postWednesday, 23 January 2008

Heath Ledger is Dead

Academy Award nominated actor Heath Ledger died yesterday at 28.

Heath Ledger dead at 28 By now the news of Ledger's death has circled frantically round the net and major media networks. At about 10:30pm South African time on January 22nd Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment. If you are looking for detailed speculation you can read the press coverage at either E! or IMDB.

The discovery shocked me, probably because unlike Owen Wilson, Ledger did not survive and unlike Brad Renfro (who died last week) Ledger's career was only just beginning to take off. Of course Ledger already had an impressive resume having received an Academy Award nomination for Brokeback Mountain. In fact I skimmed over the first announcement I saw at IMDB because I assumed Ledger's picture was simply up for a story regarding his comments of yesterdays Oscar nominations.

Ledger launched his career in the teen comedy Ten Things I Hate About You and although the film was better than the average teen comedy it did not speak volumes for his calibre as an actor. Ledger then appeared in two commercial films The Patriot with Mel Gibson and A Knights Tale.

After this Ledger went about trying to strip himself of the teen idol vibe that had infected him, taking a small role in the critically acclaimed masterpiece Monster's Ball (giving viewers a glimpse of his potential). He followed this with the serious but also disastrous Four Feathers.

Then Ledger stopped appearing in larger productions and appeared in smaller films. This is probably the main reason why when Ledger popped up in a film about gay cowboys most people couldn't believe the critical praise Ledger was receiving for his performance.

Ledger's performance in Brokeback was a finely nuanced portrayal of a man who was restricted from emoting his desires. It was breathtaking. For the sake of eulogy, I will put the mask of machoism aside and admit that I cried like a baby at the end of that film.

After watching Brokeback I think it would have been hard for anyone to see Ledger as the teen hunk he was originally viewed as anymore. He broke out as an actor of the highest calibre. This summer he is set to return to the big screen in a major studio production, The Dark Knight, the latest Batman film, as The Joker.

When Ledger was originally announced there was a fair amount of protest from Batman fans. However, after the footage from the trailers and other promotional material was released his critics were silent. Of what early footage of The Dark Knight has been seen it seems as though Ledger's performance will replace Jack Nicholson's as the definitive Joker performance (and possibly comic book villain). Of course seeing Ledger up on the big screen most likely for the last time posthumously is bound to add an extra chill to the performance.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Ledger legacy. At only 28 and just beginning to step into his prime one has to wonder if his death will leave the kind of mark that James Dean's did. It is not often that the tragic death of an actor can leave the kind of iconic mark on society that is usually reserved to musicians but Ledger just may be able to pull it off. Either, way Ledger's death is a terrible tragedy for the film industry.


DeeDubya said...

A truely huge loss, not only to his family but to the film industry. He has an amazing and intresting body of work and with the Dark Knight due his star was going to rise even higher.

Midleah said...

The worst of it is, there are a group of religious fundamentalists who are planning to picket this man's funeral, just because he PLAYED a gay man in a movie.

Truly sad. He has a baby daughter, too...

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