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The incredible story of how Heath Ledger made Michael Caine forget his lines

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is often cited as one of the best comic book film adaptations ever made, with the 2008 instalment of the series – The Dark Knight – being the greatest of the three. Starring Heath Ledger in an unparalleled rendition of the iconic antagonist known as The JokerThe Dark Knight is a stunning examination of the urge to annihilate everything in sight.

The reason why the film worked so well and still remains relevant now is that Nolan does not abide by the infinite clichés of the genre, choosing to focus on his own artistic vision instead. The Dark Knight was an unprecedented critical and commercial success, earning several Oscar nominations and even winning in multiple categories.

At the centre of Nolan’s dark cinematic universe is Heath Ledger’s Joker, an endlessly enigmatic figure who inspires awe as well as terror. Constantly finding ways to torture Batman (played by Christian Bale), Ledger is impeccable in a performance that can only be described as an anarchic tour de force. He won over 20 prestigious accolades and was posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Ledger’s interpretation of the famous character did not just shock the audiences, but it scared some of his veteran colleagues as well, including the celebrated actor Michael Caine who played the part of Alfred Pennyworth – Bruce Wayne’s competent and empathetic butler/partner. According to the accomplished Caine, he was so terrified by Ledger’s gritty performance that he forgot almost all his lines!

“He’ll frighten the life out of you,” Caine said of Ledger, “He did me the first time I saw him, because we did a rehearsal on the first day and we hadn’t met or anything. He had to come up in an elevator to our home, Batman’s home. I’m thinking I’m letting friends in, instead of which he’s killed them all and he’s coming up in the lift. So on the first rehearsal…when the bloody door opened on that lift, he came tearing out. I forgot every line. Terrifying.”

It wasn’t just Heath Ledger who impressed Caine during the production process. The actor admitted that he was blown away by Nolan’s treatment of the material since Batman Begins, claiming that he thought that was the best Batman film ever made at the time. Caine also showered Christian Bale with much deserved praise, declaring him as the finest actor to have taken on the role.

In the same interview, Caine stated: “Oh yeah, I’ve seen all the Batman, mens, men. I’ve seen them all. I think by a long way, Christian is the best Batman I’ve ever seen. He certainly is the best actor, a wonderful actor, as he’s proven in Yuma now, and in The Machinist. What was the other one he was in between, where he played [the POW]? Rescue Dawn, that’s the one. That’s a wonderful performance.”

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