Separating a talent from a person can be difficult. Some of the greatest actors have remained a mystery to the public over the years because you can never pin point with accuracy their true character. In recent years however it’s become a lot easier, if not exactly getting to know movie stars, then finding out about intimate details of their lives – true and otherwise. The influx of information from television, radio, magazines and the internet is almost paralyzing. All of the news reports concerning stars opens up the imagination as to who a person could be. But that’s what it is, postulating. Those that have seen his romantic endeavors on film will wonder why such a sweet individual with everything to lose would do this, those that have followed his dramatic career will see him as a complicated and ultimately lonely individual. It’s all inference.
In an article in the New York Post they describe that the room he was found in was filled with strewn about sleeping pills. A careless and unnecessary detail that plays more with our imagination than states a fact about his death. They are obviously looking for drama, as they also are when they write:
Ledger’s love life earned him as many headlines as his acting career.
This is an incredibly worthless cliche to throw at anyone who was as talented as Ledger. An attractive man working in an industry with other notable attractive women will obviously date some of them, maybe even marry a few. You don’t expect people in relatively similar communities or environments not to. And that’s the problem with reporting today, who cares who he was dating. People date. Save comments like that for the ones that aren’t worth their time on the screen. Since seeing Ledger in A Knight’s Tale, I knew he would be an actor worth watching, and he has been.
Watching someone’s talent grow with each film promotes a strange bond between viewer and actor that any article at the grocery store checkout aisle can’t touch. You want to see them do better, you want to see them succeed. So it’s startling to see that they’ve died. I felt he same way with John Ritter and John Candy. Seeing Brad Renfro die earlier this week was like hearing about an old friend that you would never be able to see again.
And Ledger grew. Seeing him give weight to the smallest character in Monster’s Ball allowed him to walk away from what was a so-so movie as the only thing worth remembering about it.
I have to admit while I admired his abilities it wasn’t enough to draw me to another one of his films until The Brother’s Grimm which I enjoyed, especially the performances from Ledger and Matt Damon. Then he expounded on his performance from Monster’s Ball in a movie that didn’t quite reach the level of satisfaction with me that it did for many other moviegoers with Brokeback Mountain. I didn’t completely buy the movie, but I bought Ledger’s performance. It was a ball of fire and ice. It was like watching a caged animal slowly give up.
While I still would like to see Candy, I made a deliberate motion not to see Cassanova.
He impressed again with I’m Not There as one of the many Bob Dylans, a Bob Dylan whose fame began tormenting his personal life, but the film petered out a little more than midway through and ran out of things to do with him. Eventually leaving Richard Gere with nothing to do.
And as upset as I was to see the face of The Joker plastered all over the internet (learn something from Cloverfield next time) it gave me fan boy chills to see what I always imagined The Joker to be. A truly psychotic character. Not just a clown with homicidal tendencies, but someone that looks like his soul has been twisted and who can never experience the empathy of being human again.
To watch him expand into other acting worlds would have been more fun than anything else as his next movie which is currently filming would have marked his return to Gilliam territory. After having done some of the best work of his career in recent years it is truly unfortunate that we’ll never see the performance he would have given in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Hopefully they’ll release whatever footage they have of him on the DVD when the movie is released.
It would seem though, that aside from the Cassanovas of his career (which never interested me, though 10 Things I Hate About You was exceptional) tortured and haunted is what he played best – so it’s no surprise he ended up playing The Joker. He gave a level of humanity to the scarred characters of his career, allowing every audience member to relate to them, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. As Ennis Del Mar, the fear of loving someone and being alone is something everyone faces. He made it palpable for all. And I have a feeling this persona will meld with his own character over the years to come creating an icon status just as big as Bob Dylan or The Joker that may or may not be true in the name Heath Ledger, but one that will become the kind of mystery that magazine, radio, television, the internet and Hollywood loves.
Tags: 10 Things I Hate About You, Bob Dylan, Brokeback Mountain, Cassanova, Cinema, Ennis Del Mar, Film, Heath Ledger, I'm Not There, Movies, Terry Gilliam, The Dark Knight, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Joker