The Batman Star Barry Keoghan Speaks Out on Playing Joker in Heath Ledger's Shadow

There were no shortage of surprises hiding within The Batman when it landed in theaters earlier this year, delivering a fresh take on the mythos of DC's comics. One of the biggest shocks of the film was Barry Keoghan's surprise role as The Joker, which was showcased in both one of the film's closing scenes, and an extended deleted scene released after the film's release. Keoghan is far from the first or last person to play The Joker onscreen, with some legendary portrayals by other actors preceding him — and according to the actor, Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn was particularly intimidating.

"It's very intimidating [playing the Joker]," Keoghan explained in a recent interview with Collider. "Heath Ledger was the best for me. So you have a lot of people to draw from and that. But again, you bring your version to it. That's what I do with any character I play, is no one has seen my version of it. And again, going back to it, I don't want to be like so-and-so, and follow that method and that method. I want to do me. I want to bring my version, because I feel that is new in a way, and unique, that when you bring your version no one has seen it. And that may make people relate to it. So it was intimidating, but I was excited for it."

Will The Joker be in The Batman 2?

While The Batman 2 is in the early stages of arriving onscreen, Keoghan has openly expressed a desire to return to the role. Additionally, director and co-writer Matt Reeves has shed a bit more light on how his film's iteration of the character came to be.

"He's held in this very suspenseful way, away from you visually. But I wanted to create an iteration of him that felt distinctive and new, but went right back to the roots," Reeves previously told IGN. "So he's very much out of the Conrad Veidt mold and that idea of the silent film of The Man Who Laughs."

"He can never stop smiling. And it made Mike [Marino] and I think about — I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch. And I was like, 'Well, maybe there's something here where it's not something where he fell in a vat of chemicals or it's not the [Christopher] Nolan thing where he has these scars and we don't know where they came from," Reeves explained. "What if this is something that he's been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he's had this very dark reaction to it, and he's had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head.'"