The documentary Too Young Too Die has only fueled the near-conspiratorial mythology now surrounding the death of 28-year-old Heath Ledger, sparking further speculation regarding the psychological side-effects associated with fully immersing oneself in a role as maniacal and anarchic as that of the Joker.
Ledger's 'Joker Diary' - a relic of the late actor's extreme dedication to his now iconic role - has already become a legendary artifact of contemporary cinema, clearly instrumental in Heath's creative process that would ultimately win him a posthumous Oscar; an award his family had serious hesitations about accepting. Just take a look at the clip below:
As this revealing diary shows, winning the highest accolade in American cinema was no easy task - Heath spent huge amounts of time creating such a complex character, the evidence of which lies within these pages. Here are 4 key things you may have missed:
1. The Maniacal Muse
A huge reference point for Ledger was the detached, mercilessly violent sociopath Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Alex's seemingly indiscriminate rampage is disturbingly purposeless. He's interested in causing pain without motive; a shared characteristic with the Joker.
What's interesting is that before Heath approached director Christopher Nolan, Nolan had already drawn lines of inspiration between between Alex and the Clown Prince of Crime. As Nolan explains in this clip, they agreed completely:
"Hiding the fact I'm conscience-free is nearly effortless," Heath writes in the ledger. "My psychological make up is radically different to others."
This is where the commitment to pure chaos for chaos' sake in The Dark Knight originally stemmed from.
2. Blind Babies, Land Mines and AIDS
If you look closely at the above image, Heath has glued in a picture of a hyena; perhaps an inspiration for the sound of Joker's cackle.
The list of 'things that make me laugh' is a slightly darker.
"Things that make me laugh: blind babies, land mines, AIDS, beloved pets in bad road accidents, statistics, pencil cases, brunch, the periodic table of the elements."
Clearly Heath had been doing his research in the comics. This direct quote highlights the sheer darkness of the character Ledger wanted audiences to see.
3. A Private Note from Chris
If you look closely at the left hand side of this screenshot you can just about make out a personal note signed from Chris (Nolan, presumably), which seems to be thanking Heath for his "hard work" and "dedication" to the "experimental" role. The pair seemed to have built up a very effective, and affectionate working relationship.
The opposite photo shows an early make up test, followed by a celebratory comment added later: '8 months ago, wrapped up now!'
4. A Parting Message
Perhaps most heartbreaking of all, his prophetic message on the last page is truly chilling.
Although Heath's family was initially reluctant, it seems appropriate that the well deserved Oscar was accepted by his family, as they're the only people who can possibly know the true genius of Ledger's performance. Only they know exactly how much of himself Heath put into the role:
"There were just so many of Heath's personal nuances that we could see as a family and we could laugh at because we knew his sense of humor was really coming out in that character the whole time. No one would understand it, but some of the expressions he used, the hand movements he used, were just part of him as a character. So often if we sat and watched it you would actually chuckle and go 'oh my goodness, that's him fooling around."
It also seems fitting that the Oscar is now kept with the diary that, at least in part, made it possible for him to win.