Daniel Day-Lewis reveals why Heath Ledger was the 'perfect' actor
For many people, Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight will go down in history as one of the greatest character portrayals there has ever been. The role is largely attributed to Ledger's extreme method acting technique - with it being widely reported that he would lock himself away for days on end in order to fully immerse himself in the psyche of The Joker.
However, for some people, Ledger's career is hard to view objectively due to the fact that he died at the age of 28. The argument is that if Ledger hadn't died shortly after finishing his portrayal of The Joker, would people hold it in the same regard? Yes, he played the character expertly, but, due to the fact that he passed shortly before the film was released, the role already has an air of mythology around it - it was already his character.
Someone who certainly agreed with this line of thought was David Thomson. In a think-piece for The Guardian, Thomson argues that while Ledger may have been put on a posthumous pedestal when Batman was released, his career may have spiralled if he had not died. He wrote:
"Ledger in his early 20s was a young hunk, a nice-looking fellow with some pride and panache. He is watchable in The Patriot, Monster’s Ball and Casanova, and helpless in many other things.
"His very success as the Joker almost certainly means he would have been offered loads of money to spin off a Joker franchise. And one day soon, that might have seemed like a prison as grim as Mission: Impossible."
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion on the actor and not everyone will agree. On actor who certainly holds Ledger in extremely high-regard, is Daniel Day-Lewis.
Lewis, who is one of the most decorated actors of all time, described Ledger as the "perfect actor." During a speech at The Screen Actors Guild awards in 2009, Lewis took the time to praise the other actors in his category - particularly Heath Ledger.
"The thing that gave me a sense of wonderment, of renewal, the thing that teased me with the question 'How is such a thing possible?' and then 'Dare you go back into the arena one more time?' with longing and self-doubt jostling in the balance - it's always been the work of other actors.
"There are many actors in this room tonight, including my fellow nominees who've given me that regeneration. Heath Ledger gave it to me. In Monster's Ball, that character that he created seemed to be almost an unformed being retreating from themselves, retreating from his father, from his life, even retreating from us - and yet we wanted to follow him and yet were scared to follow him, almost.
"He was just unique and then of course in Brokeback Mountain he was unique, he was perfect. That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I think I've ever seen and I'd like to dedicate this to Heath Ledger."
It's a testament to the regard other actors held Ledger in that, during his own acceptance speech, Day-Lewis felt the need to dedicate his award to the late actor.
It seems remarkable that it has been 10 years since Ledger passed and, given that today is his birthday, it only seems right to remind ourselves of what a wonderful talent he was. While it's true that his career could've spiraled, it could've also gone the other way. Who knows what he would've gone on to achieve?