Ledger died at age 28 in January 2008 before The Dark Knight was even released. Still, he managed to win the Academy Award that year for Best Supporting Actor, which was sorely deserved. These interview clips from The Hollywood Reporter serve as a great reminder of just how dedicated the young actor was.