Heath Ledger Convinced Christian Bale To Hit Him While Filming The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger penultimate performance arguably ended up his most memorable one, as he portrayed the third live action theatrical incarnation of The Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight. It's no secret that Ledger went all out to portray his version of the Clown Prince of Crime, always staying in character when he was wearing the white makeup and purple suit. But Ledger's dedication extended beyond honing the psychopathic clown's personality. Because according to Christian Bale, a.k.a. the Dark Knight trilogy's Batman, when he and Ledger were filming The Dark Knight's interrogation scene, Ledger requested that Bale actually hit him when the cameras were rolling. Bale recalled:

As you see in the movie, Batman starts beating the Joker and realizes that this is not your ordinary foe. Because the more I beat him the more he enjoys it. The more I'm giving him satisfaction. Heath was behaving in a very similar fashion. He was kinda egging me on. I was saying, 'You know what, I really don't need to actually hit you. It's going to look just as good if I don't.' And he's going, 'Go on. Go on. Go on...' He was slamming himself around, and there were tiled walls inside of that set which were cracked and dented from him hurling himself into them. His commitment was total.

Among the many items that are featured in the upcoming book 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die are recently-unearthed The Dark Knight interview excerpts (and provided to THR), which include Christian Bale recalling the above moment with Heath Ledger when they were shooting the movie's interrogation scene, which was also the first time they filmed together. As Bale noted, it would have been easy enough for him to feign punching Ledger, but the late actor believed that to truly capture The Joker's twisted enjoyment of pain, he needed to endure being pummeled by his costar. Now I'm wondering if Ledger even okayed letting Bale slam his head into the window, because judging by that crack in the glass, it certainly looked like that happened for real in the final product.

Batman and Joker's standoff within the Gotham City Police Department headquarters occurred a little after The Dark Knight's halfway point, when Joker had been captured following his attempted assassination of Harvey Dent. You can (re)watch the interrogation scene below to see how it escalated from an ideological face-off to the cowled hero trying to beat the location of Dent and Rachel Dawes' whereabouts out of his arch-nemesis.

Heath Ledger sadly passed away on January 22, 2008, six months before The Dark Knight's release, but he earned numerous posthumous accolades, which included winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy concluded in 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises. For those wanting to keep up with Batman's latest cinematic exploits, Ben Affleck's iteration of the Caped Crusader will return on November 17 for Justice League.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.