Did Heath Ledger finish vocals on 'Dark Knight'? | EW.com

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Did Heath Ledger finish vocals on 'Dark Knight'?

While the late Heath Ledger’s family and friends tend to the sad
details of his burial this weekend, a debate is ripping through Internet fan sites about what will stand as Ledger’s last completed
film, the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight (due to open on July 17th). The burning
question is, how complete was Ledger’s post-production work on the
maniacal character of the Joker?

On Jan. 25th, E! Online gossip columnist Ted Casablanca posted an item quoting a “studio insider” saying that Ledger had done “zero”
post-production looping on the movie. (Typically, an actor re-records
many lines for a film long after principal photography wraps, in a
process called “automated dialogue replacement,” or ADR. It’s an
especially extensive process when many shots have been filmed on
location, since all kinds of incidental noise can interfere with the
dialogue’s clarity and can require  up to three-quarters of the lines
to be re-performed on a dubbing stage, with the actor looking up at the
film images and matching his or her own mouth movements.) But Ledger’s vocals are
perfectly clear in the bits of footage so far released—trailers and a
prologue bank-robbery sequence shown with IMAX prints of I Am Legend.
Fan websites like Ain’t-It-Cool-News, Superherohype.com and
Batman-on-Film.com are full of assertions contrary to the Casablanca
report, saying that in fact Ledger was done with all significant looping. Ledger himself, while promoting the
Todd Haynes film I’m Not There last fall, had said he was finished with
his work on Dark Knight.

Still, given the way post-production schedules usually run on
mega-budget superhero films, it’s not out of the realm of possibility
that director Chris Nolan might have wanted to call on Ledger for
limited additional sessions with more than six months to go before
opening weekend. Directors often decide to insert new bits of dialogue
in post-production for the sake of clarity and economy. Doing anything
like that now with Ledger’s Dark Knight role would require hiring
another voice actor to emulate his speaking voice, or creating a
complicated mash-up from Ledger’s existing dialogue tracks. (Both of
these alternate approaches have been taken in similar past situations,
as when Oliver Reed passed away before the completion of Gladiator and
James Dean died before the release of Giant.)

Dark Knight director Chris Nolan and execs at Warner Bros., the studio
releasing the film, were not available for comment, and have not issued
any public statements about the status of the movie. EW placed a call to Oscar-winning sound
designer and sound editor Richard King, who’s handling the Dark Knight
audio work, but he declined to comment. According to several other
sound-mixing experts who also declined to speak on the record, there’s
no way to tell what the situation is with Dark Knight from the outside,
since the amount of ADR required, and the timetable for doing it,
varies wildly between films. (In plenty of instances, looping is not
completed until very close to the final release date, perhaps as little
as a month or two out.) Ledger had been working in London on Terry
Gilliam’s film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which meant he was
close to Dark Knight director Chris Nolan’s home turf and might well
have been available if needed.

Warner Bros. has temporarily pulled back on some of the promotional
material centered on Ledger’s creepy whiteface makup as the Joker,
keyed to the tagline “Why So Serious”? It remains to be confirmed
whether the film’s technical wrapup will require a new game plan as
well. —Steve Daly

Still, given the way post-production schedules usually run onmega-budget superhero films, it’s not out of the realm of possibilitythat director Chris Nolan might have wanted to call on Ledger forlimited additional sessions with more than six months to go beforeopening weekend. Directors often decide to insert new bits of dialoguein post-production for the sake of clarity and economy. Doing anythinglike that now with Ledger’s Dark Knight role would require hiringanother voice actor to emulate his speaking voice, or creating acomplicated mash-up from Ledger’s existing dialogue tracks. (Both ofthese alternate approaches have been taken in similar past situations,as when Oliver Reed passed away before the completion of Gladiator andJames Dean died before the release of Giant.)

Dark Knight director Chris Nolan and execs at Warner Bros., the studioreleasing the film, were not available for comment, and have not issuedany public statements about the status of the movie. EW placed a call to Oscar-winning sounddesigner and sound editor Richard King, who’s handling the Dark Knightaudio work, but he declined to comment. According to several othersound-mixing experts who also declined to speak on the record, there’sno way to tell what the situation is with Dark Knight from the outside,since the amount of ADR required, and the timetable for doing it,varies wildly between films. (In plenty of instances, looping is notcompleted until very close to the final release date, perhaps as littleas a month or two out.) Ledger had been working in London on TerryGilliam’s film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which meant he wasclose to Dark Knight director Chris Nolan’s home turf and might wellhave been available if needed.

Warner Bros. has temporarily pulled back on some of the promotionalmaterial centered on Ledger’s creepy whiteface makup as the Joker,keyed to the tagline “Why So Serious”? It remains to be confirmedwhether the film’s technical wrapup will require a new game plan aswell. —Steve Daly

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