Heath Ledger’s Joker Wins Oscar
Heath Ledger saw off stiff competition to win an Oscar for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, beating Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Shannon and Josh Brolin.
Why So Successful?
Here’s Why – Ledger’s Oscar-winning moments:
Whilst Ledger was the ‘obvious’ choice for the award, his Oscar was by no means guaranteed. The Academy has made some strange decisions before now and history was certainly against Ledger. Whilst in music, being dead is reason enough to win an award, the Academy rarely plumps for the ‘sympathy vote’; Ledger becomes only the second actor ever to win a posthumous Oscar.
The last posthumous Oscar was awarded to Peter Finch in 1976 for his performance in Network, so Heath Ledger joins a very exclusive club indeed for his award. The Academy is also notorious for neglecting the horribly labelled ‘popcorn’ films such as The Dark Knight, preferring more serious and realistic dramas; in this too, Ledger has broken the mould thanks to a magnificent performance.
Ledger was also nominated against Philip Seymour Hoffman, who had been favoured previously by the Academy over Ledger. In 2005, both actors were in the running for the Best Actor award for their performances in Brokeback Mountain and Capote.
Philip Seymour Hoffman triumphed four years ago for his portrayal of Truman Capote, even though Ledger’s performance as the homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain was the tipped favourite for the award and arguably the better performance.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is fraught with oversights of superb actors who have been nominated but never won the statuette. Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris and, incredibly, Al Pacino have each been nominated three times for the award without winning it.
Despite history being against him, Heath Ledger thoroughly deserves his place in Oscar history for a truly stunning performance as The Joker. Co-star Gary Oldman told MTV: “I think it’s one of the most psychologically scariest screen villains ever; I think it out-villains Hannibal Lecter.”
In a newly galvanised chapter in the Batman series, Batman Begins was incredibly dark, edgy and undeniably believable for a comic-book superhero film. Putting The Joker, a larger than life hysterical clown, into this setting could have been fatal.
Ledger redefined the iconic role, playing it to perfection. Whereas Jack Nicholson’s Joker played on the crudely comic nature of the clown, including a hand-buzzer which electrified a man to death and a squirting daffodil filled with acid, Heath Ledger’s Joker was a psychopathic creature of chaos, brutally violent and completely indifferent to morality.
When Nicholson delivered the trademark Joker cackle it was kooky; when Ledger laughed, it was maniacal and scary. The Dark Knight raised the bar for superhero films and largely thanks to Ledger’s performance, set a precedent for outrageous yet all too credible villains.
Ledger had already won the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Guild Award for his portrayal of The Joker. The Oscar completes the set for undoubtedly his strongest performance, in which his 20 minutes on screen dominated a two and a half hour movie.
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