—Linus Roache as Thomas Wayne from Batman Begins, 2005
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August 4, 2008
Why Heath Ledger Can Be Replaced As The Joker
— Posted by John Campea
It was, in this writer’s opinion, the single greatest performance given by an actor in the history of the comic book genre of film. It was also the performance of a lifetime which only adds to the tragedy of his early demise. Heath Ledger’s performance playing “The Joker” will long be remembered and long be talked about. A performance so strong, that it makes us forget he’s not with us anymore. A performance so strong that its presentation overshadowed the shock of his passing. A performance that will be his legacy, and one that will probably earn him an Oscar nomination 6 months or so from now.
But as “The Dark Knight” finishes its life at the box office and the excitement of the DVD release comes and goes, we will once again be reminded of the fact that Ledger is not with us any longer. When our thoughts turn once again to the NEXT Batman movie we’ll be revisited yet again by the sad truth that Ledger will not return to play the Clown Prince of Crime.
The question will be raised by some: “Who should be next to play The Joker”? It’s an inevitable and also fair question to ask.
But as much as the asking of the question is certain… one of the responses is just as certain. There will be a great number of people who will answer that question (and indeed are already saying as much) that no one should play the Joker again, because (in their opinion) no one will ever be able to do as well as Ledger did.
That response is understandable due to the brilliance Ledger brought to the role, but it’s also a response I 100% disagree with.
Before I go into the reasons why I reject the idea that “no one will ever be able to play The Joker as well as Ledger did”, let me briefly address another issue I’m hearing some people bring up. Some people are suggesting that having another person play The Joker at this point would somehow be an “insult” or a “slap in the face” to Heath Ledger. That notion to me is utterly absurd.
First of all, do you think Heath Ledger put all his heart and sole into that character, sank so much energy and effort into the role to elevate it and raise the bar… just so the character would be retired if he couldn’t play the part anymore??? That’s sheer nonsense in my opinion. That’s the equivalent of saying “The best way to honor the magnificent career of Michael Jordan and to thank him for what he did for the game of basketball is to shut down the NBA after he retired”. Or “Lance Armstrong was so good at being an inspiration to people in his recovery against cancer, that no one else should ever try to overcome the disease and inspire others”. If WB doesn’t want to use The Joker again because he doesn’t fit into their future story plans, that’s totally fine. But to not use The Joker (who Ledger worked so hard to elevate and raise the bar for) because of some misguided notion that it would somehow be disrespectful to Ledger’s memory is one I reject outright.
Secondly, just because an actor does a wonderful job portraying a character, does not suddenly mean the character BELONGS to that actor. Ledger did his job magnificently… but his job was only one part of brining The Joker to “The Dark Knight”. The director who guided Ledger owns The Joker just as much as Ledger does. The Nolan brothers who wrote all the things that The Joker said and did owns The Joker just as much as Ledger does.
So would getting another actor to portray The Joker in the future be an “insult” to Heath Ledger? No, not even remotely. On the contrary, it could be the greatest honor you could give him.
But now let’s address the main issue here. The notion that no one could ever do as well as Ledger did playing The Joker. As amazing as Ledger was… i reject this idea. So due to the following reasons, here is why I believe Heath Ledger can be replaced as The Joker:
#1 – HEATH LEDGER WAS A GOOD BUT NOT GREAT ACTOR
#2 – WHAT IF GUY PEARCE GOT THE ROLE INSTEAD OF LEDGER?
#3 – IT CAN ALWAYS BE DONE BETTER
#4 – ONLY CRISPIN GLOVER CAN BE THE JOKER. ONLY LACHY HULME CAN BE THE JOKER…
At this point we have no idea if The Joker was even in the plans for the next Batman movie before Ledger died, so all this discussion could be for nothing. My only point here is to say, as great as Ledger was as The Joker (I believe great enough to warrant Oscar consideration), to believe that no one can possibly do it as well or better is completely naive in my opinion. And being aware of that fact is in no way a “slam” on the breathtaking performance he gave us, but rather just a recognition of how life and reality works.
Should they have The Joker in the next Batman flick? That’s a totally different question. Maybe the character doesn’t fit in with the story arch plans they have. But if they do have a story in mind that involves The Joker character, then it is possible that another actor could do the role just as well or even better than Ledger did, and to do so would be honoring and a tribute to the level that Ledger brought that character to in his final, and most brilliant performance.
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