Heath Ledger?s performance in ?The Dark Knight? is being hailed as ?worthy of a nomination? or ? a sure thing for a nomination? meaning the few press showings of the movie have already stirred up the ultimate Hollywood compliment. His portrayal of ?The Joker? should earn Heath an Academy Award nod. The praise is painful comfort to those who loved him and a way of coping with the shocking loss to those who saw his brilliant work unfolding. Christian Bale, who stars as Batman, told me that he hopes the movie will be ?a celebration? of Ledger?s work.
The early rave reviews for ?The Dark Knight? can?t totally make up for the sadness and imbalance the cast and film makers feel without Heath there to do publicity for the film or bask in the kudos.
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who together composed the music for the film, felt the intensity of the production coming together early on. They understood that they were seeing a depiction of good and evil that mirrors today?s world. Then with the news of Heath?s death they were thrown off guard.
Zimmer revealed to me the feelings he put into the music he helped create for the movie. ?It was so inconceivable, you know, when we heard about this. Actually, I for a moment was thinking, ?Oh my God, I should throw out all the music I?ve written for the Joker and just start over again.? Which is just exactly the wrong thing to do. And I mean, I can never find a better word for it but to honor his performance, I had to stick to my guns. The music has to portray the philosophy of anarchy that the Joker displays in the face of Batman?s valor. I couldn?t soften the music or compromise the evil he projects because Heath really did give such a tremendous performance . If I had taken my eye off the ball, if I had been sentimental, if I had done anything like that, it would really have not served him.?
Howard shared similar emotions with me. ?I agree with that. And I think ultimately his performance is so electrifying in the movie that if he has the ability to look down upon any of this, and I think he would be certainly pleased that his character was honored by, certainly on our end, by writing the music that is most appropriate to that performance.?
The day news hit of Ledger?s death I got countless phone calls. As a journalist who knew Heath I was asked to describe the mood in Hollywood while the word spread. Most of the calls were from others who knew Heath and were calling around in a way that was a prayer that they would reach someone, anyone, who might say, ?Wow, it?s all a mistake. He?s fine. Nothing as horrible as this could happen to someone so young and so promising.? He of course, did not live to fulfill his promise except on screen. And with that he leaves a stunning legacy.