Christopher Nolan Speaks Out About Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight will go down as one of the greats. Christopher Nolan has been speaking about what it was like to work with Heath. Heath went on to win an Oscar for his performance.
1) Heath was unhappy about having to shoot the opening IMAX scene again
One of the most memorable scenes in The Dark Knight is actually the opening IMAX sequence, where Heath makes his first appearance as The Joker. But it could have been very different. Nolan was still learning how to use the IMAX cameras, and when the appearance of The Joker happened, Heath’s face was slightly out of focus slightly. In an interview Nolan discussed how the opening scene was almost ruined by a poorly focused shot. They would have to re-shoot the scene and Heath was not happy.
“It was tremendous, but when we looked at dailies it was slightly out of focus. So I just rescheduled, and I got this horrified phone call from Heath saying, ‘What have I done?’ It was the first time he had ever kind of shown us the voice and character [for real] and we wanted to reshoot it! [But I said], ‘No, no no, it’s great,’ but he never quite believed me.”
They re-shot the scene, but still used the original because Ledger was so good in it.
2) Nolan felt he should continue to work while everyone else was grieving Ledger’s death
In an interview in 2008, Nolan revealed that grieving during the process editing the film would have been a disservice to Heath Ledger’s incredible performance.
“For me, for my process, just working straight through it and wrestling through it and working was actually — I felt very lucky to have something to do. Because for most of the people who knew him far better than I did, who were around him, it was very difficult for his family and everyone. I was very fortunate: I had something very specific to be getting on with — I felt an enormous amount of responsibility to him.”
3. Heath was captivated by the film making process.
Even when he wasn’t involved in a scene himself, Heath would be following the crew around on set to get experience the film making process. Nolan explained Ledger’s excitement for film in a column.
“Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He’d brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he’d made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I’ve never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents.”
6. Ledger wanted to play Joker before he’d even seen a script.
“I’d met with Heath several times on projects in the past and nothing had ever come of it. And I think he’d heard I was looking for someone to play the Joker before we had a script, and I’d heard that he was really actually into the idea. And we met and we both had exactly the same concept in our heads of who that guy would be in this film in the way that we’d interpreted it.”
7. Nolan misses and thinks about Heath everyday
“When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly. “
Heath’s talent will be remembered by all of us, and hearing what Christopher Nolan has to say really makes us remember what we are missing.