Monday, February 11, 2008

Missing Heath Ledger

I know this is old news, but it’s been bothering me. It keeps cropping in the news and the paper. The other day, even my thirteen year old son asked me, “Did Heath Ledger kill himself?”

I’m not sure what bothered me more; the fact that my son took the possibility of suicide so much in stride or that I really liked Heath Ledger and I’m sad that he’s gone.

I’ve seen most of Heath’s movies, from his beginnings in 10 Things I Hate About You to his lesser known work like Ned Kelly to his edgier stuff like Lords of Dogtown, and liked them all. He was an actor whose name alone could bring me to a movie I might not otherwise visit. Except for The Brothers Grimm. For some reason, I had no interest.

I feel awful for writing this, but his death makes me sad in a way I probably wouldn’t feel for most other actors or actresses. He was so young. It’s such a senseless loss. And it doesn’t seem as if he was living an “asking for it” kind of lifestyle.

I heard a tidbit right after he died, and I have no idea whether there’s any grain of truth to this or not, but this report stated he’d been having difficulty sleeping after finishing up his latest project, playing the Joker in what will be the sequel to the Batman Begins movie – the last one with Christian Bale. Apparently, this character stuck with Heath and affected him so dramatically that he was having a hard time sleeping.

I’ve heard something about possible depression too. No surprises there. Sleep deprivation can manifest itself in terrible ways.

So you try to treat the symptoms of inability to sleep and depression and you get a volatile mix of medication. An accidental overdose.

How can this happen? How could his doctors not have made him aware of the dangers of mixing his medications? Was he more susceptible because he was a celebrity or less? Where does that put us "nobodies"?

Then there’s another angle on this whole situation that I’m not sure I even want to think about because I’m probably as much to blame in my fascination as the next person. It seems as if we’re creating worlds with a bazaar lack of reality for our celebrities, our American royalty, our athletes, actors, and musicians. What are we doing to them? Are we doing it, or are they doing it to themselves?

Would Heath Ledger still be alive today if he’d chosen to become an engineer rather than an actor?

Maybe none of those questions are important. Instead, let’s celebrate his short life. What’s your favorite Heath Ledger movie?


Playground Monitor said...

I've only seen two of his movies -- A Knight's Tale and Brokeback Mountain. The latter is definitely my favorite and I liked it regardless of Heath Ledger because it tackled a sensitive subject with taste and class. But he and Gyllenhaal were tops in that film and Ledger so deserved that Oscar nod.

So sad about his death and the daughter he left behind.


Michele Hauf said...

I was shocked at his death, as I'm sure we all were. I pray for his family. It's tragic, no matter how it happened.

Casanova is my favorite! It was such a fun movie, and Ledger always seems to absolutely nail his characters. Knight's Tale rocked, too.

Helen, you must see Grimm's Brothers! Heath's character was amazing. I remember walking out of the theater raving about the work he did in that picture. He plays a bit of a primping, wimpy do-gooder--so well. He and Matt Damon were perfect for the movie. It was weird, of course, as a Terry Gilliam movie should be, but worth a watch.

Betina Krahn said...

I may have missed a Heath Ledger movie here or there, but I've sure seen most of them (Starting with 10 THINGS)and he was a fabulous actor. And though I hear his drugs and alcohol and hard partying were what broke up his relationship with Michelle Williams, I still want to believe he was decent as an actor and as a person. I've been sad about it too; moreso than I ever expected.

Yes, Helen, I think we've built a publicity machine that devours people body and soul for the entertainment of the masses. I say "we" because the appetite for reading about their missteps and misfortunes includes most of us. I confess I have wanted to read and hear what was happening to poor Britney Spears.

It's a chicken or egg situation. Which comes first, out desire to see every sad detail or the papparazzi's eagerness to make $$ off their pain and mistakes?

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and I still think my favorite Health Ledger movie is "10 Things I Hate About You." He was the ultimate, perfect high school bad boy. And yet he had a sense of humor-- like the song he sang on the steps of the stadium.

Great comic chops on that boy. Which showed again Knight's Tale and in Casanova.

MsHellion said...

10 Things I Hate About You is probably my favorite too; though I did adore Casanova...and I even enjoyed him in The Brothers Grimm.

His loss has bothered me these last few weeks too, which I realize is *weird* since I never met him...but it's amazing how much you think you know someone through his movies.

The Hollywood Machine--who's to blame? Us or them...or both?

Helen Brenna said...

Brokeback Mountain was amazing. He was amazing in it, I should say. A powerful role, for sure.

Okay, Michele, I'll watch the Brother's Grimm!

Knight's Tale was one of my favorites, too, Betina.

And Casanova, Ms Hellion. He was perfect!

A lot of movies for such a young man.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I've enjoyed HL's movies, too, and am saddened by his death. Surprised to hear it, but when you take a gander at ET, even for a few minutes, you wonder how these people stand a chance of holding onto a modicum of perspective, especially the young ones who seem to skyrocket. Imagine reporters following you--not just a few but a mob--everywhere you go, and it's perfectly legal. You can't move your car without running over a foot.

Man, what a crazy world!

Cindy Gerard said...

Knight's Tale was my favorite. such fun. And yes, it is so sad. Hopefully this won't sound cruel because I certainly don't intend it to be. His death was tragic and purposeless - but sometimes I think the 'importance' of what a public figure does becomes over magnified in their minds. From what I've heard, Ledger was very meticulous and serious about his acting. Perhaps to the point where he obsessed over it and literally drove himself to a dependence on prescp drugs to help him unwind, sleep, relax. Again, I fear this happens when what a person does becomes more important that who that person is - as a parent, a partner, a community member. And that public image and the expectations that go along with it takes over. Brittany is another case in point, I think. And yes, the general public's voracious need to read and hear about every minute detail in the life of celebrities contributes.
In any event, it's a real tragedy and a sad commentary on 'stardom' and what all that fame can bring down on some people. It ain't all it's cracked up to be - and yet arguably, many of us equate star status to a sure fire trip to happily ever after.

Kathleen Eagle said...

The prescription drug thing is scary. I blogged about the ads not long ago, and some of the drugs they found in poor HL's system were those bery ones. The one with the butterfly that puts you to sleep was one. I don't say that medication is a bad thing--it's often nothing short of miraculous--but people build up a tolerance. Doctors don't necessarily know how the patient is affected, either. Side effects happen with some people and not others. Our chemistry varies.

I saw a bit of an interview with HL, done recently, and the guy couldn't sit still or focus. Somebody should have noticed. (I guess they did. Friends talked about their recent concerns within days of his death.)

The media could really step up here and look at this as teachable moment for all of us. That would be such a good way to honor the man. Put aside the gossip and take a look at the price of this attitude that they owe the public every piece of themselves, every minute. And what are we doing to ourselves as a society by buying into it?

M. said...

i was most impressed with 'monster's ball'. his part was small but riveting - so much so, i read that's what made ang lee ask him to do 'brokeback'.

and, imho, comparisons between heath and britney aren't valid, in the sense that whatever may have happened in his private life, he really did seem to want to stand out through his work. he kept his personal life to himself, there was no sense (at least, to me) that he relished or sought out the public attention

Susan Kay Law said...

I hadn't realized just how young he was until he died. He'd done so many movies that I somehow thought he was older than that. Not that much older than my own sons.

I wonder how many different doctors prescribed all those drugs, or if he got them from one place. It was certainly a lot.


Cindy Gerard said...

M - You have a valid point. About not comparing Heath to Brittany. It was a poor choice on my part. I was merely reaching for another example of the 'larger than life' persona that gets attached to celebrities that can, in so many ways, affect all aspects of their lives in negative ways.
Ledge was, indeed, a serious, brilliant actor, dedicated to his craft. So much so, that it apparently affected his personal life to the point that he couldn't escape the pressure. Very sad.
As Brittany's situation, while entirely different, is also very sad.

Helen Brenna said...

Great points, all of them, Cindy and Kathy. This is such a troublesome issue, party because I'm guilty in my fascination. Right? Guess we all are.

M, he was spectacular in Monster's Ball. I haven't seen a singe movie of his that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed his performance. I agree with you that there's little to compare between him and Brittany. She's always been into sensationalism. He took acting very seriously, and did seem more private than many celebrities.

Yeah, he was young, Susie, but very busy. And you're probably right - several docs were probably involved. Usually, they ask what other prescriptions you're taking before prescribing anything.

The whole prescription drug industry is heading for a reckoning, me thinks.

Debra Dixon said...

A Knight's Tale is my favorite.

I honestly don't think he committed suicide and I'm not sure it's was an "accidental" overdose.

I think we need to stop saying that and use the correct term: prescribed overdose.

It's very sad. I did like him very much as an actor.

Michele Hauf said...

I really look forward to seeing him play The Joker in Batman. It'll be such a bittersweet performance, I'm sure.

Christie Ridgway said...

A Knight's Tale for me, too. I haven't seen all his movies and now I really want to. I thought he was incredible in Brokeback Mountain.

It's very, very sad. I didn't realize how young he was either, Susie.

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, you're so right, but that makes it all the more sad, doesn't it. Prescribed overdose.

Michele, I don't know if I'll be able to see that movie. Right now,I'm thinking not.

If I remember correctly, A Knight's Tale wasn't all that big of a box office hit. I think it got really popular later. Anyone else know?

Kathleen Eagle said...

I remember seeing AKT on dvd, remember the contemporary slant and the Chaucer character being funny, but I think I was disappointed. Or it didn't make a strong impression, or the music bothered me. I always look forward to period pieces, but I tend to be a purist. Although I loved "Shakespeare In Love." I have a son Ledger's age--28. I just asked him whether he remembers "A Knight's Tale" being talked about much, and he says "Ledger was pretty good, but the writing sucked."

He was pretty amazing in Brokeback. Gillenthal bothered me because he obviously couldn't ride. But Ledger was painfully real--wound so tight he could barely talk. Such a challenging role, and he nailed it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Speaking of period pieces, just finished watching "The Tudors" 1st season on dvd, and Jonathan Rys Meyers is excellent. He's not a heartthrob for me, but good in the role. Terrific cast all around.

Liza said...

I loved 10 Things and The Patriot. I actually will watch 10 things everytime it comes on tv, plus I own the dvd. Best scene is when he sings at the football field.

Helen Brenna said...

Painfully real in Brokeback covers it, Kathy, and, from a purist standpoint, I hear what you're saying about Knight's Tale. But it wasn't meant to be taken that way. I liked the music thrown in uncharacteristic settings.

Oh, Liza, I always forget about The Patriot. Was that right after 10 Things?

Arne Kristian said...

I loved the Batman The dark Knight