This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight and, sadly, of star Heath Ledger's passing. The actor's official cause of death was a fatal mix of prescription drugs, leading many to jump to conclusions that playing the character of the Joker took a devastating emotional toll on Ledger. According to co-star Michael Jai White, this image of the performer couldn't be further from the truth.
"It has always upset me that he was put in this category of being a drug-addled, irresponsible type of actor. That gets me aggravated," White shared with The Hollywood Reporter.
Ledger earned a posthumous Oscar for his role, confirming his immense talent. Playing such an emotionally tormented character could heavily impact any performer's personal life, though White detailed how positive Ledger was in between takes.
"It upsets me that Heath gets put in a category, like he was a method actor who inhabited this darkness that consumed him because people write that story in their head," White confessed. "And that couldn't have been further from the truth. Heath was playful. When the director would say 'cut,' he would go back to this easygoing, very affable type of guy. Even when there was a day player or people in shorter roles, naturally they tend to give him his privacy and space, but Heath would be on the one initiating the conversation. He was that type of guy."
In the Joker's first meeting with White's Gambol, the villain performs a "magic trick" which results in a henchman getting a pencil in the eye. White noted that safer versions of magic tricks became a hobby which brought the two actors together.
"He and I were trading a lot of magic tricks," White noted. "He picked up some sleight of hand stuff, and I'm kind of an amateur magician myself. So Heath and I shared a lot of tricks on set, and we couldn't wait to finish the shot so we could go back to doing that stuff."
White went on to recall Ledger's devotion to the film, explaining that, on a shooting day in which Ledger wasn't going to be filmed, the actor still showed up in full Joker makeup to give his co-stars something to react to.
"So the first half of the day, until lunch, Heath is in full makeup, but the camera is shooting toward us," White recalled. "So, Heath is not on camera. And I asked [director] Christoper Nolan what we were shooting after lunch and he said we would finish up with our half of the room. And I said, 'So, you mean, Heath has gotten into makeup knowing that he is not going to be shot today?!' And he said, 'Yeah, that's right.' And I said, 'Oh, wow.'"
He added, "That was a testament to who Heath Ledger was, that this man would go through hours of makeup for the benefit of his fellow actors. He could have been in a T-shirt and jeans, but that's the kind of guy he was."
Last year saw the release of the documentary I Am Heath Ledger, which also attempted to share with fans the real person behind the performances, including his mood while filming The Dark Knight.
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[H/T The Hollywood Reporter]