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Heath Ledger Wanted Christian Bale To Hit Him For Real In The Dark Knight

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Heath Ledger didn't want Christian Bale to pull any punches on the set of The Dark Knight.

The Hollywood Reporter has excerpts of interviews with Bale and director Christopher Nolan from the new book 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, and Bale told author Joseph McCabe back in 2008 that Ledger was deeply immersed inside his character.

"Our first scene was in an interrogation room together, and I saw that he's a helluva actor who's completely committed to it and totally gets the tone that Chris [Nolan] is trying to create with this," Bale said. "We're not going for actors revealing their enjoyment of playing a wacky caricature. We're treating this as serious drama. You go into character and you stay in the character. I love that. I find that so ridiculous that I love it, and I take that very seriously. Heath was definitely embracing that. When he was in the makeup and the garb he was in character the whole time; and when he took it off he was absolutely fantastic company to be around."

Ledger was so invested in the role, he asked Bale to be physically violent with him.

"As you see in the movie, Batman starts beating the Joker and realizes that this is not your ordinary foe," Bale said. "Because the more I beat him, the more he enjoys it. The more I'm giving him satisfaction. Heath was behaving in a very similar fashion. He was kinda egging me on. I was saying, 'You know what? I really don't need to actually hit you. It's going to look just as good if I don't.' And he's going, "Go on. Go on. Go on..." He was slamming himself around, and there were tiled walls inside of that set which were cracked and dented from him hurling himself into them. His commitment was total."

Nolan said Ledger based his performance on iconic punk musicians and Malcolm McDowell's character from A Clockwork Orange.

"Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, these kinds of punk influences were some of the things we talked about," Nolan said. "We also talked about the character of Alex in A Clockwork Orange. He's very anarchic and yet somehow has great charisma, both in the book and in the film. We talked about a lot of different influences, and he talked about an extraordinarily diverse set of influences like ventriloquist dummies. The way they would talk and the way they would move and all kinds of peculiar ideas that I wasn't really able to get a handle on until I saw him start to perform the scenes, and start to show how the character moved and how the character gestured and how the character spoke, with this extraordinarily unpredictable voice. The range of the voice, from its highest pitch to its lowest pitch, is very extreme, and where it shifts is unpredictable and sudden."

Tragically, Ledger died at age 28 on Jan. 22, 2008, six months before The Dark Knight was released. He was posthumously award the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor the following year.