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10 Years Later, Heath Ledger’s Diary Explains Why His Performance As The Joker Was So Good

Image Source: NY Times
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Almost exactly a decade ago, Heath Ledger died. He was well known for acting in nineteen films, and he was also the producer of music videos. He was perhaps best known for starring in Brokeback Mountain, which came out in 2005, and The Dark Knight, which came out in 2008.

It wasn’t long before he perished that Heath Ledger opened up about what was going on his head. The talented actor admitted that he was using drugs like Ambien to deal with his insomnia. Heath’s death was considered an accidental one; he had several drugs in his system, including hydrocodone, alprazolam, and oxycodone.

Ledger’s diary, which chronicled his final months, was written during the time he was portraying the character of the Joker in The Dark Knight. The diary was shared with the world thanks to Ledger’s dad, Kim, and was discovered by a German filmmaker who wanted to examine the final months of the famous movie star.

Ledger took his role as the Joker seriously, which explains why the performance was so well received by moviegoers and critics. He actually did a lot of research and was inspired by a number of characters and creatures, including actual clowns, comic strips, hyenas, and even a character from The Clockwork Orange named Alex DeLearge.

Ledger’s father confirmed that Ledger inflicted a self-imposed exile upon himself when preparing for his role as the Joker. He did so in order to properly understand the psyche of the character. He actually locked himself in a hotel room for weeks.

His father explained that Heath typically did a lot of preparation for the roles he accepted, but he really took it “up a notch” when it came to the Joker.

On one of the pages of the diary, the words ‘Bye Bye’ are written in very large letters.

Image Source: TUMBLR
Image Source: TUMBLR
Image Source: TUMBLR
Image Source: TUMBLR

Ledger had finished filming scenes for The Dark Knight, but the crew was still working on editing the film when Ledger died. Christopher Nolan, the film’s director, said that it was very emotional having to go in and work on the film and see Ledger on the screen so soon after his passing.

It has been speculated that playing the character of the Joker—a truly twisted individual to say the least—somehow contributed to Heath Ledger’s death. After all, Ledger took his acting seriously and really tried to get into the head of the characters he portrayed. However, this does not seem to be the case. Co-star Christian Bale shot the idea down, revealing that Ledger told him that playing the Joker was the most fun he’d ever had—or probably ever would have.

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Ledger’s performance as The Joker was a truly brilliant one; sadly, he wasn’t alive to receive the many awards he very much deserved. Most impressive, perhaps, is the fact he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was also acknowledged at the Golden Globes and by the Australian Film Institute.

Christopher Nolan went into a bit more detail regarding Heath Ledger’s preparation for the role of The Joker. Apparently, the actor would tell the director a little bit in regard to his plans, but was also very private. Being unpredictable, Nolan said, was part of the experience for Ledger. At times, the director had very little insight into what Ledger was doing in regard to the development of the character Nolan thinks that Ledger wanted to play his cards close to his chest, which makes sense considering the character of the Joker.

Nolan had nothing but praise for Ledger’s performance and as a person. He said he was very proud to have worked with him, calling him a “great performer” as well as an “extraordinary person”.

The Joker might be the role for which he best remembered—understandable, all things considered—but Ledger had been acting for well over a decade prior to his death. During the 1990’s, he acted in a number of Australian television programs and films; he moved to the United States in 1998 in order to further his career as an actor. He was in a grand total of nineteen films, including A Knight’s Tale and Monster’s Ball.

Ledger was only 28 years old when he died, and left behind a daughter with partner Michelle Williams. The little girl, Matilda Rose, was born in October of 2005. Technically, the cause of Ledger’s death was cardiac arrest, which was caused by accidental intoxication with prescription drugs. He had plans for the future; he had produced and directed music videos and wanted to eventually start directing films.

Co-stars and those close to him knew that Ledger was experiencing problems prior to his death. Insomnia was a major problem for the actor, and shortly before his death he told a reporter that he was only sleeping 2 hours a night. Michelle Williams, the mother of his child, confirmed that he had to take pills to cope with his insomnia. He had experienced problems with sleeping for as long as she knew him.

A co-star in the film called The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Christopher Plummer, also confirmed that Ledger had insomnia problems. Also, because film shooting occurred on cold and damp nights, the cast was coming down with colds. Plummer suggested the possibility that Heath Ledger may have actually been suffering from ‘walking pneumonia’, which is an atypical type of pneumonia that exhibits atypical symptoms.

Sadly, it seems as if Ledger had a lot of negative things going on prior to his death a decade ago. It has been a really long time since his tragic passing, but you still can’t help but wonder what sort of incredible things he might have accomplished had he not perished in January of 2008.

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Written by Kevin Barrett

Kevin Barrett is an award-winning reporter currently residing in one of the many suburbs of Philadelphia. In addition to working in journalism, he was worked in higher education and logistics. He is single, but does have a distracting little dog who keeps him from achieving maximum productivity.

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