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WATCHLIST: A life less ordinary

ARMY OF ME - Gino De La Paz - The Philippine Star

In the trailer for the new documentary I Am Heath Ledger, never-before-seen personal footage shot by the late Australian actor is interspersed with intimate interviews with Ledger’s family and close friends.

In it, the musician Ben Harper describes him as “the most alive person.” Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee says, “Even as a supporting actor, he will steal the whole show — that’s the power of Heath Ledger.”

Set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 23, I Am Heath Ledger will also be broadcast on US TV channel Spike TV in May. The trailer, coincidentally, surfaced on what would have been his 38th birthday — April 4.

It’s both fitting and horribly clichéd to say that Ledger was one of our generation’s most gifted actors, one the world lost far too soon. But examining his body of work, the conclusion is neither too dramatic nor farfetched. Ledger, who died in January 2008 at the age of 28 following an accidental prescription drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment, completed an incredible 23 films in less than 10 years in Hollywood.

Memorable Roles

While he will be best known as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain or the Joker in The Dark Knight, it’s Ledger’s less-popular projects that demonstrate his ability to balance blockbusters with something more nuanced or unconventional.

He was fun playing Skip, part of the legendary Z-Boys skateboarding group that ruled the scene in Venice, California in the 1970s, in 2005’s Lords of Dogtown. In I’m Not There, he was one of several actors — Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Richard Gere also took part — who portrayed the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan at different stages in his personal life and career.

Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam directed him in The Brothers Grimm, a fictitious portrait of the legendary storytellers as traveling con artists in French-occupied Germany during the early 19th century. Gilliam also worked with Ledger on 2009’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and the latter’s death caused production to be temporarily suspended.

They died young

When it comes to the young and talented who pass away at their prime, perhaps much of the sadness that fans feel stems from the realization that these stars’ great potential will remain unfulfilled. This same wistfulness seeps through other documentaries about famous people who passed away in their late 20s.

Asif Kapadia’s Amy, on the life and career of the late British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, premiered in 2015 to wonderful reviews and Oscar buzz. Singer Adele, after watching Amy, told i-D magazine: “Do you know what makes me super sad? That I’m never going to hear her voice again other than how I’ve heard it.” Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, also released in 2015, is an in-depth look at the Nirvana frontman’s childhood, music career and untimely death at age 27. In its review, The Guardian deemed it “a real ’90s time capsule,” the likes of which will never be seen again.

The trailer for I Am Heath Ledger shows footage of the fallen actor holding the camera on himself, and turning the lens on whatever catches his eye. “He was always a director. Acting was just a way to get there,” reminisces his childhood friend Trevor Dicarlo. It’s a glimpse of both what was and what could have been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN HARPER

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