Heath Ledger Had A Massive Problem With Christian Bale During Filming

Heath Ledger had difficulty playing a fictional version of Christian Bale's character in the movie I'm Not There.

By Britta DeVore | Published

To many, the Heath Ledger and Christian Bale-led The Dark Knight is one of the finest pieces in the Batman canon, with both actors’ performances in the Christopher Nolan-helmed feature the stuff of legend. But, one year before the release of The Dark Knight, the duo would be seen in another film, Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There, and apparently, Ledger had more than a bit of an issue with his co-star during filming. Forced to play off of Bale’s take on the iconic folk music star, the late Ledger revealed to The New York Times back in 2007 that he found himself incredibly stressed and unsure of how to exactly portray his take on Bale’s version of the character.

For a bit of background, Todd Haynes went in a wacky and wild direction for I’m Not There, casting several different actors to portray Bob Dylan during different times in his life and the various personas the singer-songwriter would take on. Heath Ledger and Christian Bale would appear in the fictional roles of Robbie Clark and Jack Rollins, respectively. This is where it gets incredibly confusing, so bear with us. 

Heath Ledger in I’m Not There

We can only imagine how Heath Ledger felt when he was cast to play the part of Robbie Clark who became famous for his (fictional) film portrayal of Jack Rollins. So, essentially, Heath Ledger was playing a fictional character who was portraying Christian Bale’s fictional character in the imaginative Bob Dylan-centered biopic.

In Ledger’s words, he was cast to be “playing an actor portraying Christian portraying a Dylanesque character,” adding that he wasn’t completely positive on how to prepare for the role as he wasn’t sure how his co-star was going to carry out his performance. 

While Todd Haynes, who had previously directed the glam-filled fever dream that was Velvet Goldmine, took some creative liberties when it came to how biopics were typically formatted, Heath Ledger supported the director’s decisions, commenting that audiences should take in the piece of art as something to “accept and invite instead of trying to challenge and solve”.

Even though it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill look into the life of a famous figure, the production received generally good feedback with one of its stars, Cate Blanchett nabbing a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Along with Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, and Christian Bale, the film also starred Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Ben Whishaw. 

The film would be the final project of the actor’s to be released before his tragic death at the age of 28. Following I’m Not There, the Heath Ledger and Christian Bale DC favoriteThe Dark Knight would be released, ultimately earning Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The late performer would be seen in a character role for the last time in the zany Terry Gilliam-helmed flick, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus followed by 2017’s archival-footage-heavy documentary I Am Heath Ledger

Despite the confusion between Heath Ledger and Christian Bale (who will soon appear in Netflix’s mysterious period piece thriller The Pale Blue Eye), it’s clear that the duo enjoyed working with each other and had a knack for playing off of the other’s performance. If you’re interested in seeing I’m Not There, you can check it out on free, ad-supported platforms such as Tubi and Pluto TV or rent it on Prime Video.