Heath Ledger's Joker Without Makeup is the Stuff of Nightmares

Heath Ledger's Joker Without Makeup is the Stuff of Nightmares
Image credit: Legion-Media

Just a little bit of makeup turned the pretty-boy actor Heath Ledger into one of cinema’s most terrifying villains in 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But one visual effects artist wanted to see how Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance would look without that iconic makeup.

The result is horrifying.

YouTuber GdaTyler VFX posted a side-by-side video of the Joker’s best lines - one from the theatrical cut; one with Ledger’s real face deepfaked over the Joker's makeup.

The video is at almost 50,000 views in only five days - by far the most successful video on the small channel. Some of his less popular videos include removing Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker makeup and adding makeup to Ledger’s Joker in the Police Parade scene.

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After posting the video on Reddit, fans voiced their opinions. One user praised Ledger’s performance, saying this deep-fake video sold just how subtle his performance was. “Even without the makeup,” they said, “he is viscerally uncomfortable to watch.”

Ledger’s hard stares, vocal range, and little tongue flicks were some of the subtleties that made the Joker so terrifying. Because of the naturally dead-eyed look that comes with deep-fake videos, the makeup-less Joker might be even scarier.

Another fan pointed out that this video shows just how removed Ledger was from his performance as the Joker. This was his only role remotely of the same character archetype; he’d previously done romcoms and heroic adventure films. Fans were used to seeing him as the floppy-haired hero, not a grim villain.

When he’s covered with makeup, it’s easy to forget that the Joker is played by the same actor from 10 Things I Hate About You or A Knight’s Tale. The only physical difference is the face paint, but he’s almost unrecognizable because of his portrayal.

“I’ve never been able to see Heath in this movie,” one user said. “It’s just Joker.”

Five months ago, GdaTyler posted a mid-production video of the deepfake - long before it was completed. It was far more raw and more uncanny, but after five months of working on it, the final result is pretty spectacular. The only issue fellow Reddit users had with the final cut was the dead eyes, which GdaTyler said was due to an alignment issue that he didn’t know how to solve.

But, as several fans pointed out, that alignment issue of the deepfaked eyes resulted in a far more dead-eyed look; his eyes are bouncing around, never really locking in on anything.

That issue might have made this mistake even better - turning it into an outright nightmare.