Heath Ledger’s acclaimed portrayal of the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight is deemed a standout performance of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The late actor’s turn as the iconic DC villain earned Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and, according to one of the film’s writers, studio bosses attempted to recreate the success of Ledger’s performance by casting another acting heavyweight in the 2012 sequel The Dark Knight Rises.
David S Goyer, who co-wrote Nolan’s acclaimed Batman trilogy, revealed on the Happy Sad Confused podcast in Sept. 2023 that studio executives suggested Leonardo DiCaprio could play The Riddler in the Dark Knight follow-up. However, the idea was promptly shut down.
“We had all these pitches,” Goyer recalled. “I remember at The Dark Knight [premiere], the head of Warner Bros said, ‘You gotta do the Riddler. Leo [DiCaprio] as the Riddler.’ That’s not the way we work — not to take anything away from him.”
Jim Carrey previously played the puzzle-obsessed Riddler in 1995’s Batman Forever, while Paul Dano took on the supervillain role in 2022’s The Batman. The iconic DC Comics character wound up not appearing in the trilogy’s final chapter. Instead, Tom Hardy was cast as The Dark Knight Rises villain Bane, starring opposite the likes of Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The Dark Knight Rises was released in the summer of 2012 to critical acclaim and earned more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Despite missing out on a role, DiCaprio was later cast in Nolan’s science-fiction epic Inception shortly after being put forward as The Riddler.
Meanwhile, Batman co-writer Goyer previously disclosed that Warner Bros. pushed him to include additional Ledger scenes in 2008’s The Dark Knight that would delve into the Joker’s villain origin story.
“I do remember when we were talking about, ‘Well, what if the Joker doesn’t really have an origin story?’” he recalled during an interview at Comic-Con@Home. “Even after the success of Batman Begins, that was considered a very controversial thing, and we got a lot of pushback.”