Heath Ledger delivered one of the most iconic performances of the decade as The Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight before he passed away, but did you know that Christopher Nolan first offered him the role of Bruce Wayne?
HitFix was present at a discussion with Nolan about his experience working on the Batman trilogy that made him a household name and one of the most famous directors on the planet. Nolan offered up some interesting insights on making the films, and one of the highlights was when the discussion turned to Heath Ledger. The actor and director reportedly met before filming began on Batman Begins, and Ledger "politely explained to the director why he would never be involved in a comic book film", but after seeing the world he created with the first film in the series, he was "hungry" to be a part of the sequel.
Here's a selection from HitFix's recap of the event:
"Like a lot of artists, he would sneak up on something," Nolan said. "So you couldn't really sit and go, 'Okay, you're going to do the Joker. You're going to show me what it's going to be.' You had to sort of say, 'Let's read this scene. Don't act it, just read.' And he'd sit with Christian and there would be a line or two where his voice was a little different, throw in a little bit of a laugh. And then we would film hair and makeup tests and try different looks, and in that, he'd start to move, and we'd have these rubber knives and he'd choose what weapon and explore the movement of the character. We weren't recording sound, so he felt quite able to start talking and showing some of what he was going to do. And in that way he sort of sneaked up on the character."
The voice, though, worried the director at first, he said, because of its odd shift in pitch. "He had figured out this whole thing that was all based on the Alexander Technique, where if you hit a high note, you're then able to hit sort of two octaves below afterwards," Nolan said. "It's a way of lowering your voice. So you had this character who you'd never quite know which way the pitch was going to go of his voice. Just as in his physical movements -- you don't know how he's going to move; it's always a surprise -- the actual tone of his voice was always a surprise, too. Sometimes it would go incredibly low and threatening and other times it was light, in a way."
We wanted to highlight some of these quotes because it's cool to hear Nolan speak about Ledger's process while he was creating this titanic performance. It's kind of crazy to think that if things had gone just a bit differently, we wouldn't have seen that performance at all because Ledger would have been wearing the Batsuit the whole time. Could Bale have been an effective Joker, perhaps? The world will never know. Be sure to read the full article for much more on Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.