“Time goes slowly, but carries on
And now the best years have come and gone
You took me by surprise
I didn’t realize that you were laughing”
–The Guess Who, “Laughing”
The Joker is an archetypal figure with ancient roots who emits a highly-charged resonance towards all that cross his path. Some can shrug it off, others get hopelessly caught in a dense web of connections and synchronicities that have a strange way of coming full circle.
Here are a few examples.
I. Heath Ledger and Conrad Veidt
The image of actor Conrad Veidt as the perpetually-smiling Gwynplaine in the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs is generally believed to have been a heavy influence on the original Joker design in 1940:
Veidt was born on January 22 and died on April 3.
Almost 7 decades later, young actor Heath Ledger would bring the Joker back to mega-popularity in the 2008 movie The Dark Knight.
Interestingly, Ledger died on the same day as Veidt was born, January 22. Also interestingly, he was born on April 4—not April 3 the day Veidt died, but pretty damn close.
II. Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee
The mythological origins of both the comic book characters The Joker and The Crow involve elements of the primal jester and trickster archetypes. So it’s no wonder that their movie adaptations also share some striking synchronistic resonances.
Both Ledger and Lee played comic book characters in white makeup, black smeary eye-paint, and red “extended” mouth lines.
Both Lee and Ledger rose to super-stardom posthumously in films released after their death. Both Lee and Ledger also had to have body doubles stand in for them to finish their last movies; Ledger’s final film being not The Dark Knight but The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (a film chock full of creepy synchronicities).
As a bizarre addendum, consider the case of professional wrestler Sting. He based his 1990s version of his “character” on the face-paint and brooding persona of Lee’s Crow. He would later add red to his makeup, adopt a more insane attitude, and ape the Ledger Joker, clearly understanding the deep connection between the two (and exploiting it for wrestling hijinks).
III. Heath Ledger, Brandon Lee, Johnny Depp, River Phoenix, Christian Slater, Wynona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger
The connections between these key actors are strange…resonant…just bear with me:
First, the design for Johnny Depp’s character Tonto in Disney’s The Lone Ranger was based on the painting “I Am Crow”…
Which looks a lot like Brandon Lee’s Crow…
Depp has a crow tattoo in tribute to Brandon Lee:
Consider these similar-looking posters for The Crow, The Dark Knight, and The Lone Ranger:
Depp was one of three actors who took over for Ledger after his death to finish The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus—a gig he gave away the payment for (to Ledger’s daughter).
1993 was a bad year for young actors; Brandon Lee died on March 31, and River Phoenix passed on October 31. Phoenix died in front of the Viper Club.
The Viper Club, owned by…
Christian Slater offered to take on the role in Interview With A Vampire that Phoenix was unable to complete, giving away his payment for the gig (much as Depp did with Parnassus) to Phoenix’s favorite charity.
Slater starred in Heathers with Wynona Ryder…
Ryder famously going out with Depp in the 1990s, her co-star in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands:
Ryder co-starred with Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice…
Keaton went on later to star in Burton’s Batman in the title role, alongside Jack Nicholson as the Joker…
Nicholson allegedly said regarding “Joker” Ledger’s demise: “I warned him.”
IV. Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and Jared Leto
Ledger and Christian Bale, of course, starred in The Dark Knight together.
They also played different aspects of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.
Bale co-starred with Jared Leto in American Psycho…
And Leto would later go on to play the Joker in Suicide Squad.
On Instagram—tying it all together—Leto’s Chapter 27 co-star Lindsay Lohan would later accuse him of ripping off his entire career from Brandon Lee’s Crow. Accompanying her bizarre rant was a collage of Lee, and 3 Jokers Nicholson, Ledger, and Leto.
V. Heath Ledger, Cesar Romero, and The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus
This might be more of a footnote, but the clown mask Cesar Romero’s Joker wears in a particular episode of the 1960s Batman looks awful like Heath Ledger’s in Dark Knight…
Plus…Ledger in Parnassus:
And here is a Dark Knight/Parnassus sync, illustrating the Tarot archetype of The Hanged Man:
VI. Joaquin Phoenix
Which all brings us back to the present, in which a new Joker origin movie is currently being filmed for a 2019 release.
The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix…
The phoenix, mythological bird representing rebirth.
“Like the legend of the phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planet spinning
The force of love beginning
We’ve come too far to give up who we are
So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars”
–Daft Punk, “Get Lucky” (sync song as I finished writing this post)