Oscar buzz mounts for late Heath Ledger

Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:29pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Actor Heath Ledger won rave reviews from Australian critics on Friday for his final performance as the Joker in the new Batman movie, fuelling speculation of a rare posthumous Oscar.

Australian film critics said the late actor was "manically mesmerizing" and overshadowed everyone else in "The Dark Knight" that was previewed in Sydney on Thursday ahead of the movie's world premiere in New York on July 14.

"Hypnotic farewell from the Joker," wrote Sydney Morning Herald critic Garry Maddox, saying the film was a reminder of the brilliance of the 28-year-old actor who died in his Manhattan apartment in January of an accidental prescription drug overdose.

"And who knows? The campaign for a posthumous Oscar nomination that has started overseas might just gather momentum when 'The Dark Knight' opens next week."

The Australian newspaper's critic David Stratton said Ledger's performance of "an unforgettable, genuinely creepy, villain" was a cross between Marlon Brando and James Cagney with a touch of Edward G. Robinson thrown in.

The Daily Telegraph's film editor Vicky Roach said there was a morbid intensity to the interest in Ledger's final performance but his "triumph in creating one of the most memorable villains in recent cinematic history should be celebrated."

Ledger's eerie performance as the Joker has already won him plaudits from international critics and co-stars, making him an unlikely forerunner to posthumously win the Academy Award for best supporting actor next February.

Ledger was nominated in 2006 for an Oscar for best actor for his role as a brooding gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain."   Continued...

<p>Heath Ledger stars as The Joker in the action drama &ldquo;The Dark Knight.&rdquo; REUTERS/Warner Bros./Handout</p>