EW’s Heath Ledger appreciation

Posted by · 10:19 am · January 17th, 2009

Cover of Entertainment WeeklyEntertainment Weekly’s current cover story is a somewhat engaging retrospective on the career of Heath Ledger through the words of his friends and collaborators.  The first story of its kind to date, the piece is a nice idea given that Jan. 22 is both the anniversary of Ledger’s unfortunate death and the day he will likely nab a posthumous Oscar nomination for his work in “The Dark Knight.”

My only beef with the story is the insistence on either writers Josh Rottenberg and Cristine Spines, or their editor (can’t be sure which), to fish out the most US Weekly-brand quotes from some of these people, splashing suspicion on the drug use about (though director Terry Gilliam refutes that at one point), leaning heavily on talk about Ledger’s insomnia and basically painting a much more morose portrait than was really necessary.  It’s a tough, sad read as a result.  But it’s solid and, like I said, unique.  Here are some highlights:

“The Patriot” co-star Mel Gibson:

His audition for The Patriot was rough. But he got the gig because of some kind of honest thing that was intrinsic to him. He was just authentic and sincere. I don’t think he knew the power he had already. So he’d work himself up into an angst situation, trying to get at things that were already there. You almost wanted to say, ”Dude, just calm down and be yourself. It’s good.”

“Monster’s Ball” director Marc Forster:

When he read the script, Heath said, ”Look, I get this character. I totally understand him. I’ll come down there and breathe in that world.” He wanted to try something different, something where the movie wasn’t resting on his shoulders. The one thing he said was, ”I’m not going to participate in the promotion of the movie. I’m just going to come in and focus on the acting.”

“Four Feathers” co-star and friend Wes Bentley:

Heath didn’t give himself enough credit for his talent as an actor. He didn’t know what he had so he decided to enjoy what was being offered to him. I wanted to explain to him, ”Please wake up to how great you are.” He didn’t have any classical training. He didn’t have anyone making him feel like he had credibility. The only voice he listened to was his own self critic, because it was the loudest.

And finally, this sobering remark from Gilliam:

I was in Vancouver, and there was a computer with a BBC website and it says, ”Heath Ledger found dead.” My immediate response was, ”It’s a f—ing Warner Bros. publicity stunt for the Joker!” We kept looking at the computer thinking it was going to change. But it wouldn’t go away…We’re cutting Parnassus now, so it’s like I work with Heath every day. He’s in fine shape, at least in the world I’m inhabiting at the moment. It just doesn’t make sense. Every day goes by and I think, He’ll be back in a second.

Read the rest of the piece here.

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

15 responses so far

  • 1 1-17-2009 at 10:36 am

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    It’s so strange that the lamentation of Ledger’s passing can be both so sincere and so selfish.

    Sincere because a young life was lost. Selfish because deep down we all so desperately want to see all of the work he would have given us over what would have no doubt been a legendary career.

    Such a shame.

  • 2 1-17-2009 at 11:14 am

    Chris said...

    I thought the same thing when I read this, how some of the things said just made it look even more strange. Especially when someone said that Heath one time told them “I’m going to disappear after Batman is made” or whatever.

    I was in Vancouver, and there was a computer with a BBC website and it says, ”Heath Ledger found dead.” My immediate response was, ”It’s a f—ing Warner Bros. publicity stunt for the Joker!”

    That quote above also pissed me off. Terry Gilliam is such an asshole.

  • 3 1-17-2009 at 12:30 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Chris, Terry Gilliam had a professional and personal relationship with Heath Ledger through two films, I somehow feel he’s entitled to express his shock and disbelief at the time over the loss of someone dear to him however he may choose. Who’s the asshole?

    And was the Gibson quote pulled from their year end issue, or vice versa?

  • 4 1-17-2009 at 12:51 pm

    Chris said...

    I’m pretty sure Michelle Williams or his parents never came out accusing anybody of having any ‘publicity stunt’ for the Joker or whatever the hell else Terry Gilliam thought up for faking his death. And they had much closer and personal relationships with Heath, obviously. Terry Gilliam still remains the asshole.

    Terry Gilliam just seems to have tons of beef in general with Warner Brothers.

  • 5 1-17-2009 at 12:56 pm

    malevolentmuse said...

    I read the write-ups and went through the gallery of pictures this morning and as soon as I saw his picture I immediately felt so sad. I’ve always liked him even in the crappy stuff. Unlike so many actors his age, when he was younger you could tell he wasn’t trying to cash in on his early success. That’s when I realized he was going to be someone to be reckoned with in the future; he wanted to be an actor and not a rich movie star.

    I certainly don’t claim to know Heath Ledger personally or that the wealth of interviews and articles about him truly gives me any kind of glimpse into him as a person, but if there is any possible silver lining to this something tells me his performance in The Dark Knight is the kind of performance he would have wanted to be his last. Not this one in particular, but something where he left it all on the screen in a performance he was proud to leave as a legacy. Mission accomplished.

  • 6 1-17-2009 at 1:10 pm

    noveltyhat said...

    chris, he’s just saying the moment it happened, he didn’t believe it. k? he’s not accusing anyone of foul play. when i first heard i was certain the person telling me had just confused ledger with renfro. lots of people didn’t believe it instantly.

    great article, btw. thanks.

  • 7 1-17-2009 at 1:12 pm

    malevolentmuse said...

    noveltyhat, I know what you mean. While I didn’t think it was Renfro, my immediate response was to say, out loud at work mind you, “No fucking way!” It was just impossible in my mind and had to be a sick rumor or misunderstanding.

  • 8 1-17-2009 at 1:30 pm

    Josh said...

    This was definitely a worthy article and sadly appropriate, but I can kind of see where Chris is coming from. Isn’t Gilliam the one who was getting on Warners’ case back when TDK hit big, for using Ledger’s death as a promotional tactic? Obviously, the quote from this article is more along the lines of shock, but I’m pretty sure he was also the one who pointed a finger at Warner Bros.

  • 9 1-17-2009 at 1:52 pm

    Anthony said...

    I’ve got to agree with Josh on this one. There’s no reason to jump down Chris’ throat.

    I think Chris is making this assumption after reading in the past that Gilliam asserted (wrongly) that Warners was promoting his death and using it as a marketing tool for the film. Obviously, that’s completely not true and couldn’t be more off base.

    Warners really did a stand-up job with the promotion of The Dark Knight, and Heath’s work. Shying away from what was the main selling point of the film (before or after his death), The Joker, just to respect his passing.

    There’s no reason to keep bringing Warners up as if they were hoping and praying for Heath to OD. They were very respectful, it’d be nice if Terry returned the favor.

  • 10 1-17-2009 at 2:05 pm

    interstellar said...

    I watched almost every movie by gilliam from timebandits (what year was that…!?) and a lot of interviews… he always talks like that :) and he always looks like an emotional and very nice person.
    Btw, I wanted to see ‘parnassus’ BEFORE ledger died, because it was a gilliam movie. Me and other 3 or 4 persons in the world.. :D

  • 11 1-17-2009 at 2:13 pm

    Anthony said...

    It’s too gruesome an insinuation to give him a pass. The first statement he made all those months ago was terrible and totally wrong.

    I’m not going to say Terry’s an asshole, but he certainly needs to stop saying stuff like this.

  • 12 1-17-2009 at 2:16 pm

    malevolentmuse said...

    Was Brazil supposed to be released by Warner Bros because I remember Gillium being livid with how the release of that film was handled. If memory serves, he actually went public to get critics to call on whichever studio had it to release it. That would explain his total and, well, kind of sick and offensive distrust of Warner Bros.

  • 13 1-17-2009 at 2:23 pm

    Josh said...

    malevolentmuse, I believe the LA Film Critics got a chance to see Brazil and award it Best Picture of 1985, which obviously helped out the publicity campaign and nudged its release. However, I do believe that was (always?) a Universal release, not Warner Bros.

  • 14 1-17-2009 at 11:22 pm

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    Call me crazy, I also thought it was a publicity stunt… I even thought that he will reappear in the movie premiere with a joker costume saying “Why So Serious?”… I know, I’m psycho