Will Heath Ledger’s Death Affect The Dark Knight?

Heath Ledger PictureSome may take offense to the fact that I may appear more concerned about the next Batman movie than Heath Ledger, but that is not my intent with this article. Heath Ledger’s death was shocking and a little depressing, considering that he was a great and underrated actor who, I believe, was on the verge of breaking through to becoming a huge star. But if you are a Batman fan, you must admit that seconds after learning of Heath Ledger’s death, you thought of the upcoming movie The Dark Knight and how it will be affected by the situation.

The good news is that assuming to IMDB, The Dark Knight (2008), directed by Christopher Nolan, is in post-production, which, with exception to a major film fire (knock on wood, Ledger’s scenes should all be complete. Of course, there always chances of needed reshoots or additional scenes to be filmed, but I don’t see Nolan as someone who often does stuff like this – and I don’t see the WB tampering with the director’s vision. I have looked around on the Internet for other articles about this topic, but have yet to find anything too substantial. Most are just re-iterating the news story, which you can read here. The basics are that Ledger fell victim to drug abuse and either accidentally overdosed or killed himself (since he was found surrounded by pills), which is a fuzzy line anyway.

Will The Dark Knight be pushed back at all, my boss asked. Highly unlikely. The Dark Knight is WB’s tentpole release of the summer, and buzz is high. Also, with the film’s release several months away, there is really no emotional obligation to put things on hold. Even if The Dark Knight were to open this Friday, I doubt the WB would push back the release.

Some fans are concerned that the ending of The Dark Knight will be changed. I don’t know what fans have heard, but there seems to be some assumptions that The Joker lives at the end (based on the fact that Ledger allegedly had signed on for a sequel). The worries surround the thought that The Joker may escape at the end, and thus the WB would be forced to deal with a situation where they would have to tie up loose ends. To this, I say these worries are unfounded: more than likely, The Joker will survive (didn’t they learn their lesson with Tim Burton’s Batman?) but will be incarcerated. The other option, if he doesn’t get killed, is that he escapes, though I find this a bit unlikely since The Dark Knight is probably Nolan’s last Batman film – and who would want to end a comic book film with the villain “winning” unless you plan to wrap up the story later on? And even if The Joker does escape, who cares? You can just drop the storyline for the next film or, heaven forbid, get yet another actor to play the creepy Batman foe.

Anyway, unless I hear otherwise, I will assume that all of Heath Ledger’s scenes have been filmed and that the movie will be released on time (presumably with a “In memory of Heath Ledger” at the beginning or end). Of course, with Ledger’s life cut short at age 28, that means we’ve been denied a good fifty or sixty years of quality acting. While some people shrugged Ledger off as a pretty face, remember that he turned in an Oscar-worthy performance in Brokeback Mountain, was great in I’m Not There, and was poised to break out in The Dark Knight. After all, how many actors get so much positive buzz just from a movie trailer?

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movies
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