Heath Ledger and his ‘gentle way’ remembered

Feb. 12, 2009 | 4:49 a.m.

Heath Ledger

Michael Ordoña has a great piece today in the Los Angeles Times on Heath Ledger, who should (and, I think, will) win a posthumous Oscar for his searing performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’sThe Dark Knight.” Here’s an excerpt:

It was far from the first time he had transformed himself for a role, whether drastically, as the scruffy skateboarding impresario in “Lords of Dogtown,” or subtly, as the repressed, gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.” Here, the recollections of some who worked with the supporting actor nominee add detail to a picture of a complex man and challenging artist whose creative fire and generosity of spirit lifted those around him.

“His energy and enthusiasm for life will never cease to inspire me,” said Ledger’s longtime friend and business partner Matt Amato. “A friend of mine said after Heath died that we must continue in Heath’s ‘gentle way.’ Those words sounded perfect to me — Heath’s gentle way.”

From Heath Ledger’s American debut in the underrated “Taming of the Shrew” adaptation “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) through “The Patriot” and the Chaucer-inspired romp “A Knight’s Tale,” the handsome young actor looked to be on a teen-idol trajectory. But even then, he showed signs of being separate from the pack.

“I was intimidated by how worldly wise he seemed to be and how much he understood himself,” said Jason Isaacs, who played the sadistic Col. Tavington in “Patriot.” “He took a house in the forest while we all lived together in a condo. Like many in my profession, I seem to need company and to fill the silence with noise; he didn’t need that, and he was very happy in his house in the forest. I know 21-year-olds; I’d never met a 21-year-old like him.”

In 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” he made an indelible impression in a brief appearance as a tough death-row guard’s sensitive son. It was an understated, soulful turn in a supporting role — hardly the stuff of a teen idol lusting for fame.

Indeed, Daniel Day-Lewis, who had never met Ledger, cited that performance last year while dedicating his SAG win for “There Will Be Blood” to the young actor just five days after his death, saying his character “seemed to be almost like an unformed being, retreating from themselves, retreating from his father, from his life, even retreating from us, and yet we wanted to follow him, and yet were scared to follow him, almost. It was unique.”

It’s a great piece, you should read the rest. You can find it right here.

– Geoff Boucher

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Credit: Photo of Heath Ledger by Jennifer S. Altman/For the Los Angeles Times

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One Response to Heath Ledger and his ‘gentle way’ remembered

  1. [...] hit that will be a tough act to follow, especially considering the Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the [...]

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