Heath Ledger’s Joker inspired by Tom Waits?

A 1979 TV interview shows Waits exhibiting similar mannerisms to Ledger's 'Dark Knight' villain

Rumours are circulating online that the late Heath Ledger may have based his performance as The Joker on Tom Waits.

The speculation has been sparked by a 1979 TV interview with Waits, which has recently been discovered on YouTube by Batman fans. During the interview, Waits’s speaking voice and mannerisms display an uncanny similarity to Ledger’s memorable portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. Scroll down to watch the interview.

Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January 2008 a few months after shooting Batman sequel. The following year, he received a posthumous Oscar for his depiction of The Joker, a character he described as a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy”.


Batman fans intrigued by the similarity between the Waits footage and Ledger’s Joker have noted that Waits and Ledger both had roles in Terry Gilliam’s 2009 movie The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. However, it is not known whether the pair actually met or if Ledger ever watched any archive video footage of Waits.

However, Ledger would not have been the first actor to use a rock star as creative inspiration. Johnny Depp famously based his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean on Keith Richards, an influence acknowledged when Richards appeared as Sparrow’s father in two of the sequels.

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