Heath Ledger's costars from The Dark Knight, including two-time Batman Christian Bale, took turns at a press event this weekend praising and remembering the late actor's intense style. A few of them are even lobbying for a gold statue on his behalf.
"Definitely," said Aaron Eckhart, who plays doomed district attorney Harvey Dent to Ledger's droll and very creepy Joker. "Why not?"
Fellow cast member Gary Oldman was more pointed about it.
"Heath had this frequency none of us could hear," said Oldman. "The Academy tends to overlook movies like this, but this acting is so good it's going to be very hard for them to avoid it."
His other Gotham cohorts marveled at Ledger's obsession with detail:
He patched together influences ranging from A Clockwork Orange to ventriloquist dummies to Charlie Chaplin. The result: a Joker so demented and creepy he makes Nicholson's 1989 version look like Elton John in a bad mood.
"He called me during preproduction from time to time to tell me what he was working on," director Christopher Nolan recalled. "He told me he was researching the way ventriloquist dummies talk. It was a bit peculiar."
But when Nolan finally saw Heath's Joker onscreen, he got it. Ledger was trying for a vocal style that would match the Joker's chaotic character; even his pitch would be unpredictable, the same way that ventriloquists' voices would suddenly switch from low to high.
"He's raised the bar," said Bale.
If the Academy does honor Ledger for his Joker character, it would be only the second posthumous acting win ever. The first went to Peter Finch for the 1976 movie Network.