Behind The Scenes

How Heath Ledger Became the Joker for The Dark Knight

Now in serious competition with Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of the evil clown Pennywise in the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight remains one of the most fascinating antagonists in the history of cinema.

Back in April 2017, Spike TV‘s tribute documentary I Am Heath Ledger offered a rare behind-the-scenes insight into the making of Christopher Nolan’s colossal movie in which we get to learn how important the (in)famous role was for the actor who passed away almost 10 years ago at the age of 28.

In the documentary, which delivers an intimate portrait of the talented movie star, we discover that Ledger did not hesitate for a second after he was told he could play a new version of the Joker in Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins to audition for the role. “I’d already seen this world he’d created in Batman Begins, so I knew there was an opportunity for a new version of the Joker and that excited me, and I also knew instantly what to do,” we hear Heath Ledger explain in the video.

As soon as he got the part, the actor did not waste any time and already started to occupy the character after roughly 2 months. “I locked myself away for 6 weeks in a room and I kinda came up with this creep,” he says. “Walk around like a madman, finding postures, finding stands, finding his voice is very important because when you find the voice, you find the breath within the voice.”

Ledger’s commitment to becoming the Joker went so far that he even did his own makeup every day in his trailer. But although many wondered if his dedication to the very dark persona had something to do with his death, the rumor is debunked here by the actor’s dialect coach Gerry Grennell, who stayed very close to him during his whole creative process while filming the movie. “A lot of people think that it was a strenuous process for him, but […] we had more fun than was respectable [on the set] for hardworking artists,” Grennell says.

“He knew he had something amazing,” add the actor’s friends. “He was so confident. He was so proud of that role.” 

“It was the most fun I’ve had with a character, hands down,” Ledger’s voice confirms. “It was too good to be true.”

Gone 6 months before the release of The Dark Knight, Ledger sadly never had a chance to witness the incredible impact of his outstanding performance. In 2009, it won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which his family accepted on his behalf.