The Envelope Logo

Gold Derby

Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

« Previous Post | Gold Derby Home | Next Post »

What's the best Oscars strategy for Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight'?

July 19, 2008 |  4:53 pm

OK, now that legions of moviegoers are shrieking "Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!" after seeing Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight," which category should he enter: lead or supporting?

That's a tricky Oscar question. On one hand you might think Heath Ledger should go supporting because, technically speaking, "The Dark Knight" is a film about Batman. But come on, Heath Ledger has the big, flashy role — he's the chief force bearing down on all of the terrifying action — and it's his spooktacular performance that moviegoers are storming theaters to see.


A good analogy might be Forest Whitaker, who recently won best actor in "Last King of Scotland." James McAvoy actually had the main role, as measured by the most dialogue and screen time, but his performance as a good doctor was dwarfed, crushed and left trembling in the shadow of his monstrous patient.

The same was true for Denzel Washington, who won best actor for "Training Day." He had less screen time than costar Ethan Hawke, but Hawke was so overwhelmed by Washington's performance as a ferocious, corrupt cop that he dutifully ducked into the supporting race and let Washington go lead.

Sometimes it's the size of the role, emotionally speaking, that determines whether it should be defined as lead or supporting. Sure, Anthony Hopkins only appeared in 22 minutes of "The Silence of the Lambs," but he won best actor because he gobbled up the scenery, the screen and everything else as Hannibal the Cannibal. Academy members didn't dare to deny him an Oscar statuette for dessert.

Heath Ledger's role in "The Dark Knight" is very similar to Hopkins' in "Lambs," come to think of it — so creepy that it continues to haunt moviegoers long after they flee theaters, terrified.

However, in terms of traditional category placement, Heath Ledger may have the best shot to win in supporting. When Jack Nicholson played the Joker in "Batman" in 1989, he was nominated in supporting at the Golden Globes (then was snubbed by Oscar voters, strangely).

And traditionally, that's where the cartoonishly crazy roles are put — Ben Kingsley in "Sexy Beast," James Coburn in "Affliction." And speaking of Coburn, that reminds us of another aspect of the supporting race that may apply to Heath Ledger: If he wins an Oscar in February for "The Dark Knight," it will largely be because Academy voters want to salute an impressive, if brief, career that included a past Oscar nomination ("Brokeback Mountain").

That qualifies Ledger as a perfect candidate for a veteran achievement award, which is the unofficial nickname of the supporting-actor category when it goes to the likes of Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine," Martin Landau in "Ed Wood" or Jack Palance in "City Slickers."

But, wait! Maybe it doesn't matter what category Heath Ledger lands in, since some Oscarologists believe he's doomed at the Academy Awards where only one star has ever won from the grave — READ MORE - CLICK HERE!

Photo: Warner Bros.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Please, for those who criticize Heath Ledger has no feeling at all.Please leave him alone.He deserves to be recognized as a talented,gifted,dedicated and remarkable actor the world.

Ledgers role in the Dark Knight was dynamic , he thrilled and horrrified audiences across America. Anything short of being Nomminated for lead or supporting would be devestating, yet being a Dark Knight fan I hope the movie wins in Best Picture

See what Dave Goyer (credited for the story of "Dark Knight") had to say about the Joker in the next Batman movie at Comic-Con:

In terms of beleiving wat eva u think i reckon heath deserves it.
i beleive de long awaiting film didn't dissapoint and also heath was de main guy that terrified and put suspense after everyminute in the film when will he appear?
and coming to the fact of his chracter wow amazing.
heath deserves an oscar not cause his dead but this has been the best film for ages not a popcorn flick that gets highly rated due to his acting psycho devious funny and gruesome looking at it carefully from each seen this was a mind blowing performance more den a comic book movie...
with no time wasting every scene from each chracter was played well.
but joker was such a class act and if he was alive you would give credit for a young talent
who entertianed and showed what brillance in performance is about and talking about broke back mountain this is completely different romance is easy to play make beleive villian far from the world of cartoon batman so talk sense instead of crediting something that wasn't the big talk of this year people i was surely impressed

It is true that Heath Ledger has done a good job in the Dark Knight. However, we must not ignore the fact that we must be impartial. Let's analyze this situation, you all know that Heath Ledger is getting a lot of credit for this role because he is dead. His job in Brokeback Mountain was much superior and he didn't even won the Oscar. As a matter of fact, I think this performance does not deserve an Oscar nomination. The media is manipulating people to think something that is not true, Heath Ledger's role is not superior, it's just a great performance, not worthy of an Oscar (anyone could a madman.) I am sure that if Head Ledger would be alive, he would not be getting so many credit.

"Posted by: Nick | July 19, 2008 at 09:13 PM

Why would you glorify a drug addict with an Oscar? His performance was definitely incredible...but what message will this send to the millions of people on planet Earth that are addicted to prescription drugs????? Hey, keep it up and one day we might honor you with a golden statue no matter how crazy those drugs make you."

Heath wasn't addicted to drugs. He was taking pills to help him sleep at night because the Joker role was so physically and emotionally daunting and it just so happened that he had taken too much. That being said, I definitely feel that Heath Ledger should get at LEAST an oscar nomination if not a Win for Best Actor. His acting was superb in this movie.

I saw "The Dark Knight" this weekend and I must say - Believe the hype! The movie is the best comic book film made to date with amazing performances by the entire cast. Now that that's out of the way, here is where I am going to upset alot of Ledger fans. Ledger was good, yes, should he be nominated for an Oscar - maybe. Should he win - that depends on the competition. And yes, it should be in the supporting role category. I really do think that the subdued performances of Bale and Eckhart deserves mention. Both were excellent, especially Eckhart. Lastly, when you look at Jack's joker from the 1989 film, his chracter was far more interesting with a better arc. Ledger's character is very one dimensional. Anyone who says differently has lost their minds. He has the same lines and presence throughout the film, the chracter did not grow and we did not see all the nuances that were in Jack's Joker, for example.

scott, I'm sorry, but you're a moron. His personal life and his work are two separate things. he was a very talented actor and his work is worthy.

So, according your comment, we seleted wich actor is "politically correct" to Oscar so we don't get deserving actors. Talent is talent.

Another principal question, how do you know exactly he was a junkie? Do you saw him? Have you photos, records? So it's a thoery not necessary an affirmation... and if the fact was truth, so what? He's a Human Being

I believe he's a co-leader and I think he gets an Nomination for Lead, but if he deserves an Oscar supporting is better choice!!! He's AWESOME as the Joker, not only he deserves a nomination, he deserves that deserving prize.

supporting allllll the way. he would have way too much competition in the lead actor category knowing the upcoming films later this year. SUPPORTING.

Yeah that be a good argument for Ledger's snub if he wasn't beaten out by someone playing the infamously gay Capote, Ledger should win because he played the joker not as evil but as insane transcending any sense of good or evil and truly into madness which he delivered brilliantly

It think something is really wrong with our society when an actors performance is noted when he plays an evil character as the joker vs. the the loving character of Ennis del Mar. And of cousre we know why the role that Heath played in Brookbake wasn't recognized, was because Ennis was gay! Loving, but gay!!

Heath Ledger was a great actor. However, let's be honest, people would not have realized that had it not been for his towering, immortal performance in Brokeback Mountain. As the NY Times said, it was as good as anything ever even by Brando (and Sean Penn). Thanks to his Ennis del Mar, people started looking back at his ultra-fine work in films like Candy and Lords of Dogtown and heck, everything he did. It was his performance in Brokeback that made his tragic, untimely death the stuff of front page news, otherwise I fear his awful loss would have gone the way of say, Brad Renfro, another fine actor whose untimely death barely made the papers. So, when Heath wins that overdue Oscar for Dark Knight, it will be just as much for Brokeback Mountain. Alas I will not be watching, as the Academy Awards are (and always have been) a meaningless popularity contest. It became obscene (as Dustin Hoffman accused them of being back in 1974 before he sold out in 1979) when they denied Brokeback Mountain and Heath Best Picture and Actor of 2005. Brokeback was the most honored pre-Oscars film EVER, nothing with a fraction of its awards had ever lost, yet older Academy members were vocally, publically, proudly saying they wouldn't even watch the "gay movie", they weren't interested. Right-wingers protested, got behind Crash as a politically correct alternative, and they denied Brokeback its due (and, for the record, no film with as few pre-Oscars honors had ever won, it wasn't even nominated for the Golden Globe!). Whichever film you prefer, for 80 years the Oscars have been determined by precedent, except that year, with Academy members admitting they would not go gay. If they said they wouldn't go black or hispanic or Jewish or whatever, just imagine the outcry. No excuse. So may Heath win the prize he deserves, for The Dark Knight, and especially for the beautiful Brokeback Mountain.

I've always felt that Batman and Joker were equals, given how they were such opposites. You have the dark, serious, brooding Batman, and the psycholtic, unpredictable, carefree Joker, whose anarchic ways fly in the face of everything Batman stands for. This role was the lead in every way. The reason I've always loved the Batman universe is that the villains were vastly more complex and fun than any other. The villains help shape the world that Batman inhabits, and Joker drives this movie while Batman struggles to restore order.

Many have said that it was not Heath up there, but that it was The Joker. A talent that can erase from the moviegoers mind that it's not an actor up there, but an all engrosing character that puts chills up your spine and leaves the hair on your neck stading on end. He portrayed The Joker as he was always meant to be, a balls-out psychpath who just wants to watch the world burn. He deserves a nomination, if not the Oscar itself for giving the performance of his life, that was too soon taken away....

I disagree with those saying this is a "supporting role". Not so. If anything, while the title of the film has to do with BATMAN, the character of the Joker has never been "supporting". It is an individual, iconic creation that could easily have its own string of comic books and novels if one was so inclined. So while you are all debating, the answer is clear. As an individual stand out role, it is a LEAD role. Not a SUPPORTING role. Any great nemesis is just as important as the named lead. This is a lead role.

The question isn't how well Heath Ledger performed. No one can deny the fact that he was truly magnificent, but the fact is that technically he was supporting. He has to be put in as supporting, it doesn't make sense any other way. He may have stolen the show, but he was not the leading man, Christian Bale was.

In each of these scenes and many others throughout the movie, Ledger carries an aura around him. Notwithstanding the dramatic tone of the entire movie, I think Heath Ledger as The Joker was unmistakeably the entertainment tonight. And for this fabulous performance he deserves an Oscar,albeit posthumously! For, Heath Ledger might not be around to have the last laugh, but at least 'Let us put a smile on that face'.

Heath Ledger did a fantastic job and he deserves credit. Do not judge a person for his accidental overdose. People make mistakes. No one is perfect. This is about his acting talent and he is a great actor. It's just a shame he can't be here to see the reaction to this movie. He did a fantastic job and he should receive an Oscar. No doubt!!!!



Heath Ledger was robbed from Oscar for his previous performances in Monster's Ball and Brokeback Mountain. I would not be surprised if he is robbed once again for this terrific, once in a life time performance. However, I think, if that happens, Oscars will loose its credibitly forever. ALSO ANYONE WHO STATES LIKE SOME HE DOESN'T DESERVE AN OSCAR BECAUSE HE WAS A DRUG ADDICT, I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!

You Know, I have been a Marvel fan for many years, and have loved some charters from DC, especially Batman who I watched as a kid when Adam West was the character, but I have really hated every Batman Movie before Batman Begins, and that was still just a decent movie. But I have already seen The Dark Knight twice, AND IT WAS THE BEST !
Now so you understand, I did not even know Heath Ledger played joker until I walked out of the theater,I did not know he died, and until seeing his picture I forgot who he really was in acting, but his role as joker was wonderful, After learning more about his death from my high school son after the movie, I felt so angery that a person with a gift to act like that, and who could have done so much good in the world, would throw away his life. I thank Heath for his great performance and giving me the pleasure of watching it, but I am sad to know he did not live to see his greatest success, and that we will not have the pleasure of seeing him act again. But the worst thing of all is that another human being lost their life for a horrible reason.


This movie cannot be overwhelmed by the hype. One simply cannot anticipate the granduer experienced on every level from the amazing (non-set) real locations, the tremendous job of character development rarely seen in any film, and the incredible performances across the board from some of the most talented actors in any film. This is a far cry from Batman Begins. This movie transcends fantasy.
With the back drop of Chicago serving as Gotham and not some computer generated city, makes a huge difference from all previous films. In fact the entire move is shot in real locations with natural lighting making you feel that this could be real.

Hey I was lucky enough to get to see this in IMAX and it was crazy. The Joker was a mind F**K.He was anarchy incarnate and he did not care what happened to him. His goal was to f**k with people and especially the one's who he respected in some bizarre way. The story was perfect. The actors were perfect. This is the first film in a long time if ever that left nothing on the table and no mistakes.

Best Picture, Best Actors (take your pick), and the most unselfish film I have ever seen. My congratulations to the incredibly professional company that put this together.
I am anticipating a TITANIC run breaking every box office record.

My wife HATES these types of movies BUT she can't wait to see this again. WE ARE GOING BACK!!!!!!

I think the chances that Heath won't get the nod are slim; fans might riot if he doesn't make the cut. Does he go on as supporting or lead? Tough call, and there's good points for and against going either way. I'm guessing it'll go towards Supporting (if there's actually any debate over it), but anything can happen.

Assuming he makes the cut, I hope that if he does get the win, it's because of his performance in The Dark Knight and not because he's dead or because he was nominated for Brokeback Mountain. An honest nomination/win is the way to go.




In Case You Missed It...

Stay Connected:

About the Blogger

Pop & Hiss



In Case You Missed It...