Wednesday, January 23, 2008

HEATH LEDGER (1979-2008)

It's always strange when a famous person dies at the peak of their earning power. Rarely is it someone whose birthday came a full decade after my own. I don't know much about Ledger but I did notice in the past year that whenever I saw him in a photo, he looked like a hobo. I figured it was an eccentric actor thing. Looking over his filmography, I was surprised to find I have only seen him in three films:

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Monster's Ball (2001)
A Knight's Tale (2001)

I was introduced to A KNIGHT'S TALE on DVD at Disneyland by coworker, Lucy Zolcerovich, who hailed from Czechoslovakia. The film was shot near her hometown. I loved the movie and I have seen it at least twice more since. Ledger was good in it. There was something about both the way he looks and behaves that has always reminded me of John Stamper and I always think of John whenever I see Ledger. Although I don't see John much anymore, I know from photos that siring a child has not turned him into a hobo, so the similarity only goes so far.

I saw MONSTER'S BALL in the theatre when it was a small word-of-mouth film and not yet an Oscar winner. Billy Bob Thornton (pre-BAD NEWS BEARS) was delivering fine performances in all his films and this was no exception. It was Halle Berry that won the statue, and Ledger was fine too in a mopey role.

It will be BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN that people think of when they remember Ledger. The film is good enough that it will not be soon forgotten, and Ledger's performance is standout. It's too bad he missed out on the Oscar since there won't be any more chances. He really nails the character - a taciturn guy who feels strong emotion but has no outlet for it beyond the time he spends on Brokeback Mountain with his special dude. It may have stood forever as Ledger's career achievement or perhaps it would have served as the launch of a luminous career as an eminent film actor.

I'm sure I will see THE DARK KNIGHT, which will serve as his swan song. I know he is filming with Terry Gilliam but I doubt if there's enough footage as yet to salvage the film without recasting and reshooting. The details surrounding his death are interesting. I don't anticipate it will be ruled suicide. Nobody offs themselves with a masseuse en route. It's always intriguing when somebody dies young. I told Mason that whenever somebody dies young, it is usually because of a bad heart or it is drug-related. Then I gave him his heart medicine, secretly thankful that he never listens to me.

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