‘Dark Knight’ Stars, Director Want Film To ‘Celebrate’ Heath Ledger’s Work

Christian Bale says Ledger's Joker will be 'incredibly memorable for years to come.'

LAS VEGAS — With roughly four months to go, the talents behind “The Dark Knight” gathered recently to reveal a film that’s become remarkably similar to its cowl-clad title character. As such, like Batman himself, Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and director Christopher Nolan find themselves shifting gears between being secretive, superheroic and fighting back a deep sadness.

“It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day,” Nolan revealed of his mind-set while editing the movie in the weeks following Heath Ledger’s tragic death . “But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish.”

Gyllenhaal said she expected to be emotional on her first viewing of a finished “Knight” print. “I’ll feel a lot of things about it. … I don’t know how it will be.”

“Heath has given an incredible performance, a real definition of the character that I think will be incredibly memorable for years to come,” Bale said of Ledger’s work as the Joker . “I want to do nothing but celebrate his work.”

With that in mind, it was back to the business at hand: getting the stars to cough up tasty tidbits on what is arguably the most anticipated film of the year. (Read what Nolan had to say about Batman’s new “gizmos and gadgets and things” here in the MTV Movies Blog.)

“There is a pretty amazing meeting of the minds between Batman and Joker in the middle of the film that we haven’t wanted to show to people yet,” Nolan revealed when asked about the “Dark Knight” moment he most enjoys watching in the edit bay. “We want to save that for the movie. … It’s very much an acting scene, but I would be lying if I said it was a purely verbal smackdown.”

“I did a scene where I get to interrogate a bad guy as a lawyer, trying to break a witness, and I had a blast shooting that scene,” explained Gyllenhaal, who takes over the Katie Holmes role of Rachel Dawes for the sequel. “I’ve always wanted to play a lawyer in a courtroom, and I got to do that a little bit here.”

“We have progressed from an angry young man trying to come to terms with his own pain and starting on an endeavor which he believes to be finite [to] somebody who’s attained that power, and is now having to recognize the responsibilities that come with it,” Bale said of the subject matter that made him want to hop back into that hot leather suit. “We had no interest in making a second unless we believed that we could surpass and improve on the first. I’ve not seen ['Dark Knight'], but from working on the movie, the feeling was that absolutely we surpassed that.”

The team also cleared up a few details on whether we’ll ever see deposed mob boss Carmine Falcone in a Batman sequel (“No,” Nolan said. “But Tom [Wilkinson] was superb to work with in ‘Batman Begins’ “); Anthony Michael Hall’s mysterious role (“He plays a news anchorman in the movie,” Bale revealed); and whether Gyllenhaal is the final Rachel in the series (“Yeah,” she promised. “I would love to do another one”).

When Gyllenhaal does return for a third flick, the 30-year-old actress hopes she’ll have the same interesting dichotomy of lead actors. “I sort of have two leading men in the movie, both Aaron Eckhart and Christian. … They’re both fantastic and gorgeous and incredibly talented,” she said of her character’s schizophrenic love triangle with Bruce Wayne/Batman and Harvey Dent/Two-Face. “In both actors, and both characters they play, they embrace what’s right and sexy and also really dark and troubled about both of the people they play.”

“I would say the Bruce Wayne character is a lot closer to Harvey Dent than the Joker,” Nolan reasoned. “[Dent] is very relatable to Batman, and he certainly makes that point himself in the movie. … The Joker is an absolute. He is a force of evil and anarchy. He just cuts through the movie like the shark in ‘Jaws’ or something. This is not a guy with an arc, and it’s not about his origin. This is just the rise of the Joker to power through the criminal underworld of Gotham. He’s a pretty terrifying figure.”

“I think that’s what Chris Nolan does so well, is that he manages to make really entertaining movies that you can watch just for the sheer adrenaline rush of them, but he also manages to incorporate an awful lot of thought and intelligence,” Bale said of the new villains. “He brings in ethical questions — things that, if you wish, you can dwell on and consider later.”

“A lot of [the Joker] came from Heath himself and conversations we had very early on,” Nolan said of the character’s ultra-violent, anti-establishment ways. “We talked about Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ we talked about Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, having a younger approach to the Joker, really tapping into what can be threatening about a guy like this. It seemed that the youthful-anarchy idea [worked best]. It is that fear of a teenager, the fear of the rebel in society that some of these people embody and that gave us the idea of having a little bit of a punk aesthetic to it.”

In “Dark Knight,” Nolan explained, Gotham is the Joker’s town — and everybody else is just living in it. “I felt like I really had to get on and [finish Ledger's work], and I felt very fortunate to have something like that to get on with,” he said. “The truth is, the performance is so iconic. It’s so not Heath Ledger; it is the Joker. He just inhabits it. It’s riveting to watch this incredible performance. I am very proud to work with him on this. I know he was very proud of the role, and I am very excited to show it to people. I think they are going to be blown away.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Dark Knight.”

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