This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, one of the finest superhero films ever assembled for caped crusader fans worldwide. Much has been made of the late Heath Ledger's particular take on the Joker in the follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins and his troubled state of mind after shooting wrapped. But the mercurial actor's sister, Kate Ledger, has been vocal in denying rumors that Ledger was suffering from severe depression.
With celebratory screenings occurring around the country this year, the topic of Ledger's greasy-haired, lip-licking crime lord will be dissected and debated even further. The Australian actor passed away on January 22, 2008, of an accidental drug overdose but apparently was hopeful for and anticipating a return engagement in a potential third installment of the Dark Knight saga.
In an interview with Australian news agency News.com last year, right before the I Am Heath Ledger documentary was released, Kate Ledger reminded fans that Ledger was not the morose, withdrawn young thespian he was being made out to be.
She instead offered new enlightening insights after she'd spoken with him right before he passed away:
“I spoke to him the night before (he died) and we were laughing and joking.
“He was so proud of what he had done in Batman. And I know he had plans for another Batman. He loved working with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale and Gary Oldman. He just had the best time ever doing that film.
“When he came home at Christmas he couldn’t wait to tell us all about it and he was doing the voice and laughing, showing me all the rushes. We had a great time.”
While Ledger was given a posthumous prize in the Best Supporting Actor category at that year's Academy Awards, there was no official green light from Warner Bros. for a third movie immediately prior to or following the film's theatrical run, and therefore never any concrete preconceived plans for the Joker to star as the main villain in another sequel alongside Christian Bale.
Ledger's inspired performance in the 2008 blockbuster has been anointed as one of the greatest iterations of the Clown Prince of Crime. When Nolan came back aboard The Dark Knight Rises project and worked out a story outline in December of 2008 with David Goyer, they respectfully did not include or recast the Joker character and instead opted for the muscle-bound hulk Bane, who broke the Batman's back in DC's famous Knightfall storyline from 1993.
The Joker was completely omitted from the final 2012 film chapter but did garner a brief mention in the official The Dark Knight Rises novelization by Greg Cox as a lone inmate at Gotham's notorious Arkham Asylum.
The Dark Knight Rises went on to cross the billion-dollar box-office mark with Tom Hardy playing the Venom-infused brute Bane, leaving Goyer's earlier potential tale of the Joker's trial at the hands of Harvey Dent a mere footnote in history.
Would you have liked to see Ledger back in the Joker's greasepaint and lipstick, or were you satisfied with Bane becoming the big baddie?