Remembering Heath Ledger’s short yet memorable career.
Today marks fifteen years since we lost Heath Ledger. The Australian star initially gained fame in the States, starring in teen comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. This led to leading roles in films like A Knight’s Tale and The Four Feathers.
In 2004, Ledger saw his first Academy Award nomination.
He was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Brokeback Mountain, where he starred as Jake Gyllenhaal’s lover in Ang Lee’s controversial romantic drama.In August 2006, Christopher Nolan cast Ledger as The Joker in his follow-up to Batman Begins. Titled The Dark Knight, the film would open to universal acclaim, mostly centered around Ledger’s iconic performance as Joker, and go on to be the highest-grossing film of 2008.
Although a beloved performance now, news of the casting was met with initial skepticism from Batman fans. Ledger reportedly locked himself in a hotel room for a month to prepare for his role. He was working on developing Joker’s voice and mannerisms. He even kept a diary in character as the psychotic mass-murdering clown.Oscar buzz was already in the air while the movie was still in production. Gary Oldman found his performance “terrifying,” and Michael Caine was reportedly stunned into silence upon seeing footage of Ledger’s Joker for the first time.
On January 22, 2008, Ledger passed away from an accidental overdose in New York City. Warner Bros. altered their marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, though his death cast a shadow over the release. Ledger was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously. His performance as The Joker remains the role to which all comic book movie villains are compared to this day. His turn as the anarchic clown terrorist didn’t just redefine comic book movies. It set the new standard for a villain.