'Batman' Sequel News: 'Dark Knight' Casts Its Joker

The Dark Knight (movie)Christopher NolanHeath LedgerMovie IndustryMoviesChristian BaleEntertainment

In a flurry of Monday (July 31) night news, Warner Bros. officially announced the name of its "Batman Begins" sequel, as well as the casting for the film's new villain.

As expected, Christopher Nolan will return to the helm for "The Dark Knight," Christian Bale's second outing as Batman and Bruce Wayne. In addition to revealing the "Dark Knight" title, Warner Bros. confirmed what has been rumored for two weeks -- that Oscar nominee Heath Ledger will play Batman's nemesis, The Joker.

The unveiling of the "Brokeback Mountain" star at Gotham's grinning adversary ends a search that left nearly every Hollywood star of a certain age as a potential Joker. At various points, buzz focused on Steve Carell, Paul Bettany, Robin Williams, Sean Penn and Jude Law before Ledger was selected to follow in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero.

"I'm excited to continue the story we started with Batman Begins," Nolan says. "Our challenge in casting The Joker was to find an actor who is not just extraordinarily talented but fearless. Watching Heath Ledger's interpretation of this iconic character taking on Christian Bale's Batman is going to be incredible."

Ledger earned Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG nominations for his "Brokeback Mountain" work. His busy 2005 also included appearances in "Casanova," "Lords of Dogtown" and "The Brothers Grimm."

Production on "The Dark Knight," which was written by Christopher Nolan's brother Jonathan, is expected to begin in early 2007.

"Chris' unique vision is what made 'Batman Begins' such an outstanding film and we could not imagine anyone else at the helm of 'The Dark Knight,'" says Jeff Robinov, president of production for Warner Bros. "We also can't wait to see two such formidable actors as Christian and Heath face off with each other as Batman and The Joker."

"Batman Begins" made $205 million domestically when it was released last summer, pulling in an additional $166 million foreign.

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