Yesterday, Heath Ledger participated in a press conference in midtown Manhattan for what is likely be one of the more well-regarded movies of the year, Todd Haynes‘ insightful Bob Dylan-tribute movie, I’m Not There.
We’ll have more on the import of this unique movie as the November 21 release date approaches. But one thing Ledger said about the giants who came before him was telling and touching in its way. When asked about his future role as The Joker in The Dark Knight, Ledger admitted that he wouldn’t have taken the role of The Joker if Tim Burton had asked him to do the role. He said he respected Jack Nicholson’s work with Burton too much to try to create a new Joker with Burton when Jack’s portrayal was so near to perfect. But Ledger felt that he could come up with a newly conceived character with director Chris Nolan. He’s said to MTV that the character has ‘zero empathy,’ indicating a more sociopathic, serial-killer-like Joker may be in store for us.
But Ledger’s comment about Nicholson is not unusual for younger actor who must reinvent characters created by the Hollywood legends who came before them. For instance, read what Naomi Watts had to say about Fay Wray when reprising the legend’s role in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, "It was on my mind, definitely, before I started filming. It did concern
me, and I really played that out. It’s such an iconic part and it’s
such a lot to live up to…We had a nice dinner and chit-chatted. At the end of the night, we
dropped her home to her house and she got out of the car. We all kissed
and hugged, and she whispered in my ear, ‘Ann Darrow’s in good hands.’
And that was a special [connection.] That was some great passing words
because it felt like she was giving me permission, and I was given the
baton, you know?"