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Page last updated at 07:04 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 08:04 UK
Caine praises Ledger's Joker role
Heath Ledger and Christian Bale
Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christian Bale as Batman

Michael Caine has said that the late Heath Ledger's performance in Batman film Dark Knight was "incredible".

The movie, which had its world premiere in New York on Monday, is dedicated to the actor who died following a drug overdose in January.

At the time of his death Ledger had just finished the role of The Joker.

Caine said: "It's the best villain you've ever seen, it's extraordinary. It's right up there with Hannibal Lecter."

"You've got this great gash of red lipstick, you've got a white face mask and you accept him as a human being.

"He's as ferocious a killer as you've ever met and he can make you laugh. That's not just a character, that's a great actor."

The highly-anticipated Dark Knight also stars Christian Bale as Batman, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Speaking of his co-star Bale said: "He was a wonderful character, great company. I expected to be friends with him for many years.

"It is tragic he is not here but I am here to see his talents and celebrate it and I hope everybody will."

Oscar potential

It was an emotional premiere, with stars heading down a black carpet before the screening.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale
Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Christian Bale at the NY premiere

Gary Oldman, who plays Jim Gordon in the film, also spoke of the shadow the actor's death had cast over the movie.

"It's obviously sad for the family. That's a given," he said.

"And it's sad for us because you see what would have been. There's surely a posthumous Oscar nomination. It is electrifying, his performance."

The sentiment was echoed by veteran actor Caine who said he'd be very surprised if Ledger didn't get an Oscar.

The end credits of the movie will pay tribute to the 28-year-old actor, as well as special effects technician Conway Wickliffe who also died.

The Dark Knight has its London premiere in on 21 July and goes on general release in the UK on 25 July.

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