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Ledger wanted Bale to punch him for real during Dark Knight scene

10.17.2017

Heath Ledger’s work as Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT is often hailed as the best comic book movie performance of all time, and his work even won him a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The actor took his work to the extreme, stepping into the mind of an anarchic madman, something Batman actor Christian Bale said made for some really intense and rewarding work, even if Ledger wanted to go WAY further than Bale had anticipated.

In a series of unearthed interviews done by Joseph McCabe, with Bale, Ledger and director Christopher Nolan, Bale said that the first scene the two actors filmed together was the classic interrogation room scene, which results in Batman beating Joker for information, much to the latter’s enjoyment.  In Movieland the punches are not often real, but here, Bale said Ledger wanted some real blows:

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.

The interviews were done in November 2007 before Ledger’s passing in January 2008, and are now part of the new book “100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” by McCabe. Ledger made the role completely his own, giving Joker all sorts of unique ticks, one being the licking of his lips, something that took Nolan some time to catch on to:

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.

KNIGHT is, and probably forever will be, considered one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, and Ledger is a big reason why. His performance is so deeply layered and raw and done with astounding commitment. This new piece of info only makes watching his work all the more intoxicating, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t go down as one of the best performances by an actor in any movie. Bale could've probably broken Ledger's jaw, and Ledger probably still would've cackled like a madman. So awesome. 

Source: THR

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