I shan’t lie to you, I’ve felt absolutely, weirdly wrong today. This may be partly because someone started spouting English nonsense about the occupation of Ireland, but it was mostly because of Heath Ledger.
Now, I’ve seen some stuff on LJ that’s asking ‘why the fuss?’ or whatever and it made sense to me. I can’t speak to everyone’s reasons why, and maybe some people just enjoy the fuss a good celebdeath provides… but for me it was simple: I liked the guy. I don’t know much about him, beyond his name being Heathcliff and being Australian. He was not one of the ones I adored, but I didn’t despise him either.
It’s also been asked, why the fuss about him, why not about Brad Renfro? Well again for me, I like Heath. I’ve seen a good proportion of his movies. It’s as simple as that for me. For other people, I think it’s pretty easy to guess – Heath was at the top of his professional game and Brad, well… be honest, was he truly more than a child star drug catastrophe to the wider world? I don’t mean to cheapen his life or death, but I don’t think the two are that comparable.
Now, it’s also a bloody good point that there are much more important things in the world than a movie star dying, no matter how tragic that might be. That’s a point well made, and I really hope we’ve more perspective than last year with Anna Nicole, who deserved a fraction of what Heath’s career should afford him.
For me, though, and this post is only, really can only be, about me (surprise surprise). I really really love the movies. They’re really what I love about the world, and the people whose movies I like are therefore afforded a sense of… if not always affection then great respect.
I had respect for Heath Ledger. I remember sitting down to 10 Things I Hate About You for the first time fully expecting some godawful waste of two hours. I finished it thinking ‘I really, really liked that’. Hell, I went out and bought it on video. I saw A Knight’s Tale in the cinema just before I went to California. My friend Richard hated it, I really liked it. In retrospect, it’s somewhere between the two and the gimmick hasn’t worn well over the last few years… but it’s likeable and he, Paul Bettany and Rufus Sewell are all good.
In fact, I never saw Heath Ledger give a bad performance. I didn’t rate Brokeback Mountain much because aside from the gimmicky gay thing, what is it but a rather dull standard romance? But he and Jake were good and the characters deserved a better movie.
I really liked The Brothers Grimm. I mean, it wasn’t a perfect film, but it was beautiful, interesting and it was fascinating. That he chose to work with Gilliam again suggests he enjoyed the experience and that we’re unlikely to see much/any of this second pairing now. Candy is on my Blockbuster waitlist somewhere.
Mostly I’m sad because I was so excited about The Dark Knight and now that can’t ever be anything but “Heath Ledger’s last movie” and it shouldn’t be. It should be the movie that absolutely propels him, without a shadow of a doubt, into the A-List, into the group of people known by everyone, even the people that hardly even watch movies on TV at Christmas. That’s what should’ve been for him. He was an actor, not a fucking celebrity! Whatever reason he started in the business, he became, it seemed to me, someone who was there for the so-called ‘craft’, not for the attention.
He was one of those people who we should’ve grown up with, who we should’ve seen mature and age and eventually be like Peter O’Toole or Alec Guinness or any of those people who become stalwarts, masters of this so-called craft in a world where the inexperienced and heathen seem to rule so often. We should’ve had another forty years of movies, good or bad, from him.
For me, it seems that the loss of the potential is what’s such a total bitch – like the Coulda-Been Young Indiana Joneses from River Phoenix or… oh, you pick your own Died Young posterchild and insert the details yourself.
For his problems and his troubles, I feel very sad for him. For his fans, those people who really did love him, then I can only empathise with quiet terror. For his family I feel saddest of all.
And now, the time begins where we watch the vultures circle, swoop and ultimately use his death for their own gain. Death brings out the very worst in some people.
Yes, there are far more important things in the world but even for me, that feels like it doesn’t quite fit today.
My fear now is a selfish one: Tis said this stuff comes in threes. Renfro, Ledger… who the fuck next?