'Dark Knight' Ad Campaign to Keep Heath?

Questions arise about the Batman sequel's marketing plan in light of the tragedy

Photo: Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros.

Heath Ledger‘s death puts a giant question mark over the already-launched ad campaign for this summer’s big-budget Batman sequel The Dark Knight.

Ledger’s villainous character of the Joker figures heavily in Warner Bros.’ ad plan for the release, reports the Wall Street Journal – which quotes a studio spokeswoman as saying the marketing campaign would continue but declined further comment.

Though the movie isn’t due to open until July 18, its sales pitch kicked off in October with an elaborate online teaser, which was replaced in December with The Dark Knight‘s prologue shown before the Will Smith hit I Am Legend. The Dark Knight‘s trailer also debuted that month, with both the prologue and trailer featuring Ledger’s Joker.

The movie’s poster also stars Ledger in his Joker makeup, with the slogan “Why So Serious?” scrawled in red.

With The Dark Knight still in post-production in Hollywood, the Journal reports that some of Ledger’s dialogue may still need to be re-recorded.

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. issued a statement, saying: “The studio is stunned and devastated by this tragic news. The entertainment community has lost an enormous talent. Heath was a brilliant actor and an exceptional person. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”

Untimely deaths have plagued Hollywood before, most famously James Dean’s 1955 fatal crash death before the opening of Giant – coincidentally, also a Warners picture. The studio’s seeming curse returned in 1983, with its The Twilight Zone movie. Actor Vic Morrow was killed in a helicopter accident on the set.

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