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Heath Ledger's death-defying bid for 'The Dark Knight': Why so serious

January 22, 2009 |  8:56 am

Joker_heath_ledger_jack_nicholson_t

Congrats to the ghost of Heath Ledger — who died exactly one year ago today — for doing what even one of the Oscars' favorite live fellows couldn't do: snag an acting nomination for portraying a cartoonish villain in a superhero flick.

In this case, the Joker, of course, in "The Dark Knight." Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's "Batman" was widely hailed by film critics in 1989 and earned him a nomination in the lead acting race for comedies/musicals at the Golden Globes, but he lost to Morgan Freeman ("Driving Miss Daisy") and was snubbed at the Oscars. Nicholson is so beloved at the Oscars that he currently holds the record for most nominations among male actors (12) and win (three, tied with Walter Brennan).

Al_pacino_big_boy_caprice_2

Al Pacino earned an acting bid in the supporting slot at the Golden Globes in 1990 as Big Boy Caprice in "Dick Tracy." He lost to Bruce Davison ("Longtime Companion"). Pacino went on to reap an Oscar nom for that cartoonish role too, but lost to Joe Pesci ("Goodfellas").

Heath Ledger's nomination marks the seventh for a posthumous performance. The others: Jeanne Eagels ("The Letter," best actress, 1929), James Dean ("East of Eden," best actor, 1955), James Dean ("Giant," best actor, 1956), Spencer Tracy ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" best actor, 1967), Peter Finch ("Network," best actor, 1976), Massimo Troisi ("Il Postino," best actor, 1994).

Only Finch pulled off a victory from the grave. He died of a heart attack just weeks before Golden Globe and Oscar voting. Prior to that, Robert De Niro ("Taxi Driver") swept the early critics' awards, but Finch claimed posthumous wins at the Globes and Oscars.

By comparison, Heath Ledger, as noted above, died a year ago. When another heartthrob star was nominated after dying young and tragically — James Dean — there was half a year between his demise and his Oscar loss. Does that matter in Ledger's case?

Most Oscarologists now say that Heath Ledger is a shoo-in to win, but beware: Upsets happen most frequently in these supporting categories at the Academy Awards. Let's recall a few recent shockeroos in this slot: James Coburn ("Affliction") and Jim Broadbent ("Iris").

RELATED LINKS

Is 'The Dark Knight's' Heath Ledger doomed at the Oscars?

Posthumous Oscars nominations: A Reality Since the First Academy Awards

Yeah, Meryl Streep Just Hiked Her Record Number of Oscar Nominations, But . . .

Oscar Nominations Pooh-Pooh Kate Winslet's Campaign for 'The Reader'

Oscars Snub 'The Dark Knight' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' star

Oscar Nominations Reward December Releases

Quiz: What Movie Had the Most Oscar Nominations Ever?

Photos: Buena Vista, Warner Bros.

NOTE: An earlier version of this blog post neglected to mention Pacino's Oscar nomination for "Dick Tracy." That info has been added.

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Comments

why does it say "congrats to the ghost of heath ledger who died a year ago from today" and why do the posts of these comments say january 2009 when that didnt happen yet? somethings up

I love the Joker in The Dark Night. He looks so HOT and SEXY. But sad that he killed himself.

I LOVE THE JOKER HE LOOKS SO SEXY!!!!!!

Interesting that Nicholson lost to Morgan Freeman, who's also in The Dark Knight.

Yeah, Pesci's win over Pacino lead to his incredibly short acceptance speech, "It's my privelege. Thank you." He later explained that he thought Pacino would win.

I don't know if I would call Broadbent's win a shocker. I remember Sir Ian McKellen was favored by many but I don't remember him being considered a lock for the prize.

"Heath Ledger's nomination marks the seventh for a posthumous performance. " Wrong! Ralph Richardson was nominated in Best Supporting Actor category (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984)

Missed one! Ralph Richardson was, before today, the only supporting actor posthumous nomination in 1984 (lost to Haing S. Ngor)

Contrary to the the "ditto" comment in the article, Al Pacino was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Dick Tracy. He lost to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas

MISTAKE! al pacino was nominated for Dick Tracy! Check you Oscar facts!!!

you are wrong. Al Pacino WAS nominated for Dick Tracy. Scary mistake!!!

Correction oh great oscar guru!!

Al Pacino lost to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas in 1990.


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