Saturday, January 17, 2009

Heath Ledger: After One Year


This coming 22nd January 2009 will mark the one-year anniversary
of talented actor Heath Ledger's passing. Entertainment Weekly has
published 28 pages of interviews with Ledger's friends & colleagues.

Gil Junger, director, 10 Things I Hate About You: Heath came in to read, and he exuded a sexuality so uncommon for a man of that age. As soon as he left, I stood up and said, ''Ladies, I have never wanted to sleep with a man, but if I had to, that would be the man. Please hire him immediately.''

Todd Black, producer, A Knight's Tale: When we saw the first cut of A Knight's Tale, you couldn't look away from Heath. We were the first movie that put his full face on the poster. No one knew him quite yet, but we just decided to gamble. And Heath — ugh, he didn't even want to deal with it. He was mortified! He wanted the other people who were in the movie to be on the poster.

Alexander: Sony asked me to come over and read the script for Spider-Man. It was going to be a really cool tentpole movie. But as soon as I said Spider-Man, Heath said, ''It's not for me. I would be taking someone else's dream away.'' He never second-guessed his decisions or said ''what if'' — which was amazing, because I certainly did!

Terry Gilliam, director, The Brothers Grimm: [Cinematographer] Nicola Pecorini was working on The Order, and he called me and said, ''This kid is extraordinary. He's fearless.'' I went out to L.A. and met Heath and just liked him immediately. As we were talking, he was constantly jiggling around. I was like, ''That's great — you've got to keep that.'' He just had this incredible energy that was intense but very vulnerable at the same time. Heath was determined to be his own man, despite his success. Johnny Depp was someone he really admired. I introduced them at the Toronto Film Festival. Johnny has a good sense of competition. Right from the start, he was just, like, ''Ooh, this guy — watch out!''

James Schamus, producer, Brokeback Mountain: Heath was somebody that [screenwriters] Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana had always used as a reference point in writing the character of Ennis. You knew that part was in Heath. It was just a question of whether Ang could bring it out. Heath met Ang, and it was one of those funny conversations. All Ang wants is about 45 minutes to stare at the person. He doesn't need to say anything and doesn't care what the person has to say. But the minute Heath left it was like, ''Okay, great. Yep.''

Gibson: Fatherhood changes you. Some guys, it doesn't. But with Heath, it was going to.

Pecorini: Heath was extremely relieved he didn't win the Oscar. I saw him the next day and he was like, ''It's a big, bloody weight off my back.'' I said, ''Don't you have even a little regret?'' He said, ''No. It's over! I'm free now!'' If he had won, he would have had to deal even more with this system that wanted to guide his career and his life. He immediately threw himself back into a project that was really important to him: a movie he wanted to make about ['60s British singer] Nick Drake. That was one of his dream projects. The moment the Oscars were over, he said, ''Now we can do the Nick Drake thing.''

Emma Thomas, producer, The Dark Knight: The minute Heath started doing make-up and wardrobe tests, we realized it was going to be something really special. I remember doing a fitting where he put on that pink nurse's dress and he had the Joker's socks on and it changed the way he moved completely. Right from the beginning, people were talking about this as an Oscar-worthy performance.

Roven: I showed Heath the first six minutes of The Dark Knight, the bank heist sequence, on an IMAX screen in London. I said, ''You have to see this. You haven't seen yourself be the Joker!'' He watched it, and it just blew his mind. He was so thrilled, he was just laughing. He said, ''I want to see it again!'' It's not an easy thing to rethread an IMAX, so it took about 15 minutes but we showed it to him again. That was the last time I saw him.

Gilliam: I was in Vancouver, and there was a computer with a BBC website and it says, ''Heath Ledger found dead.'' My immediate response was, ''It's a f---ing Warner Bros. publicity stunt for the Joker!'' We kept looking at the computer thinking it was going to change. But it wouldn't go away.

Gilliam: For me, it was like, Let's just close up shop here, because without Heath I don't want to continue on this project. He was so central and so important. And everyone just kept beating me up, saying, ''No, you have to keep going for Heath. He wanted to see this film.'' Then we made the quantum leap: What if we get three actors to replace him? Johnny was the first person I called. I said, ''Would you consider helping finish Heath's part?'' And he said, ''Done, I'm there.'' Same with Jude and Colin. I had no confidence that it would work. It was just that I didn't know what else to do, so let's just gamble and do it. Because I was determined that Heath's role was not just going to disappear.

Alexander: We were making these incredible plans about what was next, career-wise. The day after he died, he was going to meet Steven Spielberg to explore the idea of playing Tom Hayden in a movie about the Chicago 7. This wasn't a guy who was even for a second thinking about checking out in any way, shape, or form. There's a moment in The Dark Knight when Heath's hanging upside down and he says to Batman, ''You and I are destined to do this forever.'' It's a very sad moment. A sequel certainly would have happened. I cringe when I read that he was a tortured soul or a Method actor who couldn't get out of his own way because he'd played this dark character. It's just not true.

Oldman: If Heath does get an Oscar nomination, I can just picture him up there, looking down and going, F---!

You can click here to read the whole interviews & details.

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