I finally watched The Dark Knight the other day. When I first saw Heath Ledger on the screen I thought, 'Oh I wish I hadn't heard so much about his performance because it won't be as good as the hype.' And it wasn't. It was better.
What struck me the most about his acting was that he created a three-dimensional role with a character that had nothing: no objective, no backstory, no love, no ambition. During the movie Lt. Gordon says with regards to The Joker, "[We've got] Nothing. No match on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pocket but knives and lint. No name, no other alias."
Although I've been in theater for many years, I have never seen an actor create a character as fully realized as The Joker with so little to go on. Even the story about how he got his scars changes with each victim.
And in the movie, we don't see Heath Ledger at all, just The Joker. The Bagger talks about it in a recent blog post.
It does make me wonder if this character messed with Mr. Ledger's head. I've heard from stage actors about characters that they could not let go of. They've said they've gone through a 'dark night of the soul,' trying to return to normal.
Of course I am only speculating because of his untimely death. Had he not died...but then I wonder what he would have been like?
And, I guess I wonder because I didn't sleep a wink after watching the movie. I tossed and turned and thought about that character -- how does an actor do that?
Should he be nominated or even win an Oscar? I don't know but it was a damn good performance.