Fate Of Ledger’s Parnassus, Knight

The tragic death of Heath Ledger has left many in the industry in shock and grief this week, and whilst life must go on – the repercussions of his loss have begun to have impact.

His final complete performance will of course be as The Joker in the upcoming “The Dark Knight”, the sequel to 2005’s highly acclaimed “Batman Begins.” All his filming and post-production work including ADR looping were completed before he departed for his next project, and director Chris Nolan is known for his meticulous filming style which requires no reshoots.

Presently in the midst of editing, ‘Knight’ is expected to keep its July 18th release date, but for now its marketing and publicity campaigns are going to be undergoing an overhaul at Warner Bros. Pictures. The early publicity for the project heavily featured Ledger’s grim Joker visage front and center for its viral marketing, one-sheets, and the current teaser trailer playing in theatres and online.

The campaign was to remain Joker-centric until March when the next trailer was scheduled to debut with the release of the studio’s “10,000 B.C.” and said to focus more on the roles of Batman (Christian Bale) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in the picture.

For now though, there’s no clear indication of the direction the studio intends to take. Not helping is the fact that much of the divison responsible for the campaign has just undergone a major restructuring.

The Joker was also expected to cameo in the third film of the series but that appearance is now looking to be cut altogether rather than undergoing recasting like ‘Knight’ has done with the returning role of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes who declined to participate). It seems certain though that a dedication to Ledger’s memory will be added to the film’s credits.

Filming was only partially complete however on Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” in which Heath was the major star. Now, an insider source tells US Weekly that “I just got the call [Tuesday] saying everyone was being let go. We were supposed to start this weekend, but obviously they fired everyone today.”

The Faustian story centered on the boisterous Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), a 1,000-years-old performer who offers audience members a chance to enter fantastical worlds of imagination in a race with the devil for the life of his daughter. If audience members make a righteous choice, their soul is awarded to Parnassus. If they make a heinous one, their soul belongs to the devil. Ledger was set to play a mysterious outsider who embarks on his own quest to save the girl.

Ledger’s involvement was critical in funding the $30 million independent feature according to Variety. After filming in London from December up til last week, shooting was moved to Vancouver for intensive interior and green-screen work beginning this week and lasting through til March. Work is now “temporarily shut down” as investors and filmmakers weigh the option of replacing Ledger, filming around him (ala Brandon Lee in “The Crow” or Oliver Reed in “Gladiator”) or scrapping the project entirely.

Ledger was also said to be working on what would have been his feature directing debut, an adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel “The Queen’s Gambit,” with British writer-producer Allan Scott. The leading role of a young female chess prodigy had been offered to Ellen Page and Ledger was due to play a supporting role.