Some actors can turn a performance into a complete masterpiece. Take the Oscar winning performance of the late Heath Ledger, for example. There’s little doubt that any other actor in that year deserved the golden statuette more than he did. It really was a spectacular performance. It was so good that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker scared Michael Caine so much that he quite literally forgot his lines.
Hollywood is brimming with actors of varying degrees of talent. There are the actors that aren’t exactly that great, and perhaps really shouldn’t be acting, and there are the ones that are good enough to earn a crust doing what they love. But there are a few, very few indeed, that can sit aloft as superior actors in their own right. Their talent in bringing a fictional character to life is far beyond what most actors can ever dream of achieving. One only needs to look at the damage Anthony Hopkins performance in Silence of the Lambs caused to his relationship to see just how good an actor can be.
Just about everyone has seen Heath Ledgers performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, and if you haven’t, shame on you. It was one of those performances that you will remember for the rest of your life. He managed to concoct a personality that was so disturbing and real that you wound up talking about it for weeks afterwards. It was a role that he would eventually go on to win a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. What was even more amazing about his win was that it is rare for an actor to even be nominated in this type of genre, and it was the first time a comic adaption has won an award as well.
You might be thinking that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker scared Michael Caine is just something that got made up after Ledgers death to maybe cement his credentials as a great actor. But it wasn’t. Michael Caine himself has admitted as much, even stating that Ledgers role was superior to that of another Oscar winner who played the same role, Jack Nicholson.
Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath’s gone in a completely different direction to Jack, he’s like a really scary psychopath. He’s a lovely guy and his Joker is going to be a hell of a revelation in this picture.
~Michael Caine on Heath Ledgers performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight
So I’m guessing that you are wondering where exactly in the movie did Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker scared Michael Caine so much that he forgot his lines. Well cast your mind back to the moment where the Joker crashes Bruce Wayne’s party for Harvey. OK, the clip is at the bottom of this post. It’s only a brief moment, and if you blink you will miss it.
When the Joker bursts into the party Caine, as Alfred, is nearest the door. If you watch closely he looks extremely shocked, and goes to utter something, but is speechless. Apparently he was scared and forgot his lines. But why would he be scared of another actor he was working with?
Before this scene was shot Caine and Ledger had never been in the same scene before on set, and as such Caine had never seen Ledger with all of his makeup on as the Joker. He also hadn’t had any idea of how Ledger was going to portray the Joker. You could probably think that he was expecting a similar performance to Nicholson’s or even Cesar Romero who played the Joker in the 1960’s tv series of Batman. What came bursting through those doors quite literally shocked him.