Legacy: Heath Ledger, We Will Never Know

I was thinking about Heath Ledger today while watching his portrait on the Biography Channel and decided to repost something I had written on the day he died, a little over a year ago, on my now-defunct Myspace blog…I know the truth of how he died has since been revealed (accidental overdose on prescription medication) but at the time, the gossip bloodhounds had a field day, as they always do but I was just saddened by the death of a great, young actor.

Word of mouth out of Hollywood, even before its release, was that Ledger was a shoo-in for an Oscar nod for “The Dark Knight”.  Insiders reveled that not since Anthony Hopkins seared the screen as Hannibal Lechter has a film villain been so diabolical, so nonchalant in the human pursuit of evil. That the hype sustained the truth is testament to Ledger.  His Joker is an archetype, a new paradigm in cinematic villains.

Also, as of that writing I had only seen “Brokeback Mountain” once, and thought it was a fine film, but not so quick to jump on the ‘masterpiece’ bandwagon.  It is only in revisiting it do I truly understand its depth and beauty and, yes, I could see why people (Jake Gyllenhaal’s sterile performance notwithstanding) would call it a ‘masterpiece’.

January 22 2008

Heath Ledger
Current mood:  melancholy
Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities

A revelatory, astonishing performance by a soon-to-be great actor in a good-not-great film. That’s what I said when I first saw Heath Ledger in ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ So few times in my film-going life had I witnessed a performance of such visceral implosion – a man bleeding inside out from inner torment. In an improved more cohesive world, Ledger would have walked the stage and accepted a most deserved Oscar that year.

As you all heard, Ledger died a few hours ago, and I only hope it wasn’t due to drug abuse, which has been hinted at, or suicide – that would only prove his cowardice. I feel sadness for his daughter and ex-wife (especially if it were drug use), but my tolerance remains quite low for suicides and overdoses due to recreational drug use (no sympathy whatsoever for that kind of overdose, actually – you know what the risks are), especially when children are involved.

Something struck me when I heard the news. I’m not sure why it affected me – not since River Phoenix died almost 15 years ago (of an overdose, no less) has an actor’s death made me stop and take a deep breath. Here was a man not privy to the gossip hounds, nor a usual staple in the tabloids eighth level of hell. Not much on the radar in Perez Hilton’s subhuman swill pool (and he, after all, is the gatekeeper to that eighth level of hell).

Sure, the gays loved him because of ‘Brokeback’ and I often wonder how many gay men would really care all that much of his passing if he never starred in that film or if he didn’t possess such a manly beauty.

But lovers of film in general knew him as a raw talent – as an actor, he seemed to come from another time, where and when actors delved into their psyche to explore the human remains, no matter how dim-witted the film or revolutionary the project. Here was a talent that would stand with the greats in time.  Just like Marlon Brando and Sean Penn, he wasn’t transient.  He was that good.

I actually believe that. And now, I’ll never know. And that’s partly why it affected me so. I mean, actors and actresses die all the time, but so few so young. And even fewer so talented. We will never know.

What a loss for true film fans. This is a music video directed by Ledger. It’s for Ben Harper’s “Morning Yearning” and proves that Ledger also had an instinct for directing.

I will never know. We will never know.

My fingers touch upon my lips
It’s a morning yearning
It’s a morning yearning
Pull the curtains shut try to keep it dark
But the sun is burning
The sun is burning

The world awakens on the run
And we’ll soon be earning
We’ll soon be earning
With hopes of better days to come
That’s a morning yearning
Morning yearning

Morning yearning…

Another day another chance to get it right
Must I still be learning?
Must I still be learning?
Baby crying kept us up all night
With her morning yearning
With her morning yearning

Morning yearning…

Like a summer rose I’m a victim of the fall
But am soon returning
Soon returning
You’re love’s the warmest place the sun ever shines
My morning yearning
My morning yearning

Morning yearning…

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