Ledger Apparently Would Have Wanted It This Way as Posthumous Joker Hype Grows

The AP's Dave Germain has quite the feverish, myth-churning Heath Ledger tribute making the rounds today, positioning the late actor's final film The Dark Knight as "arguably the biggest movie featuring a posthumous role in Hollywood history." But don't get your hopes up! The A-list parade of Ledger devotees that follows keeps his subtlety and charm as the Joker in ever-modest perspective:

"It was punk, it was A Clockwork Orange, it was druggie. It was this kind of fantastic, anarchic look to him. This character who had absolutely no rules whatsoever," said Christian Bale, who returns as rich guy Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter-ego Batman. "That's not like any Joker I've ever seen before, what I saw Heath do." ...

"What I found in watching the movie myself is that you're not looking at the actor, you're not looking at the friend, you're not looking at the colleague," [said director Christopher Nolan.] "You're looking at the Joker. ... He inhabits this character, and it's an extraordinary icon, so it's easy to enjoy it on that level, just as a great piece of acting." ...

"He came out of the bloody lift like a whirlwind," [Michael] Caine recalled. "They said, `It's your line, Michael.' I said, `What is it?' Extraordinary. It will be one of the characters of next year, the Joker as played by him."

Germain notes that previous posthumously released films featuring the likes of James Dean, Spencer Tracy and both Bruce and Brandon Lee all managed wide audiences in the wake of their stars' deaths, as unfortunate a box-office boost as a film can possibly have. But other dead stars Natalie Wood and John Candy just couldn't open, and as such, the Dark Knight hype overlords are leaving nothing to chance with Bale and Co.'s inscrutable technical readings and even a rumored viral campaign of mini-hagiographies — I AM NOT OVER YOU, HEATH LEDGER — scrawled across trees, taxis and buses citywide. Keep your eyes peeled.