Heath Ledger’s hairline wasn’t a huge talking point by the time of his tragic death in early 2008. But the movie star’s signature locks have come in for some attention in the years since – so was he going bald?
Was Heath Ledger going bald as The Joker?
Heath Ledger’s hairline was visibly receding when he appeared in his final role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. The actor was only 28 when he was found dead in New York but in the movie, his famous green hair was already showing signs of oncoming baldness.
This only added to the appeal of his character, who was an unpredictable psychopath who threatened Gotham City’s high society and criminal underworld alike.
For the character of The Joker, hair loss was unlikely to be a priority. His anarchic approach was a major part of the character’s appeal, and the disheveled appearance of his make-up and thinning, green hair suited this perfectly.
The fact that Ledger’s hair had started receding only added to this chaotic look. Combined with the black makeup around the eyes bleeding into the white face, it was a look that perfectly suited the character’s who described himself as “an engine of chaos”.
“Do I really look like a guy with a plan ? You know what I am ? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught it, I just do things”.
When did Heath Ledger start going bald?
When Ledger filmed Brokeback Mountain in 2004 he spent most of the movie in a hat, but interviews to promote the film, he showed early signs of receding. While promoting the movie in 2005 he went for a short, cropped haircut that was more suited to his hairline.
Ledger was 25 when Brokeback was filmed in the summer of 2004. Many people start to go bald in their 20s, or at least show the first signs of male pattern baldness.
For a guy like Heath Ledger, hair loss would have been a worry. Earlier in his career, Ledger was famous for his long, curly hair. In movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale, his hair was almost a character in itself:
Where was Heath Ledger on the Norwood scale?
By the time of his death, it looked like Ledger was around stage 2-3 on the Norwood Scale. His hair in The Dark Knight was receding around the temples and there was a greasy look to his green hair that showed his scalp clearly around the front.
The Norwood scale shows stage two as the start of a receding hairline around the temples. People at this stage may start to see their scalp through their hair, especially under light or when wet. You can see real Norwood 2 examples here.
It looks like Ledger’s hair had passed this stage, but stage three looks a little more advanced than his hairline in the movie shows. For a more contemporary comparison, this is as far as Superman actor Henry Cavill’s hair loss has progressed in 2022.
The Joker’s receding hairline
The fact that Ledger was balding even added to a character that wasn’t lacking depth. The Joker was clearly suffering from mental illness and fans have even speculated that he was a former soldier with PTSD.
Extreme levels of stress, including PTSD, have been linked to hair loss. The body diverts resources away from non-essential processes, including repairing damage to hair follicles.
The fact that Ledger was receding only adds to his unkempt appearance. It also lends weight to the theory of The Joker as a former military operative suffering the kind of mental trauma that might lead to hair loss.
Ledger’s first on-screen role was an uncredited appearance in the 1992 movie Clowning Around, but fans are more likely to remember his recurring appearance in Home and Away.
The actor’s run in the TV soap consisted of 10 episodes in 1997. There, he sported the messy blonde locks which would become his signature look. The hair wasn’t quite grown out to the length fans will remember from his movie career, but it was in the post:
After his breakthrough movie role in 10 Things I Hate About You, Ledger’s star was on the rise and his hair was arguably more of a talking point than his acting chops.
(By the way, read this post if you’ve ever wondered whether blonde people go bald quicker!)
The leading man
Roles in titles such as A Knight’s Tale and Two Hands may have had women falling at his feet, but it was Brokeback Mountain that brought him critical acclaim.
Now his hair and good looks weren’t the only talking point. Ledger landed the role of The Joker and stole the show in The Dark Knight, even winning an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
The actor’s performances were the highlights everyone was talking about, instead of the ones in his hair. The tragedy of his early death meant his Oscar was awarded posthumously, but there was no sentimental bias in the Academy’s decision – the award was fully deserved.
Had he been alive today, there’s no doubt we’d have seen Ledger’s hair continue to recede. Although with those chiseled good looks, there’s no reason he couldn’t have shaved his hair and become one of the many bald celebrities who look just as good (if not better) with a bald head.
While we never got to see Heath Ledger fully bald, there’s little doubt his hair was on its way out by the time of his death.
Many actors struggle with hair loss, given the importance of their image. Some use hats and hairpieces to navigate hair loss throughout their career, such as Joe Pesci.
Ledger’s receding hairline didn’t take anything away from his good looks and certainly didn’t affect his performances. The tragedy of his passing means he’ll never get to play a bald movie character, but we can be sure he’d have knocked it out of the park.
We’ll remember his Joker as one of the great movie antagonists of all time, a fitting sign-off for an actor who left us far too soon.
On a lighter note, I once dressed up as Ledger’s Joker for Halloween – it wasn’t my best effort as you can see below!
If you’re looking for better costume ideas, check out this list of bald Halloween characters.
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