28 January 2018



'Some people are just bigger than the world has room for.'

'He wanted fame and then, when he got it, he didn't want it.'

'He really truly was an artist.'

'He was super-happy and loving life and, sure, he struggled with some demons but he never wanted to go anywhere but forward.'

Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but this is kind of an elegy for the deceased by some of the people who knew and loved Heath Ledger best. It chronicles his progress and upward trajectory as an actor, talks a lot about his love for all things creative, including art, photography and music, and says very little about the possible addiction to prescription drugs that sadly killed him.

Heath Ledger, actor and director, was one of Australia's favourite sons. After Mel Gibson, of course, whom Heath idolised and actually performed with in the 2000 film, THE PATRIOT. Heath looked like the all-Australian surfer dude, with the sun-lightened shaggy blonde hair, the million-kilowatt smile and the rock-hard abdominal six-pack that the girlies just loved.

Rather than hang on for a recurring spot on HOME AND AWAY, Australia's most popular soap after NEIGHBOURS, Heath hopped off to Hollywood in the late 'Nineties and made his name as an actor in such films as TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (1999), THE PATRIOT (2000), A KNIGHT'S TALE (2001), MONSTER'S BALL (2001), THE FOUR FEATHERS (2002) and NED KELLY (2003). (PS, Don't knock HOME AND AWAY, by the way. What's good enough for the utterly divine Chris Hemsworth is more than good enough for the rest of us and don't y'all be giving me no guff no-how...!)

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, one of several movies The Ledge made in 2005, was the film that alerted viewers to Heath's ability to be a serious actor and a contender for big, serious roles. In it, he plays Ennis Del Mar, a gay cowboy who's super-gay for Jake Gyllenhaal's character, also a male gay. But not, presumably, the only gay in the village. They had each other, after all...!

The director of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Ang Lee, was so impressed by Heath's performance in his film that it prompts him to refer in the documentary to something he calls 'God-envy,' as in, he's calling Heath 'a person so talented that even God envies him...!' Well, this certainly seems a tad blasphemous, not to mention a tiny bit excessive, but whatever. Who are we peasants to argue with big Hollywood directors and celebrities, huh? They're our betters, after all.

Heath met his baby-mamma Michelle Williams on the set of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, incidentally, and by the end of 2005 they had a daughter together, Matilda Rose, Heath's only child. After the break-up of his relatonship with Williams, Heath dated his share of supermodels and suchlike. Well, it's a dirty job but someone's gotta date those skeletal skanks, right...?

LORDS OF DOGTOWN was another film made by The Ledge in 2005. It's a film about real-life famous skate-boarders and it was my own personal first time seeing Heath in a role that I gave him credit for. I reviewed the movie when it was enjoying a re-release in 2016 and here are my own actual words concerning Heath's performance:

'Anyway, with the help and encouragement of Skip Engblom, the surfboard designer who owns the local Zephyr Surf Shop, the three lads become skateboarding whizz-kids, joining Skip's team as the Z-Boys and entering contests and mopping the floor with the competition.

Big companies come on the scene and try to lure the lads away from Skip, offering them cars
and the kind of money that Skip can't hope to match. Skip is marvellously played by the late Heath Ledger, an actor I never really rated until I watched him in this film.

Looks-wise, he's absolutely handsome, with the shaggy blonde hair, cool togs (it's 1975 to begin with), dark glasses and with a cigarette permanently hanging out of his mouth and a bottle of whiskey always at hand. Heath Ledger turns in a credible and electrifying performance here.

He reminded me so much here of Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison in that excellent biographical movie about the rock group, The Doors. Gorgeous, sexy, talented, everything to live for, but the booze and drugs, man, they gonna mess him up bad, dude.

The scene where he's drunk or stoned or both (and very, very upset about his hopes and dreams turning to shit before his bleary, booze-reddened eyes) on the roof of his shop was very Jim Morrison in the movie THE DOORS.

The character of Skip seems like a really nice guy who just wants to make a few bucks out of his skateboarding team but the team are lured away by the promise of riches and megabucks corporate sponsorship. Will Skip make it without them? Or they without Skip?'

The Ledge won a posthumous Oscar (BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR) for his performance as The Joker in the 2008 Batman film, THE DARK KNIGHT. There's an interesting bit in the documentary where we're told that he came up with his own look for the character, basically the grotesque combination of chalk-white face and the raspberry-jam-smeared red lipstick.

Now, anyone who's watched the recent television drama series FEUD, featuring Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, will know that Bette Davis created exactly the same look for Baby Jane in the movie WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? Maybe Heath was a fan of the marvellous Ms. Davis's work, who knows...?

In the documentary, we hear from Heath's friends and family that he 'lived every moment to the fullest' and was a man 'with a great swagger about him' who had 'masculinity and physicality in spades.' This last homage is from the actress Naomi Watts, who clearly still fancies him, lol.

He was also a man who was 'plagued by self-doubts,' but which of us isn't? Every day I question my own ability, both as a writer and as a person/parent. Kids'll do that to you, though. Have kids and it's guaranteed that you'll spend the rest of your life dying slowly of the guilt that they induce in you, guilt that you're doing it all wrong, that you're giving 'em too much or not enough of yourself, that you're a rubbish parent even if you're genuinely only doing the best you can. Guilt comes with the territory, innit?

Heath also loved chess, taking photographs, listening to the musician Nick Drake, making music (he even set up his own music production company called The Masses) and making music videos for friends and staying up till all hours being creative. He seems to have been a guy with a compulsive personality who developed obsessions about things, and he was by all accounts a guy who didn't sleep much.

Apparently he was always phoning friends or calling to their houses in the middle of the night, just because he himself was up. Jerk much, lol...? I hate people like that. People who disturb everyone else just because they can't sleep, haha. I also hate snap-happy people, people who are shoving a camera in your face twenty-four-seven which, by all accounts, is what Heath did. I don't think he and I would have gotten along...! 

I loathe being photographed, even when I've got a full face of slap on, and I especially loathe being woken up before I've had my full eight-een hours kip, so be warned, any celebrities currently trying to befriend me. You know who you are...

I AM HEATH LEDGER is available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download now from DAZZLER MEDIA. His Mum, Dad, attractive sisters, agent Steve, best friend Trevor and a load of other friends and co-workers, including Naomi Watts, all sit on hard, uncomfortable-looking chairs and rap fondly about their memories of him. 

There's an extra feature on the disc containing even more stories and memories from the friends and family contingent but I'd had enough of strolling down Memory Lane by then. There's such a thing as getting too much of a good thing, you know...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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