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Heath Ledger's Inspiration for The Joker [Video]

In 1979, Australian talk show host Don Lane interviewed singer/songwriter Tom Waits. This seemingly obscure appearance has the Internet is buzzing since someone pointed out how much Waits' voice and mannerisms resemble Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

I think a better look at Tom Waits is in this Letterman appearance from 1983. At 2:30, he starts talking, and spends less time talking about cigarettes.

For comparison, here's a scene from Dark Knight:

Since Waits and Ledger appeared in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus together, it's not that much of a stretch to imagine Waits giving Ledger the idea. To me, it does kind of diminish Ledger's performance in Dark Knight. It was one thing to believe Ledger had completely transformed himself with his voice, mannerisms, and posture into something wholly unique. To believe he was just doing an impression of Tom Waits isn't as impressive.

[Via BuzzFeed]

Do you think Ledger is doing an impression of Tom Waits? If so, does it make his performance better or worse?

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  1. Alex J. CavanaughJuly 31, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I don't think it affects it either way.
    However, seeing a really young Letterman was a bit of a shock!

  2. It does take talent to be able to mimic someone so well. I'm always amazed at how those voice actors can do so many different voices pretty much on command. Anyway, writers are encouraged to go around with notebooks to copy down speech or mannerisms of real people they might want to use, this is kind of the same thing.

  3. If it's done well, how can it hurt? I don't think I can imitate anyone well. So, props to Heath.

  4. I don't think it would be fair to say that it was ONLY an impression of Waits. I'm sure he was inspired by Waits, but Joker is still his own creation, unlike anything else ever done on screen. Besides, while the mannerisms are similar, I don't think they're exact. The voice, on the other hand, is kind of creepy! :D

  5. In a way, Tom Waits knew the Joker better than you ever did.

  6. I will record myself doing awesome voices to you. It will be a gift!

  7. It's definitely creepy, but I don't think it diminishes Ledger's performance. If he was inspired by Waits, it was a hell of an observation on his and Nolan's part to apply that to the character of the Joker, because it sure worked.

  8. When I saw his performance, it appeared as a drug addict to me. I've worked extensively with AA and inpatient rehab in the past, and his mannerisms were so authentic I was concerned that he was on drugs himself.
    His voice does sound eerily similar, but even if he influenced the performance, Ledger may not have even realized it.
    Who knows, but either way the performance was memorable.


Thanks for commenting!.