Marvel's Jonathan Majors Reveals How Heath Ledger's Joker Inspired Him

2008's The Dark Knight wasn't just influential on Hollywood and the summer blockbuster: it had a life-changing impact on Jonathan Majors. Today, the 33-year-old rising actor is starring in two of the most anticipated movies of the year, playing the time master Kang the Conqueror in Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantuamania and the hard-hitting Damian Anderson in Creed III. Yet another Majors starrer, the bodybuilder drama Magazine Dreams, is garnering acclaim at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. In a way, it's his role as the next big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that's bringing Majors' blossoming career full circle.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Majors recalled how Heath Ledger's scene-stealing performance as Batman villain the Joker in The Dark Knight inspired him as an aspiring actor:

"Okay, first of all, he's gorgeous," Majors said of Ledger. "He's got that f---ing jawline, and he didn't give a f---. He threw his body around. He was so full. And I went, 'I'm coming for that. I'm inspired.' It takes a lot, you feel me? To be inspired."

Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his instantly-iconic role in director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins sequelwhich Majors recognized in an essay for Variety as complex, challenging — and one of the greatest films of all time. And Ledger's Joker, Majors wrote, is among "the most complex characters to ever grace the silver screen." It was a complexity that the then-18-year-old Majors recognized in his own life. 

"The way I grew up, the people I grew up around, drug dealers, killers, murderers, everybody was just coming out of jail. Everybody had an ankle monitor on. So I knew the complexity of the guys I grew up with," he explained to EW. "Yeah, you did do that, but you also did this. And what I saw in Heath, and in everything he did, was: It's this and that."

In the way that Ledger's clown prince of crime was often recognized as the standout in a film filled with standouts, critics are already calling Majors' Kang a highlight in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania early reactions. Full circle.

"There's pressure and there's all the support," Majors said of joining a superhero franchise as big as the MCU. "From [president of Marvel Studios Kevin] Feige to [producer Stephen] Broussard to [Loki co-star] Tom Hiddleston, [who] texts me every now and then just saying, 'What's up?' That's been awesome."

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, William Jackson Harper, Katy O'Brian, David Dastmalchian, Bill Murray, and Jonathan Majors, Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens only in theaters February 17th.