There was a time around 10 years ago when many fans weren’t so sure about the casting decision for a little film called The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan had already made his mark on the franchise with the stellar Batman Begins, but not everyone was convinced that casting one Heath Ledger would be the best move for the beloved character of the Joker.
I remember very much being apathetic toward the whole thing. I really didn’t care one way or another, so long as the movie ended up good, but I also had one friend who was a diehard Nolan fan from his work pre-Batman, and he had faith that this would be the best decision ever (I’m pretty confident he said something along those lines). But he was kind of alone, especially if you looked around online.
It turns out that fans were the only ones who were uneasy about this, as The Dark Knight co-writer Jonathan Nolan revealed during a filmmaker’s roundtable:
“When I wrote The Dark Knight, [his brother, director] Chris [Nolan] had to figure out how we’d tackle the Joker. Chris had a good meeting with Heath Ledger. And no one got it — I didn’t get it, the studio didn’t get it. And the fan community was … we were f**king pilloried for it. ‘Disaster, worst casting decision ever!’ Chris just stuck to his guns. It was a question of not giving the fans what they’re asking for but what they want — which is, ‘Let’s find a really f**kin’ serious actor, somebody who’s going to come in and just tear this role to pieces.'”
As we all know at this point, Ledger knocked the role out of the park, setting the gold standard for all future Jokers going forward. As of this writing, only Jared Leto has had a shot at the character since then in live-action, and Joaquin Phoenix is well on his way as well. But can the latter actor measure up to this one?
Perhaps. But he’ll have a hell of a time doing it.
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