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The Story Behind Heath Ledger’s Joker Transformation

When the casting choice for the Joker in Chris Nolan’s 2008 movie The Dark Knight was announced, fans were confused. Heath Ledger? A fine actor, sure, but he was usually cast as a romantic lead or at least a good guy. He had even been offered the role of Batman before. Ledger took the role of the Joker and made it powerful, winning an Oscar for his performance.   

Ledger was no stranger to Method acting, and he took his commitment to the role seriously. Being cast before the script was written, Nolan explained that Ledger had “a very long time to obsess about it, think about what he was going to do, to really figure it out.” In addition, Nolan had Ledger read Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and study the paintings of Francis Bacon. Then, months before shooting began, Ledger isolated himself, writing and collaging images to help him get inside the character’s head.

His notes became known as “the Joker diary.” Sadly, he died between the movie’s filming and release. Read about how Ledger attacked the role from the beginning at Uproxx.


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