Should Heath Ledger Be The Last Joker On Film?

Heath Ledger is well on his way to a posthumous Oscar win for his eerie, disturbing and pitch-perfect performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. This would likely be the only way he’d have wanted to win one, judging by how much he was reportedly dreading the pressure of a win for Brokeback Mountain. What he likely also wouldn’t have supported is this new campaign site called The Ultimate Joker, which is striving to make Ledger’s performance as the Joker the absolute last portrayal of the classic DC comics character on the silver screen. Apparently, these people believe that Ledger’s portrayal is the absolute best any actor could ever do, and therefore no one else should ever try. Apparently, they’re forgetting that a lot of people said the same thing about Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime in Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman.

These folks say they enjoy Nicholson, Cesar Romero and even Mark Hamill’s voice work in Batman: The Animated Series, and they aren’t including television or animation in their initiative. They just want to bar the Joker from all future film appearances. One can understand this for the current Christopher Nolan series, of course. In his current Bat-verse, there’s just no way it would make sense to have someone else try to recapture Ledger’s exact characterization, and there are plenty more Arkham Asylum inmates to use. Odds are that Nolan himself would completely agree with that sentiment. However, at some point in the future, the franchise will need another restart, once we’re all old and crotchety and 3-D looks a billion times better and movies come in hologram form. The character will need to be served again. This feels futile. Or is it just me?

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Here’s Ledger himself talking about taking on the role, and his sentiments seem to be the same. He wouldn’t have played the Joker in a Burton Batman film, because “to try and even touch what Jack Nicholson did in Tim Burton’s world would be a crime.” And thus, trying to touch what Ledger did in Chris Nolan’s world would be a similar crime. But if, say, Paul Thomas Anderson or Charlie Kaufman takes on the franchise once Nolan hangs it up? All bets are off.

In the meantime, rejoice that a superhero movie is going to win an Oscar, and let’s work on getting Michael Keaton playing Dr. Hugo Strange in the next Nolan film.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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