Heath Ledger won an Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” While his award was posthumous, his impact on the realm of cinema and villainy lives on. An actor, in preparation for the role, often will look at various material to assimilate and channel as a performer. It would seem, according to Kotaku, that Heath Ledger channeled a little bit of Tom Waits.
Known for his raspy voice, Waits was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, however; he appeared in the film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, Heath Ledger’s final screen role. While certainly “The Dark Knight” was in the can before Ledger and Waits could have even crossed paths, the video below (courtesy of The Don Lane Show) aired in Australia in 1979. While Ledger was only just born in 1979, its all-too-eerie that not only does The Joker in “The Dark Knight” have almost the same swagger as Tom Waits, but also the same basic voice.
Mimicry is often the finest tool an actor can bring to the table, however; The Joker, as presented in “The Dark Knight”, is an amalgam of the comic book source material, the dark humor and horror of the “Batman – The Animated Series” Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill), and a riff on counter-culture figures like Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop. The concept of taking a little bit of this and a bit of that and forging something new and terrifying paid off for the late actor, as the film soared at the box office, while also earning him multiple acting awards. Many regard his performance as one of the finest villain portrayals in film history.
Regardless of whether Ledger used some of Tom Waits in his performance, the fact remains that The Joker joins legendary villains Iago (of “Othello”) and Darth Vader as one of the most terrifying menaces ever to exist, be it on screen or on paper.
Watch the footage below and decide for yourself (courtesy of Youtube/The Don Lane Show):