This Post-Ledger World Is Strange

The post title above is not mine but a statement of my friend Al which I think well expressed the somewhat unexpected feelings prompted by this least expected of all Hollywood deaths.

There are some interesting comments in Variety about how the marketing of TDK, if not the film itself, will be affected by Ledger’s death:

Principal photography on “The Dark Knight” finished in the fall; as of Tuesday, the pic is still skedded for a July 18 bow. The status of the pic’s marketing campaign, however, is uncertain. The first phase is built around the Joker and pics of his character are particularly ghoulish. Warner execs were still grappling with the news on Tuesday and had no comment on how they would proceed. . . .

The “Dark Knight” rollout will present more than a few challenges en route to opening weekend. One poster shows the Joker character drawing a clown’s smile on a mirror with red lipstick and scrawling the words, “Why So Serious?” Tagline was also used to launch a Joker-centric website that the studio used to bow new photos from the pic and a viral scavenger hunt, among other games.

“The Joker character is dealing with chaos and life and death and a lot of dark themes,” one insider with knowledge of the campaign said. “Everyone is going to interpret every line out of his mouth in a different way now.”

I just hope that Nolan & Co. resist the temptation to re-cut the film for sentimental reasons, either to include more Ledger screen time or to make it less disturbing than what was originally intended. But I’m fairly confident Nolan will trust and stand by his pre-Jan. 22 artistic intuition. Hopefully the studio won’t lean on Nolan to exploit Ledger’s death more than the movie is already going to do anyway.

But it sounds like the Joker might not have been too important to a third Batman movie, as Nolan said a couple weeks ago that he doesn’t really have a character arc in TDK:

“Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film…. The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film — he’s got no story arc, he’s just a force of nature tearing through. Heath has given an amazing performance in the role, it’s really extraordinary.”

It will be impossible ever to enjoy this performance on its own terms now. His role, and the movie itself, will now be so overshadowed by everything outside the film, that it will be difficult not only to evaluate the movie sensibly but even to experience it without thinking about the actor instead of the character whenever Ledger is on screen.

However, Ledger is an extraodinary actor — his was the only good male performance in Brokeback Mountain, I remind you — and he may just be good enough to make us momentarily forget about his own death during his farewell performance.

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9 thoughts on “This Post-Ledger World Is Strange

  1. ? says:

    I felt pretty desperately sad during all the news coverage, and couldn’t believe it when I heard it. He’s one of the first major young stars of our generation to die, and I will miss him very much.

    Do you listen to the 6ths?

  2. Nobody says:

    I think you’re right about that. I was really surprised by how much the news startled me. I never considered myself a Ledger fan though I admit to having increased my admiration for him just because of his connection to Nolan and Batman.

    But I felt nothing from Anna Nicole’s death and the only other young celebrity death I can think of in the recent past is River Phoenix, but he was ten years older than me and I hadn’t seen any of his movies except maybe Indy 3. Ledger by contrast was only a year and a half older than me.

    I admit I’ve spent the last year looking forward to seeing Ledger in two upcoming Batman movies so when Al texted me he’d been found dead I felt part of my own future had been taken from me. The only thing more devastating would be if Christian Bale had died. That would be even more personal however since Bale was a childhood hero of mine ever since watching Newsies a dozen times in a row.

    I’ve never heard the 6ths, what have they got?

  3. jeri says:

    Speaking of Newsies… “Santa Fe! Santa Fe!”

    At first, I was surprised by how much this has seemed to affect everyone. Looking at Ledger’s history, I see a list with a lot of bad movies. But I think we all knew that he had great potential, as evidenced by his performance in Brokeback Mountain. I think we’re mourning his potential career and impact on our lives. And, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for his performance in 10 Things I Hate About You.

  4. Nobody says:

    That’s true, and by all accounts Ledger was embarrassed that he allowed studios to market him and put him in starring roles before he had a chance to find out if he was any good at acting or not. He finally started choosing interesting projects in the lats few years and he definitely went out on an upward trajectory with a final performance that is nothing if not memorable.

  5. ? says:

    I’ve never been a Ledger fanatic, but it was still upsetting, especially an actor whom I really admired. Bale dying would be absolutely tragic… American Psycho is my favorite movie.

    The 6ths is Stephen Merritt (The Magnetic Fields)’s side project (one of the millions of side projects) and it’s quite good. Hyacinths and Thistles is pretty astoundingly beautiful, especially the song You You You You You, featuring Katherine Whalen (ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers). And the song ‘As You Turn to Go’, lovely. Very strange stuff, especially their first album, Wasps Nests. Kind of late ninties vibe… I like it.

  6. Nobody says:

    I too love American Psycho and ever since Batman Begins I’ve had a weekly craving to re-watch my DVD but never get around to it. I’d always rather watch a movie I haven’t seen before.

    I’ll look into the 6ths, I saw a review online that compared Hyacinths and Thistles to Jacques Brel which piqued my interest.

  7. ? says:

    I watch American Psycho just about every week, and I’ve pretty much memorized it. I’ve read the book several times but it’s a bit much. I just think the satire is so brilliant, and it was one of the first movies that I could really dissect on my own, the themes seemed so clear and linear, greed, power, sexuality and the necessary end of all those who crave and cannot satiate. I’ve often meant to write a feminist critique of American Psycho, because I think it is weirdly feminist, but that takes explaining.

    I did post a top ten music list here: agoodmanishardtofind.org

  8. Nobody says:

    I think my favorite part is when he’s describing the business card and he’s so jealous that he’s sweating. My understanding is that B.E.E. hates the movie because Mary Harron’s distinctly feminist interpretation is too different from the book, but I’ve never read the book so I don’t know what the differences are.

    SPOILERS: It’s been a few years but my memory is that the movie refused to say whether the murders were imagined or not. Things like the car exploding from one bullet are decidedly surreal, but the most ambiguous moment for me was the real estate agent in the empty apartment. Her comments could be cited as evidence for either interpretation. The implication that she found the bodies and would rather cover up the murders is tres disturbing. END SPOILERS.

    What do you think of Avary’s Rules of Attraction? I think it’s underrated and apparently BEE considers it the best adaptation of his work.

  9. ? says:

    I’ve shown that business card scene several times when asked to provide a favorite film scene, or also to illustrate the importance of a well-designed business card. Mary Harron is (I believe) a lesbian, and I think that of any feminists, a lesbian feminist might be the best kind to tackle the story. There’s also a wealth of quotes, “I’m not going anywhere unless we have a reservation.”

    Spoilers?: The movie and the book are unclear as to whether any of the murders actually occur, there are plenty of clues both ways.
    But, we can say with Abelard, does it even matter? It’s as good as done, and the suffering he feels is real, even if the actions are not. The murders and grotesque sexuality could be seen more as symbolic of his attempts to feel anything at all, to connect even in the most base of ways with anyone at all. End spoilers.

    I’ve only seen half of Rules of Attraction, and I was very much not a fan. Of course I was 15 or so at the time… I’ve not read the book. I should give it another try.

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