How Jonathan Majors Paid Tribute To Heath Ledger’s Joker With Marvel’s Kang

Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

When Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania finally opens in theaters on February 17, we are going to be introduced to a variant of Kang (Jonathan Majors), a conqueror that will be different from the version we saw in the Loki season finale but possibly only one of many Kangs that might cause headaches for the Avengers. But when he was preparing to bring this version of Kang to life on the big screen, Majors was looking to another contemporary classic villain who casts a major shadow over basically every other comic-book villain that has followed in its wake: Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight

But as Jonathan Majors was doing press for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania this week, he revealed a specific tribute he worked in to Heath Ledger’s Joker, and it has to do with the scars that can be found on Kang’s face. Speaking with ReelBlend co-host Kevin McCarthy, Majors played coy regarding the origins of the scars on Kang’s face, and said that’s deliberate due to Ledger’s own vagueness. As the actor said:

You have to be specific. But I reckon, there’s exactly what happened in THIS timeline. There’s exactly what happened in THAT timeline. And exactly what happened in THAT timeline. And it’s all different. Not dissimilar from – people have seen the performance now, so it’s OK to reference The Joker. Heath Ledger’s Joker, when he talks about his scars. The dynamics of Kang and Joker are completely different. But I do really like the idea of how Heath had different origin stories for his scars. For Kang, yeah, me and the writers and Peyton (Reed) Spoke about how they may have happened and what they may mean. But it’s a little secret we’re building.

You know what isn’t a secret? The fact that Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight changed the way the industry thought about superhero movies. His method shifted the concept of an actor’s approach to the genre, and led to more audiences taking these roles more seriously. There’s a reason that Joaquin Phoenix gave Ledger so much credit while winning his own Oscar for playing Joker in Joker.  

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That performance heavily influenced Jonathan Majors, who also explained to EW:

Okay, first of all, he's gorgeous. He's got that fucking jawline, and he didn't give a fuck. He threw his body around. He was so full. And I went, 'I'm coming for that. I'm inspired.' It takes a lot, you feel me? To be inspired. … The Dark Knight etches so vividly the agnostic morality of survival and the discipline of goodness. Each step of our lives is moving us towards being the hero or villain of our tale.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Reactions

Ant-Man and The Wasp smiling in costume

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Some critics have already seen Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Here's what they thought of it. 

Majors told EW that he grew up in difficult neighborhoods, but he understood that the people around him weren’t all bad. There wasn’t “black or white” when it came to innocence. There are morally grey areas in our society, and the actor wanted to bring some of that deliberation to his acting gigs. He went on to explain:

The way I grew up, the people I grew up around, drug dealers, killers, murderers, everybody was just coming out of jail. Everybody had an ankle monitor on. So I knew the complexity of the guys I grew up with. Yeah, you did do that, but you also did this. And what I saw in Heath, and in everything he did, was: It's this and that.

Which is a huge part of the reason why Majors is one of the most exciting actors that we have working today. In even blockbuster fare like Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, he’s figuring out how to bring shades of doubt to our concept of a villain. Does Scott Lang agree with Kang, in certain aspects? And will that complexity also help us to possibly side with Majors’s character in Creed 3?

As he concludes to EW: 

I'm trying to give as many bastions of hope for those who were like me, man. We are extremely complex if we allow ourselves to be, and if you can be touched in certain places that you don't even know, you'll be better. If you can find a haven of comfort in being seen, that's helpful. If you can watch a film and be inspired to work out, great. Inspired to love somebody better, great. Inspired to be a better best friend, great. That's the business I'm in.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is one of several upcoming marvel projects heading to both theaters and Disney+ this year. Make sure you bookmark our upcoming Marvel guide so you are able to stay up on all of the stories that will be unfolding in the studio’s sprawling Phase 5.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.