The Dark Knight is arguably the greatest comic-book movie ever made and a good reason for that is because of Heath Ledger‘s unforgettable turn as the pencil-disappearing, lip-licking Joker. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Heath Ledger in being the Joker as not only his casting was considered controversial at the time, his role in the film would’ve had a completely different origin according to the co-writer of The Dark Knight.
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Chatting about how the origin of the Joker came about at Comic-Con@Home (via IndieWire), Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer says that the character’s lack of origin story was viewed as a “controversial” creative decision (not unlike Heath Ledger’s casting) by the studio, and he and director Christopher Nolan had to fight tooth and nail for their idea of having no Joker backstory at all.
“I do remember when we were talking about, ‘Well, what if the Joker doesn’t really have an origin story?’ Even after the success of ‘Batman Begins,’ that was considered a very controversial thing. We got a lot of pushback. People were worried.
“‘Well you have to have an origin story. How can people just not know?’ I just remember the discussions at the time were that it was scarier, and it was scarier.”
The defining aspect of Heath Ledger’s Joker is the lack of origin story for the character and how he keeps others on the back foot by telling different stories about how he got his infamous scars. But at the time of the movie’s development in 2007, you can also sort of see why the studio had such a reaction against it.
Batman Begins ushered in the whole gritty origin story schtick and it worked brilliantly. Throw in the fact that every comic book film up to that point had an origin story for both its heroes and villains as a way to flesh out the characters, it’s perhaps no surprise that the studio were tugging at their collar over the idea of having Heath Ledger play a version of Joker with no backstory.
But at the end of the day, it’s a good thing Goyer and Nolan’s idea for no Joker origin story ultimately won out because The Dark Knight was a critically acclaimed money maker and Heath Ledger’s take on the character is still the best one yet. Sorry Joaquin Phoenix.
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