For a superhero who treasures anonymity and works by night, Batman has never been particularly camera shy. In fact, The Caped Crusader first appeared on the silver screen in 1943. Over the years dozens of adaptations have been made, and Batman has become one of the world’s most recognisable film characters. However, just as iconic as Christian Bale and Michael Keaton (who have both played Batman) are Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, who have played the villainous, unpredictable and maniacal Joker.
Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) was memorable in every respect – firstly as a gripping character study which attempted to give real weight to the Joker’s motivations, but also for the striking look: greasy hair, clown make up and vibrant suits. Most memorable, of course, was Ledger’s untimely and mysterious death soon after production finished. Although it was attributed to overdose, many speculated that he had become so “involved” in the Joker role it had perhaps affected his mental health.
Now, almost seven years after The Dark Knight, DC Comics are set to release a new feature length Batman film, Suicide Squad, starring Hollywood A-Listers Will Smith, Cara Delevingne and Jared Leto (who will play The Joker.) Fans have been promised a film “to blow brains out,” but can anyone top the incredible cultural impact of Heath Ledger’s Joker?
After the Dark Knight was released, The Joker became ubiquitous on everything from bedroom posters and “why so serious” t shirts to figurines. But for a film that was made in 2008, the cultural impact is still hugely relevant today, particularly where modern technology is concerned. There are spin off games from the franchise and players can enjoy Batman-themed slots at Red8s, as well as other comic book-based slots. It is the fastest growing spin off market and doesn’t look like it’ll slow down any time soon as Hollywood continue to produce films like Suicide Squad.
It’s certainly a lot of pressure for the man filling Heath Ledger’s shoes. Unless Leto is able to nail a similarly iconic performance – which, despite his talent as an actor is still a long shot, his Joker will never achieve the same level of global recognition. To a certain extent however this is the essence of Batman – every actor and director has had a different take on the role!
Jared Leto has promised to make the part his own with a more “cerebral” and “comedic” Joker, and has already shown off shorn, bleach blonde hair which is a far cry from Ledger’s look. Undoubtedly this is partly intentional, as Leto seeks to move out from the shadow of Heath Ledger and redefine The Joker character.
Suicide Squad begins filming next month in Toronto, under the direction of David Ayer (Fury). It won’t be until late 2015 at the earliest that we see the end result – but Suicide Squad is certainly a film to get excited for!
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