There are two staples of a Batman movie that determine whether it is great or forgettable: the love interest and the villain. Maggie Gyllenhaal, the love interest, talks about working with Heath Ledger, the villain, in “The Dark Knight”: one of the greatest Batman movies of all time.
Confirming viewer intuition, ET quotes Gyllenhaal as saying Ledger was on a whole other level on the “Dark Knight” set.
“I remember coming to work and seeing him — that scene where the Joker throws me off a roof — and seeing him come in and start to do what he was doing, which was the first time I saw it,” she said of the method actor’s work. “I still think about this sometimes.”
Ledger’s performance overshadowed his co-stars with an iconic performance. He went on to posthumously win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film. He is the only actor to have won an award in this category after his death.
Ledger’s performance cannot be judged in a vacuum. The Joker is a character that is defined by superstar performances. No one can think of the Joker without thinking of Jack Nickolson’s portrayal. Mark Hamill embodied the cartoon version of the Joker. Ledger had seemingly impossible shoes to fill.
Gyllenhaal talks about the difficulty of working in such a larger than life movie. She remembers Ledger as being more than up to the task. While Ledger chewed the scenery in “The Dark Knight,” that is not the only movie where he thrived.
The Academy also nominated Ledger for Best Actor in “Brokeback Mountain”. He has similar awards and nominations from Australian Film Institute Awards, Brisbane International Film Festival Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and many more.
He has other awards and nominations from appearances in “Two Hands”, “Ned Kelly”, “Candy”, and “I’m Not There”.
Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose. It was likely brought on by self-medicating for insomnia, a theory offered by Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer. According to people who worked with him, Heath was solid and described as having both feet on the ground.
In an interview with MTV, Ledger acknowledged that embodying the Joker was an exhausting process that left him unable to move or talk. In his words, he was “absolutely wrecked,” which is why he had to take long periods off between scenes, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Ten years after his iconic portrayal, Ledger is still missed.