Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Eugoogly: Heath Ledger

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 23, 2008

No quitting puns please

One of my favorite things about 00s film was the way it gave me reason to full-out root for Heath Ledger. Even in his schlockiest days, I’d always suspected there was something a little more to him, and to watch him prove me righter and righter as the years went on was really a sight to behold. And that’s why when I heard of his death earlier today, I wasn’t just sad, I was downright pissed off. This wasn’t someone like Brad Renfro whose best days were clearly already behind him–this was someone who was only going to get better as the years went on, and for him to shuffle off before getting a chance to really prove that isn’t just tragic, it’s fucking annoying as hell.

Not to say that Ledger’s career was blemishless. He’s had his fair share of flops and under-performers in recent years, ranging from Ned Kelly to The Order and The Brothers Grimm (if you don’t remember what some of those were about, or that they were even released at all, you’re certainly not alone). But ignoring his missteps–and everyone besides Daniel Day-Lewis has aat least a couple of those on their resume–and Ledger accomplished with ease what seems to be virtually impossible for most. He matured from an above-average teen actor, to just an actor. And a damn good one.

Ten Things I Hate About You will always be the way I best remember Ledger (as well as Gabrielle Union, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and that asshole prettyboy guy who’s in everything), and that’s not such a bad thing. It’s Ledger’s chemistry with Stiles elevated Ten Things far above She’s the Man and nearly into West Side Story or The Lion King territory for mod-day Shakespeare adaptations. A Knight’s Tale and The Patriot followed, further proving Ledger’s skill at transcending mediocre product with his charm and acting (and the fact that the latter didn’t wreck his career entirely is perhaps the kindest eulogy of all).

Were such movies the sole claims to fame for Ledger, he would certainly have been lost to time. But Ledger lucked out on two iconic roles that should provide him with legend status on their own–Ennis in Brokeback Mountain and The Joker in The Dark Knight, the latter of which some say might’ve nonetheless driven him to desperation. Most actors are unbeievably lucky to get one such role, but to get two–straddling the critical and the commercial, the cult and the mainstream–cements your status as a legend. The fact that Dark Knight isn’t even out yet barely seems relevant, the screen caps look amazing, post-prod is over, and if the teaser doesn’t at least pique your interest, you need to trurn on your respirator or ESPN in the morning type stuff.

I wouldn’t say that Heath went down in his prime, exactly–he just died on the young side. I find this find most tragic of all–Heath still had so far to go, he could’ve been a Brando or a Norton at least if he had just stuck around a little longer. Cut down in his prime? Not even afforded that luxury.

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One Response to “Eugoogly: Heath Ledger”

  1. Justin said

    He was near perfect in I’m Not There. If it weren’t for Cate Blanchett it would have been his movie.

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