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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RIP Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

When I woke up early this morning, I saw that my MSN window was flashing with Sebastian's message. (My laptop is placed on my bed beside me most of the time when I sleep)

Did you hear?

I was one of the first to read about the news on Cinematical.

Groggily, I typed 'yes', assuming that he was referring to the announcement of the Oscar nominations, but swiftly, I clicked on my Firefox live bookmark to see the Cinematical RSS feed.

And knew immediately that he was referring to Heath Ledger's sudden death, either of accidental overdose or suicide.

Definitely shocking. He was only 28, and he was to appear in one of the most anticipated summer films of 2008, THE DARK KNIGHT as the Joker. All of a sudden, THE DARK KNIGHT took on a whole different meaning, instead of being just another Hollywood blockbuster everyone wants to see, it also becomes possibly Heath Ledger's last film role.


Just two days ago, when seeing another poster of THE DARK KNIGHT, I was telling my sister that "Man, never would I have imagined that The Joker would look THIS cool in a Batman film". I was one of the rare few who liked BATMAN RETURNS more than the first BATMAN, so I never really thought that Jack Nicholson's Joker was that big a deal, and I was definitely looking forward to Heath Ledger's interpretation of this iconic villain.

By now, his most acclaimed and well-known role was Ennis Del Mar in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005). When writing about the film two years ago, I mentioned this about Heath Ledger:
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams deserved their Oscar nominations. But the person who surprised me (and probably almost everyone else) most was Heath Ledger. I've repeated this many times before, but I'll say it again, who has expected him to become Oscar material? Who has expected him to become such a great actor? Especially after watching 'A Knight's Tale'? I thought he would've been another Josh Harnett, or even worse, a Freddie Prinze Jr. I had thought that the highlight of this guy's career would be 'Ten Things I Hate About You' (don't get me wrong, I like that film a lot).


10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (1999), Heath Ledger's first Hollywood film, was the first film that introduced me (any many others) to him. During the resurgent of teen movies in the 90s, I ranked 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU as one of my favourites, and back in my secondary school days, many who saw the film would always make references to the scene where Heath Ledger's character, Patrick, serenades Julie Stiles' character Kat with 'CAN'T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU' at the school fields, with the help of the school band. Hell, that was our generation's 'John Cusack holding boom box over his head in Say Anything...' ultimate declaration of love. Sort of.

Heath Ledger sings CAN'T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU in 10 Things I Hate About You

I didn't watch that many other pre-Brokeback Mountain films of his. A KNIGHT'S TALE was disappointing, so was THE PATRIOT, although it had more to do with the quality of those films and not really Heath Ledger's acting (I thought he and Jason Isaac's baddie were the best things in the horrible THE PATRIOT). I remember reading a Chinese film review of A KNIGHT'S TALE where the critic boldly predicted that it's unlikely the actor would ever get into the A-list.

As we all know, everything changed after BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. And even after BROKEBACK, I found myself actually enjoying the fluffy rom-com, CASANOVA (underrated!).

Do I feel depressed or sad? Not really. But dying so suddenly when he was starting to show so much potential for a lifetime of great performances, I do feel slightly melancholic.