With the sort of command performance that has sent Oscar voters and pundit’s tongues a-wagging, Heath Ledger helped The Dark Knight sail to the top of the box office opening weekend, setting a new record for a weekend take.

The film, the second installment in director Christopher Nolan’s reinvention of the Batman franchise, took home more than $155 million (£77.6m) over the weekend, enough to out pace the previous record holder, last year’s Spiderman 3.

Starring Christian Bale as the dark knight, the film received widespread acclaim for Ledger’s performance as The Joker.

The actor, who passed away earlier this year of an accidental prescription drug overdose, is a likely candidate for the supporting actor Oscar.

Several critics have said Ledger is a shoo-in for the role, arguing that he should have won for his work in Brokeback Mountain. That film made him an acting icon in the gay community.

According to his co-stars, Ledger buried himself in prep work for the role. The actor said prior to his death that he locked himself in a hotel room for six weeks before filming to perfect his character’s voice.

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