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.