Some of us remember where we were when we heard Heath Ledger died. The news came out of nowhere, and it was a sock to the gut that someone this young and this talented had abruptly vanished from this mortal coil. We admit to not being blown away by him at first; in “10 Things I Hate About You” and “A Knight’s Tale,” he simply seemed like the next Hollywood rent-a-hunk. We were wrong, and not long after we realized he was one of the most interesting actors working, he was gone.
Ledger passed nine years ago. He was only 28 and his death came a mere months before the world saw his Oscar-winning turn as a particularly anarchic/sadistic Joker in “The Dark Knight.” (Though we still say he should have won one for “Brokeback Mountain,” too — one of the most affecting portrayals of emotional reticence to ever hit a movie screen.) Time enough has passed to honor him in doc-form. And so we’ll soon be getting “I Am Heath Ledger,” a new film that celebrates his life and reminds people of what the movies have missed. (It will premiere at this month’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.)
From the looks of it, there will be fawning testimony, as well as copious clips. We’re happy to see so much in the trailer from 2005’s “Lords of Dogtown,” an otherwise so-so skaters biopic that greatly benefited from a wackadoodle supporting turn from Ledger. Armed with hulking false teeth, he looks and sounds like he’s doing his best Val Kilmer impersonation. “Lords of Dogtown” was one of the first signs that Ledger was done being a Hollywood pretty boy. His performances from then on — including "Brokeback Mountain" later that year — were thrilling and unpredictable. You couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next.
One very sad revelation in the trailer: Ledger wanted to direct. Much of the footage is comprised of home movies he shot himself. We learn he was rarely without a camera in hand, be it a video recorder or a Polaroid, and that acting was just his way into filmmaking. Apart from designs he did for a Modest Mouse video that was made after his death, he never got that far. But he did leave us with far more than the second most iconic Joker.
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