Did I seriously just write the above headline? Heath Ledger was? He was?
People die young all the time. There’s nothing new under the sun, and tragic death in one’s prime is no exception. In many ways Heath Ledger was (here’s that dreadful word again) no more special than, say, the people dying in Palestine this week, many of them also young.
However, now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you: boy, did I adore Heath Ledger.
I adored him so much that I had arguments about him. People said, “he’s just another pretty boy,” and I said, “no he has range and depth, and the awesome factor like whoa.” People said, “awesome factor? Like whoa? What does that even mean?” And I said, “watch him, just watch him.”
Heath Ledger combined talent with a generally laid-back public persona. He was the guy who once moved to Brooklyn because he didn’t want to be photographed every time he stepped into a Starbucks or kissed his girlfriend. He wasn’t afraid to look like he hadn’t spent five hours with five different stylists. He was good even in the bad films (“The Brothers Grimm” come to mind).
He wasn’t afraid of taking on controversial roles and acting in scenes that would inspire most of our true-blue Hollywood heroes to run away screaming.
Heath Ledger starred in a homosexual romance in one of the most homophobic Western nations. It wasn’t the novelty factor that earned him that Oscar Nomination for it either, it was just how amazing he was on screen. I wasn’t a huge fan of the film adaptation of “Brokeback Mountain,” but you have to give credit where credit is due: Ledger’s performance made you want to hug the one you love (or the nearest alternative) and not let go for hours.
We seem to have lost one of the most talented actors of our time to a stupid overdose.
At this juncture, I’m not going to speculate as to what really happened. This guy left a family behind, a little kid among them. He appeared to have split up with co-star and co-parent, Michelle Williams (another talented human being in an industry choking on its own schlock), but I don’t even want to imagine how tough it is for her, and everyone else who knew and loved Ledger, right now. The vultures are already descending, gleefully poring over his final weeks for clues like nightmare versions of Sherlock Holmes with telephoto lens cameras, but this really, REALLY isn’t the time for that.
For my part, I’ll remember Ledger the way he was in “10 Things I Hate About You”: wry and casually sensual, not to mention hilarious. He was new to Hollywood, but I got the sense, even as a high school kid very much distracted by his looks, that he had come to stay for a long time.
Wish I’d been right about that one.