The first time Heath Ledger appears onscreen in “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus,” he’s hanging by his neck from a bridge, near lifeless. It’s the first of many eerie scenes in the late actor’s last project, but according to his friend and the film’s director/co-writer Terry Gilliam, nothing changed, script-wise, after Ledger’s untimely death mid-production.
“That was the script we set out to make — we can’t change the mountain,” says Gilliam of the film, which includes a speech about stars who died young but live on. “A lot of people think we added eulogies for Heath, but it was all there. It’s terrifying to watch.”
In the film, Ledger plays Tony, an endearing — but ultimately dangerous and scheming — character who stumbles upon a mysterious traveling circus while on the run from debtors. For Gilliam, Ledger’s innate charm and charisma made him perfect for the part.
“Heath was just great fun,” says Gilliam. “He was mischievous; playful is what he really was being.”