Sometimes people break through because of one thing....their voice, masculinity or body. Heath Ledger had all this things in spades.
Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, I Am Heath Ledger chronicles the young Oscar winner's brief life in his own words through home movies and the testimony of those closest to him.
Described by his Mom as a "wild stallion", this overzealous Australian teen booked his first film "10 Things I Hate About You," shortly upon arrival in Tinseltown. However, it was his big break opposite Mel Gibson in The Patriot that put him on the map and Brokeback Mountain made him an A-list star.
Like other A-list Hollywood heartthrobs (Robert Redford, Rob Lowe). Ledger was not one to rest on his looks, he often said, "The impression you have of yourself when you look in the mirror is up to you." It was his creative intensity that allowed him to master everything he attempted...painting, directing, photography, you name it...he could do it..
But it was that same intensity which allowed him to disappear into a the iconic role of The Joker in The Dark Night. So incredibly committed to being authentic, Ledger locked himself in a room for 6 weeks in order to develop just the right voice and laugh. His determination paid off. Unfortunately, he would not live to reap the rewards.
His intense energy often times kept him awake and the actor began to turn to prescription sleeping aids. It was the lethal combination of pills and alcohol that took him away from this realm. Ironically, his next project he was slated to direct, Queen's Gambit was the story about a young chess player addicted to pills.
On the heels of anniversaries of such great artists as Prince, Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, Heath Ledger's name in now added to the list of artists who full brilliance will never be fulfilled. In the end, his greatest role was becoming a Dad to his daughter Matilda.
The good news is Matilda will forever have her Dad's life and work documented for eternity. According to close friend Ben Harper, "...he felt life deeper than anyone I ever met...he had limitless energy...too many thoughts...too much creativity."
Being an actor is a lonely life lived out in the spotlight. For some, the glare may be just one bulb too bright.
I Am Heath Ledger makes it television debut May 17th on Spike TV. Check your local listings for times.