An Australian actor, Heath Andrew Ledger
(April 4, 1979 — January 22, 2008) was a phenomenal, humble talent who died far too soon.
At the outset of his career, Ledger was cast in several roles as a handsome young heartthrob. But eventually he broke out as a well-respected actor
, particularly for his performances as Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain
and The Joker
in the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight
He was a method actor who really got into the heads of his characters; in an interview with Empire Magazine
on his role as the Joker he revealed: "I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices ... it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath ... someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts." He also said that director Christopher Nolan
gave him absolute freedom with his interpretation of the character. Despite his methods, Ledger was never really twisted by this role; during filming of The Dark Knight
, he could be seen skateboarding, and having regular conversations with cast and crew in his Joker ensemble. Needless to say, Heath was considered very friendly, and The Dark Knight
co-stars such as Christian Bale
had nothing but nice things to say about him.
Interestingly, prior to The Dark Knight
, Ledger and Bale were also two of the actors who, alongside others, portrayed different public personas of Bob Dylan
in the bio/musical-pic I'm Not There
Unfortunately, Ledger developed insomnia during and after the completion of his roles in I'm Not There
and The Dark Knight
. He used sleeping pills to try to curb the insomnia, but when that didn't work, he combined the pills with alcohol, which sadly resulted in his death on January 22, 2008. He was only 28 at the time of his death, and completed only half of his work as the character Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Ledger's death threw the production of Parnassus
into chaos, as his participation was one of the selling points to getting financial backing for the film. In order to compensate for Ledger's death, Tony would also be portrayed by Johnny Depp
, Jude Law
, and Colin Farrel, playing the character one at a time as he changes appearance during his bizarre, fantastical journey. All three of Ledger's replacements donated their salaries to Matilda Ledger, Heath's young daughter with actress Michelle Williams
On July 18, 2008, The Dark Knight
was released to rave reviews and became one of the highest grossing movies in the US box office, raking in half a billion dollars. Ledger's terrifying—and at times funny—portrayal of the Joker was widely praised, and Oscar buzz was abound.
This performance would win Ledger a lot of posthumous awards, including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; prior to that, he was also nominated (although he didn't win) by the Academy Awards for Best Actor thanks to his performance in Brokeback
. Ledger's family was presented with his Oscar for The Dark Knight
, and it will be given to his daughter when she's no longer a baby.
He also dabbled in directing music videos, however his only major video, an animated one for the song "King Rat" by indie rock band Modest Mouse, was not released until a year and a half after his death. His hip-hop video for "Cause and Effect"
by rapper N'fa was also not released until after his death
Due the circumstances of his death and the films he had at various stages of development at the time, he is the first actor to be eligible for an Oscar in each three consecutive ceremonies after his death. (I'm Not There
in 2008, The Dark Knight
in 2009, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
- Connor, Roar (1997)
- Patrick Verona, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
- Gabriel Martin, The Patriot (2000)
- Sonny Grotowski, Monster's Ball (2001)
- Sir William Thatcher, A Knight's Tale (2001)
- Harry Faversham, The Four Feathers (2002)
- Ned Kelly, Ned Kelly (2003)
- Skip Engblom, Lords Of Dogtown (2003)
- Father Alex, The Order (2003)
- Giacomo Casanova, Casanova (2005)
- Jacob Grimm, The Brothers Grimm (2005)
- Ennis del Mar, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
- Dan, Candy (2006)
- Robbie Clark, I'm Not There (2007)
- The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)
- Tony, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Tropes invoked by this actor:
- Academy Award: For his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He is the only actor to ever win for a performance in a comic book movie.
- And only the second to win posthumously (after Peter Finch for Network).
- Actor Existence Failure: A unique subversion with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger died suddenly while filming it. Since the film is set in a multiverse and Ledger had filmed all of his scenes in the real world before his death, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law portray him in alternate universes (they gave their paychecks to Ledger's daughter).
- Badass Baritone
- Celebrity Is Overrated: Believed this and even said he didn't plan on acting for much longer despite his success.
- Celebrity Resemblance: To Joseph Gordon Levitt.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Out of respect for Ledger, Christopher Nolan decided against having any glimpses or mentions of The Joker in The Dark Knight Rises, even though the film makes reference to almost every other aspect of the two movies that came before.
- Dead Artists Are Better: At least some of the applause lavished on The Dark Knight is due to this trope, regardless of how good or bad his portrayal of Joker actually was.
- And of course, many have speculated he wouldn't have won anything, or possibly even been nominated if he was alive.
- Doting Parent: During the filming of The Dark Knight, people reported that he went around talking about his daughter Matilda whenever he got the chance. When she turns 18, Matilda will inherit her late father's Oscar statuette.
- Even the Guys Want Him: 10 Things director Gil Junger, after Ledger finished the reading and left, declared that if he had to have sex with a man, that Ledger would be that man.
- Fake American
- Fake Brit: For A Knight's Tale.
- Identical Stranger - Joseph Gordon-Levitt◊. The creepiness of their similarity is exacerbated by the fact that they were both in 10 Things I Hate About You, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a major character in The Dark Knight's sequel, The Dark Knight Rises.
- Land Down Under
- Large Ham
- Likes Older Women: Was at different points linked with Lisa Zane (18 years his senior), Heather Graham (9 years his senior), and Naomi Watts (11 years his senior).
- Mr. Fanservice
- Mean Character Nice Actor: Who knew a sinister merrymaker could be portrayed so devilishly by such a nice guy?
- Romance on the Set: Met Michelle Williams while filming Brokeback Mountain.
- Shrinking Violet: Was known to be a very big one in real life.
- What Could Have Been: Was offered the role of Spider-man in Sam Raimi's films. One can only imagine what it would have been like had he said yes.