“Rebooting the Batman franchise may be behind him, but Dark Knight director Chris Nolan still has to improve upon it,” writes N.Y. Times reporter David Halbfinger in tomorrow’s paper. “Sequels are always trickier. And now he must also navigate the aftermath of the Jan. 22 death of Heath Ledger.”
Nolan says he “felt a “massive sense of responsibility” to do right by Ledger’s “terrifying, amazing” performance as the Joker. “It’s stunning, it’s iconic,” he says. “It’s going to just blow people away.”
Halbfinger notes that “news that the prescription drugs that killed [Ledger] included sleep aids — along with narcotics — prompted internet chatter about whether his intense performance as the Joker, styled after Malcolm McDowell‘s in A Clockwork Orange, had been a factor in his demise.
While Ledger once called his Dark Knight experience “the most fun I’ve ever had, or probably ever will have, playing a character,” his fatigue was “obvious” to costar Michael Caine, Halbfinge reports. “He was exhausted, I mean he was really tired,” Caines says. “I remember saying to him, ‘I’m too old to have the bloody energy to play that part.’ And I thought to myself, I didn’t have the energy when I was his age.'”
That sounds like disingenuous movie-set talk. Caine wasn’t a sickly youth. When you’re in your 20s you can do just about anything and then go out drinking with your friends. Anyone in their 20s who moans about being tired and drained from work all the time is lacking youth’s natural constitution.
Dark Knight cinematographer Wally Pfister adds that Ledger seemed “like he was busting blood vessels in his head…it was like a seance, where the medium takes on another person and then is so completely drained.” What is this? What’s being said here? It’s called acting, giving yourself over to the role, submitting to the spirit, etc. Why are these people characterizing Ledger’s efforts as analogous to being flogged and nailed to a cross?