No Joker in Batman sequel

Batman is returning, but he won’t have the Joker to contend with next time.

LOS ANGELES — Batman is returning, but he won’t have the Joker to contend with next time.

Director Christopher Nolan says he will not bring back the Joker, the villain played so maniacally in The Dark Knight by the late Heath Ledger.

The role earned him an Academy Award a year after his death.

Nolan would not disclose what villain or villains might take on Batman in the next film, due out July 20, 2012, the same weekend that brought the record-breaking US$158.4 million debut of The Dark Knight in 2008.

Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January 2008. His death stoked fan interest in The Dark Knight, which topped $1 billion at the box office worldwide. With his supporting-actor win, Ledger became the second performer ever to earn an Oscar posthumously.

The next Batman film will be the third in the current Warner Bros. incarnation of the franchise, which stars Christian Bale as the vigilante superhero.

“For me, Heath was the definitive Joker,” Nolan said. “It wouldn’t feel appropriate to readdress that character.”