In 2023, that reaction of Caine’s makes perfect sense. Back in 2006, however, it was a bit more surprising. Before “The Dark Knight,” Heath Ledger was most famous for smaller-stakes romantic films. He played a bad boy love interest in the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You,” and he played a charming gay cowboy in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.”
The latter in particular was treated as a strike against him by a lot of comic book fans, as the film’s queer storyline made it the subject of a lot of mockery and homophobic parodies in mainstream media. “I won’t be able to watch it. I’ll keep expecting him to have sex with Batman. YUCK!!!” read one commenter at the time of the announcement, and he was hardly alone in the sentiment. It wasn’t until footage from the film started being released, and fans could finally see what Heath Ledger looked and sounded like in the role, that the tide started to shift.
It all goes to show that when it comes to casting actors for any particular part, the fans don’t always know what’s best. It’s why Bella Ramsey’s casting as Ellie in HBO’s “The Last of Us,” which sparked outrage on account of the actress not looking that much like the character from the game, also quieted down the moment we got to actually see her perform. Sometimes it’s best to trust that the casting directors have seen something we haven’t, that there’ll be more to the actors’ performance than just what we’ve seen in their films so far. The next time a surprising performer gets picked for a famous comic book role, let’s try to be more like Michael Caine in our response.