Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Remembering a star...

It seems almost unbelievable that Heath Ledger died five years ago today, almost nearly as unbelievable as his death at age 28 itself was. I remember we were in Las Vegas and the news came as quite a shock, as his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight (which would win him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor a little more than a month later) was already catapulting him toward the super stardom I always thought he deserved.

Ledger first came to my attention as the mischievous yet appealing rebel in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You. The movie was a great deal of fun, yet underneath his cocky swagger, you could tell this 20-year-old kid had a great deal of potential, potential he more than delivered on in his brief, tragic yet magnetic performance as Sonny in 2001's Monster's Ball.

Although he delivered strong performances in not particularly successful films such as Ned Kelly and The Four Feathers, watching his beautiful, emotionally restrained portrayal of lovelorn Ennis Del Mar in 2005's Brokeback Mountain was the moment I knew Ledger was destined to be a star. Watching him let his feelings out just a few times in the film breaks my heart every time I see it. This was a performance that truly deserved the Oscar for Best Actor that year, although he lost to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for the showier Capote.

But it was The Dark Knight that made him a household name, and finally granted him the fame he both sought and feared. Those who knew the Joker from Jack Nicholson's performance in the original Batman were dazzled by Ledger's unhinged, evil mastermind, whose nuanced performance will go down in film history as one of the more creepy yet magnetic villains.

Who could know what heights Ledger's talent would have risen to had he lived? For an actor who only made 18 movies, he left an indelible imprint on the world of cinema, more for his talent than his tragic death. But fortunately we have his movies to remember the light he gave us.

Huffington Post has a retrospective on Ledger's life, as well as a photo slideshow.

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