Website Calls for an End of the Joker in Film

Much like professional athletes are recognized for their contribution by retiring their jersey numbers, a devoted group of Heath Ledger fans are calling to retire the Joker from cinema forever to honour Ledger’s swan song. The Ultimate Joker is calling for a movement to stop anyone from trying to top Ledger’s Joker.

Not that it will matter, and not that a small group of fans trying will make a difference, but it brings the question. Should anyone try? My answer is yes. Absolutely yes.

FilmJunk tipped me off to this story:

A group of hardcore Ledger supporters have formed a website called The Ultimate Joker, which is trying to gather signatures to convince Warner Brothers to withdraw The Joker character from any and all future productions. They think no one will ever surpass his performance, and consequently, no one should even try.

“We are Batman fans from the comics and from the movies. After we saw The Dark Knight, we thought this Joker was really the best. It deserves to be withdrawn from any Batman sequels… When Michael Jordan retired, they withdrew the number 23 jersey as an honor. It’s the same thing with Heath.”

I find this to be the least respectful tribute to an actor who left us tragically before his prime. I really thought we would see bigger and better things from Heath Ledger who really seemed to be coming into his own. And he really owned the Joker role and made it his own.

I agree, that to date, this version of the Joker is by far my favourite. Hands down. But lets add a little perspective here.

Back in 1989 there was a wild buzz about a Batman movie coming out. I stood in line that day for 9 hours to see the first screening at a local mall. And guess what? Jack Nicholson was the BEST Joker ever. His lines were instantly quotable (THIS TOWN NEEDS AN EMEMA!!) and he was deleriously unhinged psychotic Joker. No one was ever going to top that.

Roll forward to the announcement that Heath Ledger was going to play the Joker. Oh the lashing he got online. Everyone was in an uproar that this “nobody” was cast as the Joker. How it wouldn’t be a good fit. Then there was some shred of reality out there pointing out his Oscar nomination and some of his projects where he was good. The contraversy raged on until the film came out and Crow was on the menu. Ledger was a hit.

There is no question if he hadn’t left this mortal plane, if the character was to be used again in the franchise every effort (and pile of money) would be made to make him play the part again.

This is where I don’t agree with the movement to retire his character.

The character is SO much more than even Ledger brought to the role. Obviously everyone after Ledger will be measured by him just like Ledger was measured by what Nicholson did.

Granted the standard has been lifted and it will be VERY hard to find someone to bring something genuine and raise the bar again. But everyone thought there wouldn’t be anything that would top Nicholson’s Joker. This was a different type of Batman movie, so we needed a different Batman.

Ledger came out of no where and did a great job in a great movie. Ledger did what people thought was impossible.

Is it so hard to think that someone else might leap out of mediocrity and surprise us?

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48 thoughts on “Website Calls for an End of the Joker in Film

  1. i bet the people making this hadnt even seen any other of heaths movies he was a great actor and he should be remembered for being more than just the joke.r saying that he was amazing in the dark knight

  2. Heath’s death is tragic and there’s no words to express the fact that he can’t reprise his role.
    However, just because the actor is dead, does not mean the character is dead. It was obvious from The Dark Knight that the Joker was meant to be an ongoing presence in Nolan’s film universe. You can not simply retire such a major character.
    I agree with the article. When Jack Nicholson played the Joker it became an iconic performance. When the Joker was supposed to come back in the Batman Begins sequel, most felt that nothing they pulled out would top Nicholson.
    Then Heath was announced as the actor for the role and more than a few of us scratched our heads at such an odd choice. I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who predicted Ledger for the role or even placed him on their fantasy-casting list. Many did not want to see the “gay cowboy” play the comic-book world’s most famous villain. But then we got to see the first photos and we all realized that Nolan was going in a completely different direction from Burton. The film came-out and Heath absolutely blew us away.
    If they do decide to recast I do not want the Joker to be the main villian. Also, the performance has to be something we’ve never seen before, simply trying to imitate Heath’s character would feel forced.
    All-in-all, the Joker CAN be recast.

    1. I didn’t say I wanted an entirely different character. The actor just can’t appear as if they’re trying to replicate the performance. If there is a recast then the actor should bring a new dimension to the character, not completely reinvent it.

  3. Hahahahahahahahahahahahah
    ahahahahahaha …hahahahahahaha, its true that Heath was good, but retire the Joker???? Hahahahahahhahahahahahahahaa .. why so serious??

  4. Look throughout movie history we have learned that no matter how good an actor or actress is at a certin role, there’s always going to be someone out there who can do it just a little bit better and put a different spin on it, it happend with ledger and nicholson and it will happen again, in the comming years we will all be right back here talking about this again with another person in mind

  5. The odd thing about this is that if the Joker character isn’t used in the next Bat-film, these folks would claim victory….when in a most plausible case the character wasn’t entirely needed.

    I don’t really recall the pre-DK anti Ledger movement ‘as being cast as Joker’ across the internet. It was my understanding that Batman Begins was such a step up that everyone trusted Christopher Nolan’s judgement and took a ‘wait and see’ approach. I’m sure there might have been some, but I don’t think it was “rampant”.

    Speaking of eating “Crow” I want to take that example. Not eating crow, but the comics character. While not as successful, other actors have stepped in the late Brandon Lee’s walking shoes to play The Crow (aside from different names, they played the same variation of the James O’Barr character). I actually thought the character onscreen was limiting, and the appeal behind the first film was Brandon Lee. That includes the irony of the character he plays (“I’m dead and I move”) likewise, I felt the same way about Heath in Knight- the scene where he literally comes out of the bodybag.

    But there were Crow sequels, for better or worse. Other actors had played that character or a slight variation thereof. That’s also how I feel on Joker in future Batman films- under Nolan’s watch and beyond.

    For better or worse, they are welcome to try. Let’s say Joker is needed for a small cameo. They would have to recast the part, but whoever filled the role would not have the burden of being compared to Heath (or Jack, for that matter) because of that brief walk on/puppetmaster behind the shadows type needed (note: this is how I see the Joker in future films) and what if they wind up getting a better actor than Heath anyway? It would be more of a fitting tribute, I’d say.

  6. I can’t wait to see Zak Snyders, The Dark Knight Returns … And I wanna see Jeffrey Dean Morgan as an older out of retirement Batman.

    Who could play the older Joker?

  7. Using that logic, MGM shouldn’t make another Bond film should Sean Connery leave this mortal coil.

    It’s ridiculous to think that Heath Ledger wouldn’t want his legacy to continue through somebody elses acting talents, as well.

    Personally, I think they should feature The Joker in later films, and what’s more, I think it should be Brady Corbett who plays him. Seriously, look at him Funny Games (US) and tell the likeness is not uncanny…

    1. Brady Corbett would be a very interesting joker. He was insane in Funny Games and I loved it. He definitely has the ability to play the villain. I think it would definitely be drastically different from how Heath Ledger played the Joker. Corbett would have to switch up his usual villain portrayal, since he is more of the calm and collected type and the Joker is pretty obviously insane. I would love to see how that would end up though.

    1. Well if Ledger “comes out of retirement” he can “wear his number” again.

      Their analogy applies and its valid.

      Its just not something that happens in movies. They dont retire characters just because one guy played it better than they assume anyone else can.

    2. Agreed, that’s an invalid analogy. “Banning” the Joker from future movies isn’t the same thing as retiring Jordan’s number; it would be more like banning dunking or the point guard position.

      The Joker is central to the Batman mythos, and has every right to be included in future films.

  8. You know what I think? I think it’s easy to play the Joker. Every person who has ever played the Joker has done an awesome job: Cesar Romero, Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, even people on YouTube do it very well.

    He’s a great character, but it doesn’t take that much talent to become him. You can isolate yourself in hotel rooms all you want to prepare for the role, but in the end, you’re just caving in to the crazy side of yourself. There’s a little Joker in all of us. That’s why he’s so popular.

  9. they think 50,000 will be enough?

    If you divide the amount that the money made worldwide (approximately 999 million) by the average ticket price ($7.20), you’ll find that there were approximately 138,765,379 tickets sold to see The Dark Knight. Even if every single person who signs saw the movie 10 times in theaters, those signatures would account for 0.0036% of the the tickets sold. Something tells me that Warner Bros. isn’t really going to be freaking out over that percentage.

    so…haha good luck guys

    1. lol, your comment reminded me of that scene coleman reese (or whatever that dudes name is) tries to blackmail Bruce Wayne and then Lucious wishes him luck on blackmailing batman.

  10. The beauty behind comics is that different artists can take the story and character and do their own thing with it. Comics wouldnt be what they are if comic book stories were started and left alone to never be done. No one owns these characters or stories. Any one can do what they want with them; Directors, Artists, and Actors.

  11. Screw that, I think it would honor his memory to carry on the character, to not ever try to raise the bar on his performance would be a travesty. Sure retire ledgers Joker Jersey and callit one of the best joker performances but to not ever do another joker shows you are afraid of someone coming along and doing better……… I absolutely loved joker in this movie and if we get to see another nolan Joker then by all means let it be…. Shit I’d pay to see a Joker Spin off in this vein of joker, I could imagine another one told through jokers eyes say his escape from arkham and reigning total havoc on Gotham, consider it “The Empire Strikes back” of the series…….there are plenty of very talented actors out there that could do another Joker on par with ledger and I say Bring it on…..

    1. theres a great graphic novel like that…written by the guy that does the phenomenal 100 Bullets comics…the novel feels like a sequel to The Dark Knight told through the jokers perspective….check it out

  12. Why would a bunch of Batman ‘fans’ think something like this would be a good idea? Last time I checked, the Joker was Batman’s arch-nemesis who has popped up throughout the comic’s history.

    Their petition is a real ‘slap-in-the-face’ to those who are involved in the creative process. Does anyone thing Christopher Nolan will still be directing Batman movies in twenty years? No way. Another talented director/screenwriter/actor will come along and tell the story in a different style.

    Besides, the next ‘logical’ step for these ‘fans’ would be to demand that DC Comics change the Joker in the comics to match Mr. Ledger’s likeness.

    I for one won’t be signing the petition, lol.

  13. thats dumb….so one of the best comic villians ever shouldnt be in any more movies because the actor that played him best dies…..what? any other joker on screen would be a testament to how great heath did it and be another potentially great interpretation of a classic villian….and dont they know most online petitions dont mean shit

  14. They have noble intentions, but I dont agree with their point. Heaths interpretation has made the comic book movie world so much richer, he created something that has the scope to be carried forward and interpreted more. The Dark Knight movie will still exist, he will never be forgotten or eclipsed.

  15. I understand that they love Ledger in this (I did too) but the same people were probably livid about Ledger being cast. I think it is ridiculous to say that no one should ever be able to reinterpret the character again. Look at how Ledger was able to push the envelope, who is to say that another actor could come along and one up that performance. Id rather have someone try and fail than never try.

  16. like john put in an article he “do you think ledger put his heart and soul into this performance just to not ever use that character again?”, ok maybe it wasnt exactly what he said but it was close

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