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'I Am Heath Ledger' reveals unexplored details about the actor's life

We chat with filmmaker Derik Murray.
Heath Ledger would often paint on top of his photography works, adding a signature burst of color and energy.  | Provided

Over nine years have passed since the untimely death of Heath Ledger. Best known for his iconic roles as Ennis in “Brokeback Mountain” and The Joker in “The Dark Knight” (which earned him a posthumous Academy Award), speculation continues to swirl around his passing, with many subscribing to the belief that he was dragged down to a dark place by his craft.

A new documentary his life and work, “I Am Heath Ledger,” is anything but dark, however, portraying Ledger as a passionate artist, chock full of joie de vivre.

“He was having the time of his life — he was enjoying it. He was at the top of his game, as far as he was concerned,” says filmmaker Derik Murray.

Murray had been interested in exploring Ledger's life for some time. His documentary reveals many surprising details about the actor’s life — one being that acting was only a small part of his artistic output. Ledger burned even more brightly behind the camera as a photographer and director.

“His main goal was to become a director,” says Murray. “He was directing these music videos and was super hands-on learning the craft, and he loved music. He even DJed at his house, and that wasn’t something that was widely known unless you knew him.”

Long before the days of Snapchat, Ledger was also ahead of his time when it came to documenting his incredible journey — bringing his video camera everywhere.

“He filmed behind the scenes when he was traveling or on set. But he also used the camera as an acting tool — filming himself,” Murray notes. “He never took any formal acting lessons which is amazing.”

Murray’s production company was given access to all of these personal videos as well as Ledger’s visual works by Heath Ledger’s estate.

“We had access to this content and it really says it all. It was so exciting and fresh and so filled with life that in the editing suite, we were like, Heath is a co-director in this movie we’re making,” Murray admits.

Ledger’s family and long list of friends (including actor Naomi Watts and musician Ben Harper) provide commentary on his truly extraordinary life and career in the film. 

“So many people loved him and we wanted the world to know,” Murray says.

The documentary also provides inspiration to the artist in all of us to go out there and in Ledger’s own words, “not be afraid to fall.”

“His energy was absolutely infectious and a big part of who he was,” Murray reflects. “His creativity was something he embraced daily and never took it for granted. He was on a mission every day to create something. That’s something we can all appreciate.”

“I Am Heath Ledger” premieres on May 17 at 10 p.m. on Spike TV

BONUS: Did you know Heath Ledger directed Ben Harper's video for "Morning Yearning"? Watch it below.