Reflecting on Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ Diary

September 4, 2015

How do actors get into character? The possibilities are endless! But we can get a glimpse into the techniques Heath Ledger used to get into character of the nefarious Joker from The Dark Knight Rises. Indeed, Ledger kept a diary entitled, “The Joker” to help him fully commit to his iconic role. Although he was known to fully immerse himself in each of his parts, according to his father, Heath took it up a notch for The Joker. Locking himself up in a hotel room and then his apartment for about a month, he used the diary to “inhabit his character.” Heath once stated that by the end of those weeks he landed “in the realm of a psychopath.”

A clip from the German documentary titled Too Young to Die reveals Heath’s father, Kim Ledger, sharing some of the charismatic actor’s Joker journal. It contains handwritten notes, scrawled-out dialogue, as well as sources of inspiration including Batman comic book clips, playing cards, photos of Alex DeLearge from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, and even a hyena which may have inspired the Joker’s style of disturbing laughter.

Heath explored how his dimented character would look by playing with Francis Bacon-inspired makeup to get the right look, and adding the made-up photo of himself to his diary.  Before the final days of the shoot, Heath wrote “BYE BYE” on the last page of the diary. His father said, “It was hard to see this.” Sadly, Heath passed too soon after playing The Joker due to accidental intoxication from abusing prescription drugs at the age of 28. Of course, the late Ledger won an Oscar for his terrifying portrayal of the villainous Joker.

For those of you who’d like to watch the whole Too Young to Die documentary, it’s available through Vimeo.