Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

Actors are tortured souls.

The past 100 years of American cinema are littered with stories of actors and actresses who burned brightly for a brief time and then were tragically gone from our midst.  In my life, I have seen many such tales: Bruce Lee, Jon Erik-Hexum, John Belushi, River Phoenix, Chris Farley, and Brandon Lee.  While three involved famous, on-set accidents, the others were at their own hands.  With each case, families, fans, and entertainment history suffered great losses.

Like many others, I first saw Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You.  Originally intended to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt to break into movies during the peak of his Third Rock popularity, this movie ended up launching two careers: Julia Stiles and Ledger.  Over the next couple of years, I enjoyed watching Ledger in The Patriot and A Knight’s Tale.  It was A Knight’s Tale that showed me the range he had and how he looked like he was having pure fun on the set, similar to 10 Things.  The Four Feathers was not a good movie, but he made it better; you could tell that he would make better movies one day.  I chose not to see Brokeback Mountain; regardless of the “novelty” of two men in an affair, I was simply not interested in the story.   Then Ledger seemed to disappear from my radar of movies.

Batman brought him right back.  Upon hearing the news of his casting as the Joker, I was excited.  You could see elements of the character in A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things during the times of fun.  As promotional materials started appearing, I was even more excited — Ledger was invoking the Joker of “The Killing Joke” and getting rave reviews based on promotional pics only.

That is what makes his passing all that more tragic.  It doesn’t matter how he died — nothing can be done to change that.   Like Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee are linked to their last film roles, Ledger will now be always linked to Batman first.

Like all of the Joker’s jokes, this one is sadly on us and no one is laughing…

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