Heath Ledger portrayed the iconic DC character Joker in The Dark Knight. It has been more than a decade and a half since the movie came out, but Ledger’s portrayal of the Crown Prince of Crime towers over every other portrayal. While some comic book fans of the 80s would name Jack Nicholson as the better Joker, the majority of DC fans who have for long studied and grown along with the mythos hail Ledger’s performance as unbeatable.
The first actor to ever win an Academy Award for playing Joker, he once stated that had Tim Burton directed the movie and asked him to play the role, he would have instantly declined for a very surprising reason.
Why Heath Ledger Would Not Have Been Joker If Tim Burton Had Directed The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy and the performances of Christian Bale and Heath Ledger as Batman and Joker respectively will forever remain iconic. Anyone who has watched or is even remotely aware of their performances would agree that it is a feat impossible to top the movie and its cast.
However, as Ledger revealed in an interview with Joseph McCabe for the book 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, he would have never played Joker against Bale’s Batman had The Dark Knight been directed by Tim Burton.
Revealing the real reason behind his alarming statement, he stated,
“But I really loved Batman Begins; and the character of the Joker was just too good to turn down. I’ve said this before, but…if Tim Burton was doing The Dark Knight and asked me to play the Joker I wouldn’t have taken it. Because to try and even touch what Jack Nicholson did in Tim Burton’s world would be a crime.”
And so while fans continue to debate who is the better Joker, the late actor Heath Ledger himself held Jack Nicholson‘s portrayal as legendary.
Heath Ledger Portrayed His Iconic Character Because Of ‘Fresh Interpretation’
While Heath Ledger did not want to hurt or alter Jack Nicholson’s legacy of playing Joker in Burton’s 1989 Batman movie if it was Burton who was directing it, he readily agreed when Christopher Nolan offered him the part. It was Nolan’s reinterpretation of the original character and storyline set up in a more modern realistic world, that attracted the actor to the role.
As mentioned in the book 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, Ledger remarked,
“So when Chris [Nolan] came to me, and…I knew how Chris was. He had already set up the world for me. I’d seen what world it was that I would be playing in. So I knew it was open for a fresh interpretation. I also instantly kind of had something up my sleeve, which happened to be exactly what Chris was kind of looking for. We sat down and kind of shared ideas, and they were the same. So we just went with it.”
Fortunately, each had what the other was seeking for the role, and thus Ledger’s most iconic role and the best portrayal of Joker was born.
Both Batman and The Dark Knight can be streamed on Max.