ByDavid Opie, writer at
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David Opie

Some men just want to watch the world burn... and boy, does that leave them parched. Well, that's the impression we had anyway after first watching Heath Ledger play The Joker in The Dark Knight. After all, when he wasn't taunting Batman or blowing up hospitals, the freak in the cheap suit couldn't stop licking his lips, maniacally sticking his tongue out like a demented rattle snake.

For many years, fans simply interpreted this bizarre behavior as another impressive facet of 's multi-faceted performance. As we already know, it was the young actor's extraordinarily unique approach to that helped Ledger win the Oscar, supplanting Jack Nicholson as the ultimate Clown Prince of Crime.

Check out the now iconic interrogation scene featuring Heath Ledger's Joker below:

However, what we didn't know before was that there's also a very simple and practical reason why Heath Ledger kept licking his lips throughout The Dark Knight's 152 minute running time. Fortunately, all was revealed in a new documentary called I Am: Heath Ledger that takes us back through the young star's career before his life was tragically cut short.

"See I'm A Man Of Simple Taste...."

The Dark Knight [Credit: Warner Bros.]
The Dark Knight [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Towards the end of the documentary I Am: Heath Ledger, directors Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray interview dialect coach Gerry Grennell about his work on . At first, the industry legend discusses how Ledger dealt with acting in front of large crowds, and the relative simplicity of his make-up as The Joker.

However, talk soon turned to the prosthetic scars that helped define Ledger's character, bringing to life The Joker's horrifying back story and childhood spent with an abusive father.

I Am: Heath Ledger [Credit: Network Entertainment]
I Am: Heath Ledger [Credit: Network Entertainment]

Grennell reveals that the prosthetics went almost halfway into Ledger's mouth, which meant that the glue holding them in place would quickly go loose and broke (back) when he talked. Understandably, this was quite an issue for Ledger, as the Joker always likes to have the last laugh. Fortunately, the celebrated actor was on the (Monster's) ball, quickly figuring out a way around this.

"The last thing that Heath wanted to do was go back and spend another 20 minutes or half hour trying to get the lips glued back again, so he licked his lips. A lot. And then slowly, that became a part of the character."

I Am: Heath Ledger [Credit: Network Entertainment]
I Am: Heath Ledger [Credit: Network Entertainment]

Who would have thought that this particular tic was the result of some invasive prosthetic design? Regardless of its origins though, The Joker's constant need to lick his lips actually serves as an incredible reminder of Heath Ledger's talent, helping his work to stand out from other versions of The Joker that came before and since.

See also:

For more revelations about Heath Ledger's career, including that time he was almost cast as Spider-Man, make sure to check out the documentary I Am: Heath Ledger when it makes its Spike TV premiere on 17 May, 2017.


Who is the best cinematic Joker of all time?

(Poll Image Credit: Warner Bros.)


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