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There's More To The Joker Than Heath Ledger

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Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

Heath Ledger died of drug overdose about a year ago and has now won himself a Golden Globe. Pundits say he is now a clear favourite to win an Oscar. Let's hope this Golden Globe is the last award he receives. 

Only after his death did Heath Ledger gain grandiose praise for his role in The Dark Knight. I don't remember him gaining any attention for his role from fellow cast members or industry types as The Joker before his death, and there's a reason for that; he didn't do that good a job. Granted, he did a better job portraying The Joker than Cesar Romero did in the 1960's Batman TV series, which also stared Adam West. Admittedly, Romero didn't have much to work with as the whole show was rather camp and comedic. Then, along came director Tim Burton who returned Batman to his former dark glory, with Jack Nicholson as The Joker.  Basically, Heath Ledger had ample inspiration to draw from, which we'll get to later.

First of all, let's grab any average looking guy off the street who's about 28 years old, anyone at all… you'll do. Let's see if we can't make you into The (menacingly, maniacal, scary, crazed, whatever) Joker. Make-up artist John Caglione Jr. gave The Joker a worn out and leathery look, the heavy black around his eyes which they shone through, his painted on smile was impossibly happy thus making him seem more sociopathic, unpredictable and melancholy. Hair department head Jan Alexander gave the character an unkempt do complete with faded green highlights which gave the character the 'bum' look. Costume designer Lindy Hemming obviously gave The Joker his purple threads while the props department gave the character the playing card, bombs and what not. 

Say, don't films have scripts or did Heath Ledger, with all his acting prowess, improv it all? Nope, he didn't, thanks to Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer for giving the actors stuff to do and talk about while in front of the camera, and for suppling the foundation for the film, thus The Joker too. This is Christopher Nolan's second outing as director of a Batman film and it has his trademark all over it, no need to elaborate. The job of lighting in a film is to help emphasise the mood of a character, to get the audience to feel certain emotions at certain times and build suspense, when you look at The Joker in most scenes, he's lit rather evilly. Music, by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard helps build suspense or make the audience feel safe and secure. You'll notice the up tempo bass sounds behind the dialogue for many scenes with Heath Ledger. Many of the above mentioned production team were somehow omitted from the rave reviews. 

The Golden Globe Heath won was for Best Supporting Actor. This is where the ample inspiration comes from, mainly Jack Nicholson. Watch Nicholson as The Joker then watch Ledger. Ledger's erratic dialogue delivery, laughing and movements all of a sudden seem familiar. See, anyone can be The Joker these days, much like how any actor can win an award statue or two if they die. If I had my way, Aaron Eckhart who played Harvey Dent would be winning awards.

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