On Heath Ledger: Did Joker Role Lead to His Death?


UPDATE: July 19, 2008. See my review of The Dark Knight, including Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker,  HERE.

The death of actor Heath Ledger has shocked the world. He did not appear to be one of the many Hollywood party figures who live for their next drug binge or DUI.  He seemed to be a serious actor and a devoted father.  I’ve watched his career since early movies like 10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale, and The Patriot.  I was disappointed that he played in Brokeback Mountain and skipped that one, realizing that I don’t expect anything more out of Hollywood than that, anyway.  He seemed to have a promising career in front of him and his upcoming role as The Joker in this summer’s Batman sequel, The Dark Knight had everyone eager with anticipation.

Yet, it appears that playing the role of a "psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy …" took it’s toll on Ledger. He slept less than 2 hours a night and his mind would not stop racing. He had to take ambien to get to sleep and even that didn’t work. Reportedly, Jack Nicholson warned him that this was possible when he took the role of the Joker. Nicholson played this character in 1989.  We still don’t know what killed Heath Ledger, but the fact that he was severely affected by playing this role should not be overlooked.

When you spend your days and nights getting into the character of a homicidal maniac, it is going to affect you. We think that it doesn’t but, just like you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2), you can also be destroyed by what you think about. When you entertain these types of thoughts and actually become this type of character in your mind, a disconnect can take place and you can open yourself up to all types of evil influences. Evil really does exist. There is a spiritual realm. Demons are real.  When Ledger walked around his apartment getting into character, what might he have unknowingly been getting in touch with? I think that it might have been more than the dark recesses of his own mind, as scary as that could be for all of us. Matthew 15:19 says that it is the evil that comes out of our heart that makes us unclean. Maybe Ledger, even as an unbeliever, could only take so much uncleanness without being emotionally and mentally affected.

This whole story is a tragedy. Ledger was a promising young actor and he seemed to be a decent guy who was trying to handle the stardom thing as well as he could. We still don’t know what caused his death, so I am not saying it was suicide. Maybe he was just trying to get some sleep and escape the horrors in his own mind and he accidentally took too many ambien. Maybe it had a reaction in his body. At any rate, it should be a lesson to all of us to place our thoughts on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things" – Philippians 4:8.  As Christians, we have the mind of Christ – we can take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). We don’t have to be subject to the evil that we are assualted with. And, we should also take care regarding what we fill our minds with. I am not saying that no actor should ever play an evil character – sometimes those stories are important to tell. But, if it ever does have to happen, a distance should be created so that we do not become what we are playing. If you are not a Christian, I have no idea how you would be able to do this effectively.

At the very least, this story should remind us that we have no idea the turmoil that the people around us are going through. As followers of Jesus, we should seek to minister love, grace, and mercy to people. We should also be available to pray the prayers that set people free. That is what Jesus wants to do through us and He still gives freedom to captives.

12 Responses to On Heath Ledger: Did Joker Role Lead to His Death?

  1. Alan
    I agree with your post. I thought of writing something, but I can’t top what you have articulated here.
    Bro. Robin

  2. Alan,
    Most Christians do not want to deal with the fact that there are demons that are waging war against this world. What else would cause a man to throw his 4 chidren off of a bridge in Mobile. They are real and we need to acknowledge that they are real but also realize that we are given power over Satan and his Demons.

  3. Alan,
    I think you have hit on something very insightful. What must the mind without the Holy Spirit to quiet it do when bombarded with such evil? Especially when you submit your mind to it intentionally? As you said, that is important, at times, to portray. Else who would ever play Judas in the Easter play?
    I am broken hearted over this tragic death and apparent lost soul.

  4. Right from the onset of this very tragic story I was deeply aware of the spiritual connection between Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker and his actual death. We are warned in the Bible to make good and not evil the focus of our attention. I don’t know what Heath Ledger’s spiritual beliefs were but I do believe he unknowingly opened himself up to the forces of darkness by playing this role. What scares me too is how critics have proclaimed his performance as “brilliant” and as “capturing evil in a way that has never been seen before” and then a short time later he was dead.

  5. So, did you skip Brokeback Mountain because he played a ‘gay’ cowboy? Even as a Christian I urge you to watch this film – perhaps one of his best portrayals of someone who has to deal with the reality of homosexuality in such a harsh world.

  6. All I wanted was to read about how Heath Ledger’s role in The Dark Knight may have affected his wellbeing, not you preaching on the internet.

  7. I absolutley loved your post, it’s truly inspiring. But how did Heath Ledger really “phisically” die?

  8. Really well done article. I agree with you about the spiritual aspect of Ledger’s death. When I heard about his death, I immediately thought about his role in “Brokeback Mountain” (at the time, I didn’t know about “Dark Knight”), and how Satan had tricked him into playing a role that glorifies sin (i.e., homosexuality), and after I heard about “Dark Knight,” Satan’s deceit became even more evident.
    I’m not sure if he was saved or not, but I hope that he was because Jesus is the only way that we can fight evil. People have to know that just like there is a heaven there is a hell, and just like there is good in the world, there is evil as well. There’s no escaping the truth.

  9. Go die with your imbecile theory and stupid quotes, get a fucking life you bunch of catholic rednecks. If what you know is the bible you are interpreting it in a very childish way. Bunch of ignorant fucks, just because you believe all the stupidity of Jesus dont mean an actor will be as dumb with his role.

  10. that might have been…but he was taking so many different precription drug from different doctors…they have said that that was what killed him…

  11. if u go to youtube and search for videos behind the shooting scenes of the batman movie, you see clearly that mr ledger was on drugs all the time of shooting… extasi or anfetamine, one of those…
    then search for interviews of the batman movie or ¨Im not there¨ movie and you can clearly see how drugged that guy was…
    Now imagine playing that obscure role with drugs? fucked up… obviously that was going to fukcd his mind and soul.