I called my wife as I made my way through the snow to my chiropractor appointment and she confirmed. His housekeeper found his naked body laying on his bed, supposedly sleeping pills were involved. How sad. How tragic. I immediately thought of how his daughter, Matilda Rose will no longer have a father. Then I thought of how at 28 years-old, here's a guy who was really just starting to get some incredible roles.
The last film I had seen him in Todd Hayne's "I'm Not There", the film about the many different Bob Dylan personas. Ledger played one of the many incarnations of Dylan and he played it with such ease and comfort. There was no pretension or force in his acting, he just became that role and he was much more versatile than people gave him credit for. Another actor who starred with Ledger in that movie (although didn't really share any scenes with) is Christian Bale. Of course they both have scenes together the highly-anticipated film "The Dark Knight" which will be released this July. Ledger plays The Joker in the rebooted Batman franchise directed by Christopher Nolan. We've only seen clips of him in the trailer but so far (and from what the film's cast has said) his work looks phenomenal. It looks like that will be the last film he ever worked on.
There were two other recent films though, one is out on DVD and another just began filming. I don't know how much work he had begun on Terry Gilliam's "The Imagination of Doctor Parnassus" but I know he had finished 2006's "Candy", where he played a poet addicted to heroin with fellow Australian actress Abbie Cornish ("A Good Year"). Who know what kinda role he woulda played in Gilliam's film. The director always does something interesting and Ledger had worked with him before on the dreadful 2005 film "The Brothers Grimm". It's too bad we;ll never see that collaboration.
I've liked Ledger's work ever since I first saw him in 1999's "10 Things I Hate About You". He had a carefree bravura about him which was attractive. His look was unique. He wasn't quite a pretty boy, although he was boyish he had a sorta rugged charisma about him that made you notice him. After that role, he played Mel Gibson's son in the 2000 American Revolution war drama, "The Patriot" directed by Roland Emmerich. It seemed he was heading in that young action star direction but his next role proved he strived for diversity.
He had a small role as Billy Bob Thornton's son in 2001's "Monster Ball", directed by Marc Forster. It was a strong role that demanded a great deal of emotion as he played a victim of severe family dysfunction. That same year, I also really liked him in the modern take "A Knight's Tale" where he showed not just more comedic timing but also took a successful turn at adventure and romance.
Ledger received an Oscar Nomination for his role memorable role as Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee's 2005 drama "Brokeback Mountain". He played a cowboy struggling with his feelings for his best friend (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and for me, he was the best part of that film. Where Gyllenhaal's unconvincing performance kinda ruined the film for me, Ledger's delivery seemed a lot more realistic to me. He hooked up with co-star Michelle Williams on that set and they eventually had a daughter, Matilda Rose. When asked about fatherhood, Ledger said, "Matilda is adorable, and beautifully observant and wise. Michelle an I love her so much. Becoming a father exceeds all my expectations. It's the most remarkable experience I've ever had - it's marvelous." That's what saddens me the most, I suppose. Not that we will never see him perform again but that his daughter will no longer have a father.
I'm sure more news of his death will surface but whatever comes out, it doesn't change much. A great talent has died too young and too soon.