Will Heath Ledger muscle into a crowded lead actor field?

Posted by · 9:47 am · October 14th, 2008

Heath Ledger in The Dark KnightAdd another one to the list.  It looks like Thelma Adams has joined Pete Howell in predicting Heath Ledger for a lead actor nomination in WB’s “The Dark Knight.”  We first mentioned this idea in back in June, before the film landed in cinemas, and it has slowly snowballed into a possibility for a couple of pundits.

It really depends on what Warner Bros. decides to do with the performance, however.  But if the studio tries its hand in the lead category, I really don’t think it will matter.  The guy is getting a nomination.

I hate to “go there” with the first concentrated Bat-talk in a month or so (you know, since some of our more bizarre readers can’t handle talking about comic books in a serious discussion).  But it’s worth talking about at this point.  WB hasn’t declared a strategy, hasn’t launched an awards site, hasn’t shown its cards at all really, other than to announce a January re-release for the film aimed at securing last minue Oscar goodwill.  And, of course, the Academy will decide for themselves which category Ledger belongs in.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Ledger would have a much less turbulent ride to a nod in the supporting category, with a traditionally weaker field and less opportunity for Academy members to balk at the notion of a comic book portrayal sliding in.  But if you ask me, this is the performance of the year — and not just because I say so, of course.  Ledger’s Joker has inched toward infamy, become a pop culture staple and earned its place alongside the greatest of screen villainy.  You’ll see his guise all over the country in 17 days.  His chances at a lead nomination are as good as they are in supporting, because at the end of the day, whatever the campaign, his is the most talked-about portrayal of 2008.

I don’t think there are too many people who would questiont that.  The only variable has been where Ledger can win the award, and you’ll get no argument here that the supporting category is an easier path.  But then again, is it?  The supporting actor hopefuls have slowly congealed into five solid contenders, at least two of them sporting the scenery-chewing chops that could dilute Ledger’s work ever-so-slightly in the field.  Maybe it isn’t a walk-away there, any more than it would be in lead.  So why not go for the gusto?

It’s all very timely at the moment, seeing as Warner Bros. has lost a dog in the race as of this weekend.  Until “Gran Torino” suddenly sneaks up on all of us, “The Dark Knight” is the studio’s awards season hopeful.  But we’re just spit-balling for now.  More than likely we will come across an FYC ad or an awards site and Ledger will be listed in the supporting category as expected.

But don’t be surprised.  Don’t be surprised.

Have your say.  Should Heath Ledger be campaigned as a lead or supporting actor for “The Dark Knight?”

→ 38 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Featured

38 responses so far

  • 1 10-14-2008 at 10:23 am

    JAB said...

    LEAD. and he’ll win.

  • 2 10-14-2008 at 10:30 am

    McGuff said...

    I’m with you, Kris — in a sense, it doesn’t matter, because I think he’d get nominated in either. For me, his competition is either Mickey Rourke in lead actor, or Jamie Foxx in supporting actor. I realize that’s a bizarre simplification of things, but that’s how I see it.

    A month ago, we assumed Foxx was the lead for “The Soloist”. If he’s not, it’s certainly a character equal or greater to Ledger’s in terms of screentime. If you’re going to go against that in supporting, why not just take on the lead actor group anyway?

    Simpler put: if Ledger could top Foxx in the eyes of the Academy, I don’t see why he couldn’t top actors with even more screentime. The award is about resonance, I hope, and I don’t think there’s any question what character from 2008 will live the longest in our minds. Ledger for lead.

  • 3 10-14-2008 at 10:56 am

    Casey said...

    i REALLY REALLY hate category fraud. i always think of it as turning an appreciation for art into a business, which i realize the oscars is a vehicle for, but category fraud is just about as “sold-out” as films can be. i think ledger has the supporting win locked up and a lead nod locked up. i dont know that academy voters will want someone to win lead for a supporting role in a comic book film, regardless of how good we all know it is. plus if eastwood pulls out another big punch with Gran Turino i think the studio has their best actor nomination

  • 4 10-14-2008 at 11:34 am

    Sean Knight said...

    leave Ledger in supporting where he belongs. Though he may be the lingering presence in the film, The Dark Knight is not ultimately about him. It’s about Harvey Dent and Batman (even more so Dent). Dont get me wrong, Ledger’s performance IS THE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR, but it would be wrong to place him in the category which he doesnt belong. He delivered a great supporting performance that elevated the material to unimaginable heights, much like the work that Javier Bardem delivered last year with No Country and Ralph Fiennes did in Schindler’s List. Ledger made the true leads of the film step up to the plate and match his energy. I think in supporting category he would ultimately win. By placing him in lead the studio kills their chances because I believe too many people will question the choice. He will get nominated, but lead will be a mistake if they are looking for a Ledger win. And let’s be honest, how moving and appropriate it would be if he did indeed win. You cant even buy the kind of ratings the show would receive.

    The one plus to putting Ledger in lead… they could work their butts off and push to get Oldman nominated in supporting. He gives the second best performance in that film and does so much with so little. He really is the heart of The Dark Knight.

  • 5 10-14-2008 at 12:13 pm

    N8 said...

    I concur with Casey and Sean. Ledger has to go supporting for a chance to win. Lead is simply too crowded, and WB would be foolish to campaign for him there. Besides, what reason would they have to do so? Do they think a lead nom will boost DVD/ticket sales more than a supporting nom? They should play it safe and push Ledger for supporting where he belongs.

  • 6 10-14-2008 at 12:20 pm

    Aaron said...

    Im indifferent about it. Regardless, he will be nominated. Of course he will more likely win in the supporting category–lead actor is a strong field with award-caliber performances we haven’t seen from Penn, Langella, DiCaprio, etc..

    I actually agree, though, a lead actor nomination is a lot more exciting. Even though he technically is a supporting category, his character lingers throughout the whole picture–even when he is not on screen…it’s similar to Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (and he won the lead actor award…with 20-something minutes of screen time).

    Ledger will undoubtedly be nominated. I think if pushed lead–he still has a good shot at winning. I agree, Kris…it IS the performance of the year.

    And also I do not think Jamie Foxx has much of a shot at winning at another Oscar for his supporting performance in The Soloist. I think if the Academy really wanted to honor another past winner they would do it with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (like Foxx…he technically is a lead too). I have the feeling that Foxx is not as well-liked in Hollywood as he was in his breakout year when he won for Ray.

    Just saying…

  • 7 10-14-2008 at 12:22 pm

    McGuff said...

    You know, I’m nothing if not indecisive, and I’m not sure Casey and Sean aren’t correct. In fact, their arguments have me changing my mind. Although Sean’s point about Oldman getting into the Supporting race makes Ledger in lead all the more tempting.

    I must say, from a nostalgia standpoint — having re-watched Monster’s Ball and Brokeback in the last two weeks — I would love nothing more than Heath going out having won lead actor. But, really, is that any better than winning supporting, which would have been his intention in the first place?

    I really don’t care where, I suppose, I just want the guy to win.

  • 8 10-14-2008 at 12:24 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Hopkins won with like 12 minutes of screen time right?

    Anyhow, I think the situation is similar to that film with the added weight of Ledger’s sad passing. Oh, and the Academy really needs to put the spotlights on him ever he was ommitted from that obituary last year. (okay their reasoning was fine, but still inexcusable for many)

  • 9 10-14-2008 at 12:54 pm

    Twinzin said...

    It doesn’t matter where just get him in.

  • 10 10-14-2008 at 12:56 pm

    Marvin said...

    It makes no sense.

  • 11 10-14-2008 at 1:23 pm

    M.Harris said...

    As we all know Heath Ledger already has the nomination,IMO though I think it will be better to place him in the supporting category…he might have a better chance of winning in that category with the field being less crowded.But when you think about it,the difference between lead and supporting in some films is in the eye of the beholder.So it is becoming less surprising to me that it is a possibility that he will be pushed for lead.

  • 12 10-14-2008 at 1:31 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Jonathan: Do you mean the “In Memoriam” montage at the ceremony? Ledger was included in that — I seem to remember he had the final spot.

    Anyway, on the lead issue, I say he rightfully belongs in supporting. But if the performance captures the imagination of voters to the extent they’re willing to accept him as a lead, then fair enough.

    Anyway, as category fraud goes, it’s not as objectionable as when lead performances are clearly shoehorned into the supporting category for an easy win (*coughjenniferhudsoncough*).

  • 13 10-14-2008 at 2:10 pm

    Speaking English said...

    This is reminding me of the ridiculous rumors about Cate Blanchett going lead for “I’m Not There” last year. It’s just nonsense… the role is a Supporting one, and anything other than such would be silliness.

  • 14 10-14-2008 at 2:16 pm

    Patrick said...

    I don’t care what category he falls into. This IS one of the greatest creations of the decade.

  • 15 10-14-2008 at 2:17 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Those weren’t rumors, English. TWC planned a lead campaign for Blanchett, then backed off.

  • 16 10-14-2008 at 4:05 pm

    JAB said...

    I really think this will win whichever category they put it in, this is probably the only juggernaut performance this year, judging by the trailers for other soon to be released films.

  • 17 10-14-2008 at 4:07 pm

    Ivan said...

    If these performances were leads…

    Forest Whitaker/ Last King of Scotland, Reese Whiterspoon/Walk the Line, Nicole Kidman/The Hours, Geoffrey Rush/Shine,
    John Travolta/Pulp Fiction, Anthony Hopkins/The Silence of the Lambs, Robin Wiliams/Dead Poets Society

    Ledger´s Joker perfectly could be.

  • 18 10-14-2008 at 4:28 pm

    Troy said...

    Yeah, I believe Ledger was included in the montage, while Roy Scheider wasn’t. Instead he will be shown 13 months after his death. Silly policy they have there.

  • 19 10-14-2008 at 6:43 pm

    Billyboy said...

    Ledger was included in the montage. No doubt about that.

    And WB should definetly push for a supporting nod. I’m pretty sure he’ll win in that category. Lead is tough, although I do think he will get a nomination whatever the category they choose to push for. But come on, he belongs to Supporting.

    Also I personally want these winners for the acting categories next year: Penn, Winslet, Ledger, Cruz. So he must go supporting…

  • 20 10-14-2008 at 6:47 pm

    Joel said...

    Either way, he’ll win. He could get nominated for best supporting actress when he acted as the nurse and STILL win.

  • 21 10-14-2008 at 7:49 pm

    D/N said...

    “Those weren’t rumors, English. TWC planned a lead campaign for Blanchett, then backed off.”

    Yes, because they realized how stupid and pointless it would be to fruitlessly push her in a category where she had no hope winning. Same for WB this year. Ledger could probably grab a lead nom, as at least a couple of the current giant crop o’ contenders will falter. But to win? Not on your life. WB aren’t idiots, they’ll put him in supporting, he’s likely to win, and everyone will be happy. As has been said, does anyone have ANYTHING really to gain by campaigning Ledger to win lead instead of supporting? It’s not like it’s going to taint his legacy or anything by having him “only” win supporting. And if you do campaign him for lead, you run the risk (and it IS a tangible risk) of him missing out on a nomination entirely. Such a thing would be beyond ridiculous, now let us speak of it no longer.

  • 22 10-14-2008 at 8:06 pm

    Tyler said...

    In the words of Michael Caine (Alfred In the Dark Knight) “If Heath doesn’t win an Oscar, I’d like to see the performance that beats his.”

    Heath made a special character that people will remember for a long, long time. That’s rare in today’s film making.
    The Academy would be stupid not to give Heath this award that he deserves.

  • 23 10-14-2008 at 8:47 pm

    Sleven said...

    Ledger should be nominated for a best supporting actor oscar as he was not the lead actor in The Dark Knight, Christian Bale was.

  • 24 10-14-2008 at 9:32 pm

    Jean-Paul Valley said...

    “You want to know how I got these scars?”

    Ledger is a lock for BSA; a year from now no one will remember who won Best Actor. But, 10 years from now EVERYONE will remember Heath Ledger won BSA for the Joker in TDK!

  • 25 10-14-2008 at 10:04 pm

    qwerty said...

    I think he should go lead. In terms of impact, he was the lead role in the highest grossing movie of the year, a brilliant performance that is somehow lesser if it is entered into best supporting actor considering his passing and his lack of competition. the role deserves a shot at lead. i think if his name is on the ballot for best actor, he might just win.

  • 26 10-14-2008 at 10:07 pm

    qwerty said...

    also, in a weird way, an iconic performance like his is somehow less iconic if it is heaped in critical praise so for reasons hard to articulate i would rather see him go out with a nomination in lead than get a supporting statue that diminishes the performance.

  • 27 10-14-2008 at 11:25 pm

    Troy said...

    Along with this whole lead vs. supporting discussion, I just got done watching Ordinary People, and how in the heck was Hutton supporting?

  • 28 10-15-2008 at 1:19 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Oh yes, I was a little confused about the montage. Sorry people.

    Anyhow, with Ledger moving to Lead wouldn´t Oldman make a nice addition as a surprise á la Wahlberg in The Departed in Supporting?

  • 29 10-15-2008 at 8:41 am

    J said...

    I understand the resonance of Ledger’s performance, but he WAS the actor in a supporting role. Going by that rationale, BSA would make sense. Although, I do see the potential in the Lead category. Bottom line, Ledger gave the performance of the year, hands down. I also agree on Oldman. An underrated performance. By the way, why isn’t TDK listed as a potential Best Pic Nom on this site? I’ve seen it listed on quite a few other sites. Surprising…

  • 30 10-15-2008 at 11:35 am

    JAB said...

    i think if Ledger goes lead supporting is opened up to Eckhart before Oldman, but hey, it seems like a weak year for that category…why not both?

  • 31 10-15-2008 at 11:38 am

    braveheart said...

    He was fantastic so wherever he gets the nom I seriously hope he wins. He would have a great chance in best supporting but should he be in the lead category i think he’s as good as anyone else if not better! Come on The Joker!!!!

  • 32 10-15-2008 at 11:41 am

    braveheart said...

    I agree with Jab if Ledger is up for lead actor then
    both Eckhart and Oldman should be in for best supporting with one winning! TDK for Best Picture and Nolan for Best Director! WHY NOT?

  • 33 10-15-2008 at 12:46 pm

    J.L. said...

    Heath should be nominated for lead actor. Anthony Hopkins was nominated and won for Silence of The Lambs when the arc of the story belonged to Clarice Starling. I’m also certain that Ledger’s Joker had much more screen time than Hannibal Lector.

  • 34 10-15-2008 at 5:47 pm

    PaVaris C said...

    Even though he was the star of the movie, evening when he wasn’t in a scene but back to my point which is no matter what it still a supporting role even though it feel like lead role. In fact, I don’t think it would be fair to Bale.

  • 35 10-18-2008 at 12:16 am

    moviegoer said...

    Ledger should be campaigned as a supporting actor. It’s the easier category to earn him a nomination and possible win. It’s less competitive than lead the lead actor category. He’s less likely to be lost in the shuffle. The attention is more likely to be focused on Ledger’s brilliant portrayal of The Joker in the supporting actor’s category.

  • 36 11-11-2008 at 12:28 pm

    nicole said...

    I think Heath deserves the award, I mean come on best movie of the year without him it wouldnt have been.