Heath Ledger’s Joker Wins Oscar

Sunday 22nd, February 2009 / 20:07 Written by
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:

I know why you’re afraid to go out at night… The Batman.

I know the truth: there’s no going back. You’ve changed things… forever.

How about a magic trick?

Why So Serious?

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.

In a fitting tribute to Oscar-winning actor, Heath Ledger, why not vote for your favourite image of him in our current photo competition?

To put a smile on your face we’re even giving away $100 for the best picture.

Just enter by uploading your photo and you could be a winner too!

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Ree Saunders

About the author

Surfer, blogger and social media addict, Ree has definitely already seen that funny video you just posted on Facebook. He loves taking his kids on adventures (Instagram opportunities) and if his old body can take it, surfing the raging left-hand tubes of Indonesia or his native Jeffreys Bay beaches in South Africa. Otherwise, he'll be surfing the raging YouTubes instead.

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14 Comments on “Heath Ledger’s Joker Wins Oscar

    • Wow! Another Heath Ledger skeptic. Didn’t you see “The Dark Knight”? Only Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is a better villain than him.

  • Ledger won because of an outstanding performance and creating a villian so scary and true, no other actor would dare trying to fill the shoes he left hanging… Ledger passed on… with a BANG!!!

  • R.I.P you were the best Joker on Earth, unfortunately there are a bunch of idiots who don’t recognize it and don’t respect a dead legend like you Ledger.

  • The Joker is Jesus Christ, man! Only the “chosen few” can hear his message… There is no sympathy in modern society – only pity.

  • Ledger was and still is an amazing Joker, he will always be. And hooey, go and watch the film, cos you obviously haven’t if you think Heath only got an Oscar out of pity and sympathy. He deserved it by miles.

  • Of all the Batman movies, I think the original with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson will always be my favorite. It’s a classic and it doesn’t overdo it with technology of the Batmobile and craziness and a somehow unbelieveable success rate of escaping a robbed bank with concrete dust still coming off the bus and nothing brought up about how the driver, that was cut off by the bank bus, reported anything. Aside from that and, at the same time, including that… the entire movie was something to just sit back and enjoy as well as hold onto the edge of your seat. Christian Bale did his thing, making his portrayal of Batman great and worthy of being placed alongside Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman.

    HOWEVER, I believe that ALTHOUGH Jack Nicholson gave us a performance that truly makes your head spin, once one takes the time to put himself into the mindset to be so creative with gases and potions and poisons and the classic “this guy is nuts” Joker appearance, Heath Ledger overstepped that marker that is so firmly placed by Nicholson, that there is now (and FOREVER will be) a much higher and much more maniacally-twisted footprint left in the title of The Joker. In addition, simply the understanding and preparation for such a footprint would believably draw a person to madness.

    I feel it is a tragic shame that Heath Ledger is passed and we shall no longer experience a new standard that he has set for not only the role of The Joker, but an acting performance and dedication to a character that he has also set for himself. Do you believe Heath Ledger was the better Joker, all performance points considered? Jack Nicholson is great but, Heath Ledger TRANSFORMED himself for this role. If he had not left us so soon and in such a tragic way, think about him accepting his awards for his portrayal of The Joker. You wouldn’t even recognize the talent that you saw on screen. Millions would wonder, ‘How did I just see this movie and now he’s so easily presenting himself as he would had he not done the role?’ I believe many would agree that THAT is a man loyal to his role, THAT is an actor, and THAT is a legend. And He Will Be Remembered As One.


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