Heath Ledger won his Oscar from his second and final nomination for portraying The Joker in The Dark Knight.
The supporting category more recently has been known as the villains, although one can find villains throughout the category as both nominees, and winners like Walter Brennan, Gig Young, and Gene Hackman was never opposed to rewarding villains in the category. In the years of 07, 08 and 09 though they simply made a habit of it. 08 certainly felt like a villains year though as two of the nominees were undoubted villains, and two of the other nominees could easily been argued as antagonist characters. The winner therefore makes sense to have been the biggest villain of them all.
The Joker has been portrayed several times actually two times previously in live form with Caesar Romero camping it up with his portrayal in the 60's, and Jack Nicholson handling the character in a somewhat similar fashion in 80's Batman film. Ledger with his posthumous Oscar winning performance though although does not reject those previous portrayals he never for a moment tries to just copy these earlier renditions, and makes the Joker of this film something very much of his own creation. He doesn't exactly reject these earlier portrayals, but it clear that Ledger's version of the Joker always belongs to Ledger.
Ledger does this with an extremely risky performance that never tries to play it safe. Ledger's entire performance is on a ledge (no pun intended) the entire time seeming to try something new in every scene he has. A performance like this is all one really a huge chance, since it never for moment feels like standard performance and is a completely different from anything Heath Ledger ever did before in this film. Because of this Ledger's performance does face reactions all around the spectrum really because of this risks since his performance either works for you or it doesn't there really is not a great deal of middle ground.
For me personally all of Ledger's risks he takes with the Joker all pay off completely. The voice he uses with the strange accent works perfectly for the Joker. He both sounds completely insane with it, yet he as well still is commanding and chilling at the same time. His hunched over posture, and his whole bizarre mannerisms all work in favor of making Joker an unforgettable creation. The amazing part of it all though is despite every little thing he does to create this Joker it never for a moment felt like a performance to me. Ledger always simply becomes the Joker from his first scene to his last he is the character, every little mannerism is only more of what the Joker is.
Ledger's Joker is a terrific villain because of how much he does accomplish with the part. He never is one note in the part oddly enough even though the Joker is a character who doesn't change in throughout the course of the film and his only objective is technically to create chaos with what he does. Ledger in each and every scene gives a chilling villain who has a overwhelming presence every time he is on screen. You really cannot help but look at Ledger in this performance. Ledger shows here that the Joker takes almost everything in stride, and almost never ceases to have fun no matter how much evil he is committing with his actions. Ledger shows a great joy in the Joker. His joker simply loves being the Joker there is never a question that he could be anything else.
Ledger never goes about a scene in a single fashion of being just an imposing villain, even though he is always effective with that. What it interesting is his different levels of insanity and his different attitudes depending on who is dealing with. Frankly one can see in Ledger's performance is his differing attitudes to his adversaries. When it is someone he frankly seems to see as a more worthy foe he honestly seems to have more fun with them and takes what seems like a more lighthearted approach. When it is someone though the Joker would have very little respect for someone he sees more of a tool than anything else he treats them with far less respect which means for the Joker not being as funny. In this moments Ledger really makes Joker the most chilling because when he has no respect he is especially swift and cruel with his violence.
What is truly terrific about this performance and it is probably the same element that helped give his fellow most recent villainous winners their wins frankly is their ability to be quite entertaining and funny despite being terrible characters. Ledger probably has even more of it than Bardem and Waltz even though and constantly adds an energetic dark humor to every scene with the Joker through even the smallest reactions. Ledger could not have been better in the role. He keeps the Joker the enigma quite effectively without seeming like a well realizes the character since nothing is really told about the Joker's the one thing he does tell he contradicts himself. He keeps the Joker as a mystery yet he realizes Joker as a truly insane individual who certainly came from somewhere but it is probably better off not know where he came from.This type of risky performance by Ledger could have easily gone all wrong, but Ledger only ever succeeds with his great performance.