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Get a peek at the 'Joker Diary' Heath Ledger created for Dark Knight

Contributed by
May 31, 2013

Now's your chance to glimpse a rare relic from one of the most acclaimed performances in comic-book movie history.

The late Heath Ledger was known for his intense preparation before taking on a role, and his work to develop the Joker for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight has become the stuff of legend. Ledger's tragic death on Jan. 22, 2008, at the age of just 28 meant that the Joker would be his final completed film role, and when The Dark Knight was released in August of that year, it was met with instant, almost universal acclaim. Ledger posthumously earned both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and many fans still talk about his Joker as one of the greatest pieces of cinematic villainy ever. But sadly, Ledger never got to speak much about the performance, and much of what we know about how he crafted the role has come to us through the memories of others who worked on the film.

The video above offers us a rare chance to see with our own eyes some of the work Ledger did before ever going in front of Nolan's camera. It's a one-minute excerpt from a documentary titled Too Young to Die, and features Ledger's father Kim leafing through the "Joker Diary" that Ledger wrote while preparing for the role. The clip is dubbed in French, but here's a rough translation of what Kim Ledger is saying about his son's work.

"This is the Joker's diary. In order to inhabit his character, he (Heath) locked himself up in a hotel room for weeks. He would do that. He liked to dive into his characters, but this time he really took it up a notch."

"The hospital scene is interesting because when he was a kid, his sister Kate liked to dress him up as a nurse. He was really funny like that. He also was in the movie. This is a make-up test which was done eight months before. Before the end of the shooting he wrote 'bye bye' on the back of the page. It was hard to see this."

We can't see much of what Ledger wrote in the diary, but we can see several images of Malcolm McDowell's Alex from the classic 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, as well as images of hyenas, clowns and clippings of the Joker from comic books. On the table next to the diary is the Oscar that Ledger's family accepted on his behalf in 2009. 

Check out the clip above. It's a fascinating and sadly brief look into the making of one of the great performances in comic-book cinema, but also a sad reminder of a great talent gone too soon.

(Via The Film Stage)

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