Heath Ledger, the Joker and Oscar hype
You know the more and more I hear about this talk of Heath Ledger being in the running for an Oscar for his role as Joker in The Dark Knight, before anyone has really seen the film, the more I'm getting uncomfortable about the whole situation.
What's making it worse is seeing a second batch of different interviews with the cast where they are all talking about how amazing and impressive Ledger was on set, and saying nothing else about the film or their own roles.
One of the big problems at the moment is that Heath Ledger and his untimely death is taking over the film and the marketing. Is this becoming a little too much?
I'm one who believes that the personal lives of stars are entirely separate from their performances, and sure they do affect each other to a degree, but I can't help but see that the viral marketing style of The Dark Knight is slowly toning down and making way for the focus on Ledger, his performance, and his death, to the detriment of the film, the other actors and their own performances.
Now don't go mixing the two things up, the tragic and untimely death of Heath Ledger was a terrible thing and it robbed film audiences of a unique talent, as well as his friends and family of a loved one.
However that is separate to his role in the film The Dark Knight, a film which is perhaps one of the most eagerly awaited superhero films, if not of any film genre, of the year; of one of the most successful and important on screen superheroes of all time; featuring some of the leading actors of our time; giving some of the best performances of their careers, and in undoubtedly the best directed films of the entire franchise, if not of superhero films to date.
Now if we look at it like that, to then be discussing at every opportunity the single performance of Ledger and the prospect of an Oscar does seem a little over the top. It's similar to one of those 'outstanding achievement awards' which is given to someone who hasn't really won an award before and gets one by default because they're old and has been in the business a long time. Because he tragically died after the filming was completed, the marketing machine is talking as though he is nominated for an Oscar already.
Don't get me wrong, I think he was an amazing actor and he deserves awards for his performance in Brokeback Mountain. I also think that it's telling when the production and studio honoured the actor so publicly on the website and in interviews.
However I haven't seen The Dark Knight, and neither have almost all the people in the world outside of those involved in the film in some way, so why is it an Oscar nomination all of a sudden, and why is the marketing beginning to veer towards his name and his performance?
Christian Bale is perhaps the best Batman we've seen and provides an amazing performance, Christopher Nolan is giving amazing direction to this new Batman, these things we've seen from the previous film, and yet two rounds of publicity interviews I've now seen have been nothing but Heath Ledger and his Joker performance, which I'm sure is wonderful, but more worthy than either of these two talents?
Is the studio really guilty of beginning to market Ledger and his untimely death more than The Dark Knight and the talent around the film? It's certainly something that Terry Gilliam believes and suggests that the studio are looking for any way to publicise the film. From Digital Spy:
"That's what Warner Brothers are saying, but they'll do anything to publicise their film. That's just what they do and you can't get upset because it's bulls**t...
...They're like a great white shark which devours whatever it can."
Harsh words, and from someone who valued Ledger as a great actor, cast him in his film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and is even retaining his very last performance and rewriting the film around it to keep him in. This isn't because of a lack of respect for Ledger, this is a lack of respect for the studio and the marketing of the film.
Shouldn't we at least wait until we see the film before we start shouting about an Oscar and judge the performance for just that rather than awarding an honorary Oscar for the actor's second last performance? Shouldn't the marketing be kept to the film and all the talent involved?