Heath Ledger: a tribute
On January 22, 2008, the world lost a young actor of multi-talents and a varied film career which was beginning to show shining promise. Five years on, this is a small tribute to Heath Ledger and his unique creative spirit.
(As this is a memorial thread please keep comments respectful, thank you.)
Eternally missed but never forgotten.
- Chris Nolan
“One night, as I’m standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for “The Dark Knight,” a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I’d fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you’d asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn’t know. That’s real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That’s what Heath had.
Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren’t many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.
One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they’d really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It’s tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there’s plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they’d given him.
Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He’d brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he’d made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I’ve never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn’t take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.
When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.
Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it’s Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can’t help but smile.” -- C. Nolan - Newsweek
"I'm not good at future planning. I don't plan at all. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day planner and I don't have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future." H.L.
"Aren't we at the stage these days when it just doesn't ... matter? It's a story of love and it's a story between two people. If people can't get over that and just accept it as a story, then that's their problem. I'm big enough and brave enough to do it." H.L.
Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee reflects fondly on working with Heath Ledger, calling the actor's untimely death "heartbreaking."
"Working with Heath was one of the purest joys of my life," the director says in a statement. "He brought to the role of Ennis [Del Mar] more than any of us could have imagined – a thirst for life, for love, and for truth, and a vulnerability that made everyone who knew him love him. His death is heartbreaking."
Ledger was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his role as Ennis Del Mar, a taciturn gay cowboy in the 2005 drama.
After completing the film in 2005, Lee spoke to PEOPLE about working on set with his leading man. "He understood the cowboy way, just in the way he posed, and his body language and how it developed over the course of the film," Lee said at the time.
The director also believed that Ledger understood and empathized with his character's darker elements. "He understood the shyness and vulnerability and isolation of the character," said Lee. "He really got that. And he did it while carrying the Western aura."
British funnyman Simon Pegg was left stunned and "humbled" after meeting Heath Ledger, when the late star revealed he was a fan.
Pegg and his wife were mingling at the BAFTA Awards in Britain, when Ledger was nominated for Brokeback Mountain - and he was thrilled when the American made his way over to him to say hello.
The Hot Fuzz star recalls: "My wife loved Brokeback Mountain and said, 'Please introduce me to Heath Ledger,' and I'm like, 'I'm not gonna bother him. He gets bothered enough.' I was gonna have to go, 'Hello Heath, this is my wife,' which I was nervous about doing.
"That evening I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around and it was Heath Ledger and his wife (girlfriend Michelle Williams). He said, 'I really liked Shaun of The Dead,' and I felt so humbled by that because he's such a massive star and he actually bothered to do that.
"It left me with such a good impression of him, which made his death even more awful after having that moment with him and meeting such a gracious person."
Pegg only wishes that every big star was like Ledger: "There's a lot of ego in this business and some people sometimes don't want you to know that you like them. I'm not like that. I do go up to people and tell them they're great. It's a relief sometimes when you go up to somebody to say hello and they know who you are; it just takes the edge off it."
"I like to do something I fear. I like to set up obstacles and defeat them. I like to be afraid of the project. I always am. When I get cast in something, I always believe I shouldn't have been cast. I fooled them again. I can't do it. I don't know how to do it. There's a huge amount of anxiety that drowns out any excitement I have toward the project." H.L.
"I kind of save the living for the time between action and cut. I'm pretty good at dropping a character once it's over for the day. Certainly once the film is over, I throw it all away. Your life is what matters." H.L.
Ledger had a wide range of passions, including directing music videos for musician friends
Ben Harper and Nick Drake. He also directed The Joker’s homemade videos in TDK and planned to open a bar in his home in Brooklyn NYC. Some of his areas of finesse: chess, photography, music, surfing, skateboarding, horse-riding and he was an excellent marksman, although not fond of guns. Family and friends were the most important thing in his life.
“A lot of people think ambition or success and they think dollars. My ambition is all in my head. I'm on a f--king journey. I'm on a walkabout. It's about collecting wisdom of emotions and heart and self and understanding. Being absolutely comfortable with your body and life and the earth, sun, and moon being the only truths. That's what my success is, getting underneath that.”
Heath Ledger: Behind the scenes
Rare videos and pictures from behind the scenes of the music videos Heath directed as well as candid footage of Heath fooling around, surfing, talking to the camera and playing with Matilda. A beautiful video.
"I take great pride in my soul and the consistency and longevity of my love."
Fantastic thread. Hard to believe its been 5 years already.
Thanks Guyver. It is hard to believe, the time has just melted away.
Brilliant, Kiba. Clearly a lot of hard work went into a fitting tribute.
Cheers Jeff. I started thinking about it a few days ago and gathered various bits and pieces from hereabouts to put together. It's really nice to get positive feedback.
Well done Kiba, great tribute. Such a shame to lose someone so young, especially someone so promising. Interesting to read the quotes from him on here, seems like he was a really cool, down-to-earth guy as well. RIP.
Cheers Snips. From what I've read he was a very honest, down-to-earth guy with a big heart, universally liked and respected by his peers. It's a real shame his life was cut short when he clearly had so much more to give and achieve. Most of all it's sad that his little daughter is without her dad. She is the spitting image of him so it's like Mufasa living on in Simba. Sort of.
How can it possibly be Five years?? I remember it like it was yesterday.
This was my face when I heard the news
I told Mrs Cat "Heath Ledger's been found dead" she said "You're kidding" and I shook my head.
I wish you'd lived long enough to know how much we like The Joker. Best Joker ever will be.
I hope you're in a better place where there's surf, skateboarding, sushi and love all the time.
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