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Heath Ledger Wanted To Play The Joker Again

Heath Ledger's brilliant, Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight could have just been the beginning. 

In an interview with news.com.au, the late actor's sister, Kate, revealed that Ledger was incredibly excited about his work with director Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight, and he was looking forward to playing the iconic villain again in another movie.

"He was a really happy person and he had huge plans for his future ... He was so proud of what he had done in [The Dark Knight]. And I know he had plans for another Batman [movie]. He loved working with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale and Gary Oldman. He just had the best time ever doing that film," said Kate, who admitted that the "demons" one critic described Ledger as having didn't exist. "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."

She also mentioned that she spoke with Ledger the night before he died of an accidental prescription drug overdose, and the siblings spent time "laughing and joking together." Ledger's unexpected death came on January 22, 2008, six months before The Dark Knight arrived in theaters. The Australian actor was just 28 years old at the time of his passing. Ledger's daughter, Matilda Rose (whom he had with his former fiancée, actress Michelle Williams) had celebrated her second birthday only a few months prior to his death. 

The Dark Knight, one of two of Ledger's posthumous releases, opened in theaters in July 2008. Ledger's turn as the deranged criminal Joker opposite Christian Bale's Batman left fans and critics alike with their jaws dropped and their eyes misty, with nearly everyone finding the whole thing bittersweet: he had delivered what went on to be an Oscar-winning performance as one of DC Comics' most famous villains, and he'd never be able to do it again. 

Writing for The New Yorker, critic David Denby said of his experience watching The Dark Knight, "It has one startling and artful element: the sinister and frightening performance of the late Heath Ledger as the psychopathic murderer the Joker. That part of the movie is upsetting to watch, and, in retrospect, both painful and stirring to think about ... His performance is a heroic, unsettling final act: this young actor looked into the abyss."

On that note, an enduring consensus amongst fans and members of the general public is that Ledger's performance as the Joker may have led to his death in one way or another — which would suggest that the experience was far more traumatic than anyone knew and that he wouldn't have wanted to revisit the character if he got the opportunity. However, Ledger himself has said that portraying the Joker in The Dark Knight was "the most fun [he's] ever had, or probably ever will have, playing a character." 

Filmmaker Terry Gilliam — who directed Ledger in his final performance, as Tony in the fantasy flick The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – also shot down gossip about the late actor, telling The Talks that the stories about the Joker role making him unstable were all hogwash. 

"They were trying to turn him into this... that playing the Joker had made him crazy. Absolute nonsense! Heath was so solid. His feet were on the ground and he was the least neurotic person I've ever met," said Gilliam. "Heath was just great and that's why it became so impossible to understand ... Heath was not what the public thought he was. He was incredibly intelligent, generous, sweet, wise, solid as a rock, and unbelievably playful. So when he acted it was like playing, but wherever that playing went he followed it fearlessly ... there was none of this twisted neurosis that a lot of actors suffer from."

It seems clear that Ledger truly had an amazing time playing Joker, though the character was by no means an easy one to embody, and had every intention to reprise the role in a future movie. What isn't clear, however, is if The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan had planned to include Ledger in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. At the time, Nolan wasn't even sure that he himself would be back for a third film, as there wasn't an overarching narrative in place yet.

However, as Huffington Post once noted, screenwriter David Goyer had reportedly drafted an outline for two post-Batman Begins movies that would've involved the Joker. In the first film, the Joker would wreak havoc in Gotham before being caught — which is pretty much what happened in The Dark Knight. In the second movie, Harvey Dent would have prosecuted the Joker... only to have the villain toss acid (or some kind of face-melting liquid) in his face, turning Dent into Two-Face. Of course, Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart) made the transformation into Two-Face in The Dark Knight, so it's obvious that this plan was only in the formative stage.

It's tragic that we lost Ledger before we could see him don the makeup again. If Ledger had lived to churn out another Oscar-caliber performance, perhaps it would have secured more Batman movies from Nolan and an entirely different future for the DC movie universe. But at least we'll always have The Dark Knight and Ledger's haunting embodiment of the Joker to look back on. 

What we also have is more Joker heading to the big screen, as Joaquin Phoenix is bringing to life the Clown Prince of Crime in director Todd Phillips' Joker, set to hit theaters on October 4. The jury is still out on whether Phoenix's performance will surpass Ledger's, but based on the incredible response the film has gotten, we wouldn't be surprised if Phoenix becomes many fans' new favorite Joker.