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Joker Forever: Christopher Nolan on Heath Ledger, ten years after his death

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Jan 23, 2018, 12:50 PM EST

For legions of Batman fans, Heath Ledger of the Dark Knight trilogy is and always will be the definitive cinematic Joker. If memes and T-shirts and quotes and cosplay are any indication (and we think they are), his fandom likely eclipses that of any one Batman.

A generation lives by his job advice, (“If you’re good at something, never do it for free,”) and if he didn’t single-handedly invent the now all-pervasive slow-clap, he certainly brought it to our attention. On Jan. 22, the 10th anniversary of Ledger’s tragic death at the age of 28, Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan got a chance to remember this iconic role, and the powerhouse actor responsible for it, in a new interview with BBC Radio 1.


"A lot of what Heath did he would discuss with me," said Nolan of that famous slow-clap, which was Ledger’s idea. "He'd sort of give me hints of what he was going to do, and we'd talk about it a bit and I would try to be an audience for him, sort of gauge with him what he was doing, but… I think he wanted to play his cards a little close to the chest." Sounds like the Joker to us.

And what about that off-the-wall, careening Joker voice Ledger perfected?

“He would very gradually reveal to me the voice, and the way he was going to do things, but not in one go, like, ‘Oh, here’s the Joker’,” said Nolan. “On set there were always moments like that clapping and things he would do with his voice. His voice was so unpredictable. He created this bizarre pitch. I’ve seen a lot of people try to imitate it since… You never knew what that guy was going to do, and that’s what was terrifying about it.”

Terrifying, in the best way. For more on Ledger’s posthumous Oscar, watch the video above, then let us know in the comments what you think made Ledger's performance so memorable.