Why Heath Ledger Licked His Lips So Often in “The Dark Knight”

Every now and then a reveal can actually ruin the effect of a movie, or it can bring a little clarity to something that people might have been wondering about. It can even create another reason to laugh as the secret is spilled. There’s no secret that Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker in The Dark Knight was utterly creepy and totally effective. He was definitely a step in a different direction from Jack Nicholson’s version, or even Mark Hamill’s animated version since Heath Ledger brought such a strange look and demeanor to the clown prince of crime that he might have come off as a different character that a lot of people didn’t expect. He definitely came off as someone who was unhinged and just wanted to watch the world burn, and that was kind of the point. But there was one thing about him, apart from his other mannerisms, that kind of unnerved and confused a lot of people. It came about kind of by accident really, but the way it was kept and then made to look natural was both disturbing and inspired.

This version of the Joker licked his lips an awful lot, didn’t he? It was a disturbing sight to some and one of interest to others since it appeared to be a tick of some sort that felt as though it might be psychological. There’s a lot about this character that could be summed up as psychological realism since the guy was definitely a walking case study that was just begging to be dissected by a psychiatrist, right before they went insane simply trying to get to the root of the Joker’s psychosis. He wasn’t exactly vague about who he was and what he did, but the one strange quirk he had was that he did lick his lips a lot. There was a reason behind this, however, and you might laugh when you hear it.

The facial prostheses that Ledger wore on his cheeks and talked about quite often in the movie were held there by adhesive, as one might guess, but all too often the adhesive that was attached to the inside of his mouth would come loose, and he would run his tongue over it to secure the end back in place. That’s a big reason why this happened in the first place, but it would appear that Christopher Nolan thought it actually went with the character, which is likely why he kept it in there. Imagine having to lick the adhesive so often to keep something in place though. It does make a person wonder if Ledger was having to keep things in place the whole time or if he simply adapted this quirk and made it work in a much more effective manner. It’s very possible that it’s the latter since one thing that Ledger was quite good at was acting in the moment and making everything come together in a manner that people didn’t expect. It’s still hard to realize that he’s gone sometimes since everything he might have done up to this point feels as though it would have been groundbreaking and could have possibly changed cinema in quite a big way.

As far as his Joker character goes, he was a huge breath of fresh air since it almost feels as though there can’t really be a Batman movie without a Joker that might be on the horizon. Killing him off in the Tim Burton version felt like a huge mistake, as it meant that he wasn’t bound to be utilized any further as Joel Schumacher took over. Ledger raised the bar on the character so high that it might be a while until we see another actor that can perform in the same manner, or give something so different and yet so great that it might be acceptable to the fans. As of now, it sounds as though The Batman with Robert Pattinson will be exploring other villains while the Joker will be shelved. Picking Jared Leto as the Joker was a gamble that didn’t pay off unfortunately since the guy might be good at a lot of stuff, but he’s not a great pick for the clown prince of crime.

Ledger’s Joker was undoubtedly the most psychotic of the bunch, but he was also the most effective in a lot of ways since he didn’t look like a mob boss or a tattooed pimp and was dedicated to the chaos that he was definitely a part of throughout the movie. He was chaos, pure and simple, and in relation to the other Jokers throughout history, there’s only one that could even come close to what he did, and that’s Mark Hamill’s animated version. It takes a lot to create an effective Joker, and Ledger did it perfectly.


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