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Surprise Reprise

by Steve Payne



Author's notes says, what if if Jack Nicholson played the Joker in The Dark Knight?

In 2007, director of The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan made an unexpected offer - would seventy-year old actor Jack Nicholson reprise his 1989 potrayal of the role of The Joker following Heath Ledger's withdrawal on mental health grounds? Click to watch the interview

In which Jack Nicholson makes an unexpected comeback

Ledger had been chosen to portray the Joker, whom the actor described as a 'psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy'. Director Christopher Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past, but had been unable to do so. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he realized a way to make the character work in that film's tone, and Nolan agreed with his anarchic interpretation.

To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice and psychology.

While he initially found it difficult, Ledger was eventually able to generate a voice that did not sound like Jack Nicholson's take on the character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film.He started a diary, in which he wrote the Joker's thoughts and feelings to guide himself during his performance.

He was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth to read, which he really tried to read [...] and put it down.

Ledger also cited inspirations such as A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious, which were a very early starting point for Christian [Bale] and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether. There's a bit of everything in him. There's nothing that consistent, Ledger said, adding that There are a few more surprises to him.

Bringing the Joker back to the big screen invited a wave of speculation over his depiction. Before Ledger was confirmed in July 2006, Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role.

Jack Nicholson jokingly expressed anger at not being invited to reprise the part: You can't believe the reasons things do or don't happen. Not asking me how to do the sequel is that kind of thing, he said. Maybe it's not a mistake. Maybe it was the right thing, but to be candid, I'm furious. After the trailer was released, director Guillermo del Toro and comic book writer Jeph Loeb lavished praise upon Ledger, while Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Paul Dini said, He seems more street than any other version of the Joker [...] His attitude is mordant and sardonic as opposed to manic [...] No goofy gags or puns for him. This Joker doesn't split sides: he splits skulls. Mark Hamill, who voiced the part on The Animated Series, said The balls-out debauched psycho approach seems like a great way of reinventing everyone's favorite scary (and scar-y) clown.

Frighteningly close to a complete mental collapse, Ledger had quit the set shortly after filming started. Ledger stated that his role preparation had taken a toll on his ability to sleep: Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. ... I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going. At that time, he told Lyall that he had taken two Ambien pills, after taking just one had not sufficed, and those left him in a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing.

It was tremendously emotional, right when he quit Nolan recalled. But the truth is, his potrayal was just too Marlon Brando. With Jack Nicholson I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish.

Author's notes says, on Thursday 8th November 2007 Jack Nicholson was reportedly 'furious' Heath Ledger was selected to play the Joker in the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight".

Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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