Cinematical's staff would like to take a moment to share our thoughts on Heath Ledger, who passed away today after an apparent overdose.
Although Heath Ledger's best known film to date is Brokeback Mountain, my favorite of his films was Candy, in which he starred opposite fellow Australian Abbie Cornish. His performance in Candy, as an artist and heroin addict in a mutually destructive relationship with Cornish's nice middle-class girl, was so riveting and raw, and it's one of those fest films that I've thought about often since I saw it. Like most everyone who's here working Sundance, I was deeply shocked by the news of his tragic death today. He touched us through his films, and we are saddened by the loss of his life, and the films he would have made in the future. His family, especially his young daughter Matilda, will be in our thoughts and prayers.
My original feeling about Heath Ledger -- after films like The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, and 10 Things I Hate About You -- was that he was yet another handsome and likable matinee idol ... but not much more than that. But over the last several years, I was proven wrong ... several times. My favorite performance of his was the lead role in the underrated Casanova -- and I'll be giving that film a second spin as soon as I get home from Sundance. He was a very fine actor who clearly took a lot of pride in his work, and I believe that the movie world has just lost a good soul. My heart goes out to his friends, his family, his fans, and also to the departed Heath Ledger; (If his death is ruled a suicide) I'm deeply sorry that he was so unhappy. (Regardless of the reason for the actor's death, it's a stunning tragedy.)
Like most young actors, Heath Ledger starred in his share of mediocre movies, yet he always appeared to take his work seriously, giving solid, professional performances regardless of the project. He knew he had to pay his dues before he got the prestige projects -- and when prestige finally arrived in the form of Brokeback Mountain, he was prepared for it. I had occasion to re-watch the last 20 minutes of that film just last week, and I was struck again by how much he does with so little. There are no tantrums or obvious "Oscar-bait" scenes. The character is reserved and unemotional; somehow, Ledger managed to convey so much about him anyway. He was a talented actor, and his death is a blow to the film community.
-Eric D. Snider
Many people finally came to respect Heath Ledger after his Oscar-nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain. But I honestly became a fan after 10 Things I Hate About You, a Shakespeare-inspired teen comedy that deserves a lot more credit than it receives. Ledger was a great actor, because he could do just about any kind of movie well. After 10 Things, he could have simply been a heartthrob. After The Patriot, a movie I guiltily admit I enjoy a lot, he could have easily gone further into action territory. And in The Brothers Grimm, he showed
us that he had a decent knack for comedy, too. Even when everybody in the blogosphere was shocked to hear he'd be playing The Joker in The Dark Knight, he proved that he had the goods to pull it off. Now his performance in the Batman sequel is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the year. After watching the recently released trailer, I even felt like he could be nominated for a second Oscar for the role. It could still happen, I guess, but it won't be as exciting without Ledger himself to accept the honor.
When Monika sent me an Instant Message with the news, it hit me like a claw hammer to the forehead. I knew she wouldn't joke about something like that, but, on a day of supreme cinematic reflective self-love, as the indie world obsesses over a snowy resort town in Utah, as Hollywood celebrates nominees for an award that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, it's very sobering. Heath Ledger wasn't my favorite actor, but he was definitely one to watch, and the thought that his light has been extinguished at such a young age, leaving behind a young daughter ... it's so sad it makes me want to cry, and I never cry about celebrities.