5 Actors Who Could Have Played the Joker

Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008)
DC Comics // 2008 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

While taking on the role of any iconic comic book character comes with a lot of expectations and pressure, no character is as daunting to an actor as the Joker. The legendary DC villain has been portrayed by Hollywood heavyweights such as Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill, but the bar was officially set when the late Heath Ledger took on the part for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008), and earned a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal. Actors have tried to do the role justice since, most notably Jared Leto, but have failed in the eyes of critics.

Though Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the character in Todd Phillips’s upcoming standalone Joker film looks promising, it's hard to imagine anyone capturing the character in the same slightly-charming-but-definitely-psychotic way that Ledger did. Still, a variety of actors have come close to landing the ultimate villain role over the years. Here are just a few of them.

1. Ray Liotta

Actor Ray Liotta poses for a portrait while promoting the film 'Slow Burn' at the Toronto International Film Festival September 12, 2005 in Toronto, Canada
Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

For Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Ray Liotta was eyed to play either the Joker—a role that ultimately went to Nicholson—or the Caped Crusader himself, which Michael Keaton ended up playing. The Goodfellas actor reportedly turned down the opportunity to join the cast, but seemed to later regret the decision.

"I remember right after a movie I did, Something Wild, Tim Burton wanted to meet me for Batman,” Liotta told The Playlist in 2011. “And at that time, I said, ‘What are you kidding me? I’m an actor.’ But now it’s changed; now it’s good because if you do that you get other movies.”

2. Adrien Brody

For The Dark Knight (2008), Academy Award-winning actor Adriene Brody was reportedly passed on in favor of Heath Ledger. And when 2017’s Justice League was announced, the actor expressed interest in the role again. When asked about the possibility of finally wearing that menacing grin, Brody told Metro:

“I would do it if I feel I can contribute something valuable and that the role would be interesting to me. To me, the villains are way fun! But [studios] don’t offer me those roles. If there is an opportunity to do something like that and play a comic book hero or villain, that’s not something I’m fundamentally opposed to.”

Ultimately, Justice League did not include the Joker.

3. Tim Curry

Actor Tim Curry attends the premiere of 'Kinsey' at the Beekman Theatre on November 10, 2004 in New York City
Peter Kramer, Getty Images

Batman: The Animated Series famously featured Star Wars hero Mark Hamill as the Joker, but The Rocky Horror Picture Show star Tim Curry was originally cast as the villain. While there have been a number of rumors over the years as to why Curry abandoned the role, the actor set the record straight in 2017. “I did play Joker for a while, but I had bronchitis and they fired me—and hired Mark Hamill. That’s life,” Curry told ScreenGeek.

4. Willem Dafoe

Fans have rallied for Academy Award-nominated actor Willem Dafoe—who went on to play the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man—to play the Joker for years. And in fact, he was considered for the role in Burton’s Batman, however was never officially offered the part. While talking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, Dafoe stated, “[Screenwriter Sam] Hamm said something about how physically I would be perfect for the part, but they never offered it to me."

5. Ryan Gosling

yan Gosling attends 'The Nice Guys' photocall during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 15, 2016 in Cannes, France
Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

Though Ryan Gosling never addressed the reports, it’s believed he was offered the role of the Joker for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016). The Wrap claimed in 2014 that Jared Leto—who eventually won the role—was being eyed for the part only after Gosling turned it down due to not wanting to sign a multi-film contract. Considering how poorly the film did with critics, Gosling was smart to say no.

Stranger Things Fans Can Now Buy a 6-Foot-Tall Demogorgon Sprinkler

BigMouth Inc., Amazon
BigMouth Inc., Amazon

Some fans watch a show and then talk about it. Others create art inspired by it. Others develop far-out theories. But sometimes, fans go even further than that—like when pool accessory company BigMouth Inc. revealed its massive Stranger Things-inspired, inflatable Demogorgon sprinkler, which is now available for any fan to purchase.

The sprinkler, the perfect gift for those wishing to combine their love of sci-fi monstrosities and thorough lawn irrigation, stands 6 feet tall and can be connected to any standard hose, allowing it to spurt water from its horrifying open face, according to House Beautiful. And for fans thinking it can only be found in the far corners of the internet, fear not: the sprinkler is available now at Target and on Amazon.

If you want a less flashy way to show off your Stranger Things fandom this summer, BigMouth Inc. also sells a plethora of other novelty items based on the show, like an Upside Down-themed pool tube, Scoops Ahoy floating cupholders, and a float based on one of Eleven’s trademark waffles. (See all the options on Amazon here.)

This marks the latest in a series of collaborations for the hugely successful Netflix series. Prior to its release, Stranger Things teamed with both H&M and Nike to release clothing and shoes inspired by the series. It also collaborated with Coca-Cola to produce a limited edition collection of New Coke cans inspired by a moment in the third season.

We’re glad there’s a plethora of Stranger Things merchandise available, even the terrifying Demogorgon sprinkler—it sounds just ridiculous enough to buy right away. It's available at Target or Amazon for $100.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Three Major Game of Thrones Stars Submitted Themselves for Emmys After HBO Chose Not To

Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones.
Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones.
Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

HBO dominated the 2019 Emmy nominations, which were announced earlier this week, with a record-breaking 32 nominations for Game of Thrones's highly contentious final season alone.

Ten of Game of Thrones's nominations came via the acting categories, several of which were hardly surprising: Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke landed nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, respectively. Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams will compete against each other in the Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress categories. What did come as a surprise, however, were the first-time nominations for Alfie Allen, Gwendoline Christie, and Carice van Houten—not because they didn’t deserve them, but because HBO didn't submit them for consideration.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO confirmed that the network did not enter the three actors for consideration by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This means that the actors’ representatives shelled out the $225 entry fees themselves.

While this might seem unfair, self-submissions are a pretty common practice. As Game of Thrones has many, many characters, all of them played by great actors, it's simply not possible for the network to enter every one of them. As it stands now, four of the six nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress are Game of Thrones co-stars (van Houten was nominated in the Guest Actress category), while three of the Outstanding Supporting Actor nominees are from Westeros.

Whether they made it onto the official ballot because of HBO or not, Game of Thrones fans are ecstatic that Allen, Christie, and van Houten are finally getting the Emmy recognition they deserve. Can one of them triumph? We'll just have to wait until September 22 to find out.

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