Vallance, Tom, The Independent (London, England)
Actor of exceptional talent and range best known for his moving performance in 'Brokeback Mountain'
The actor Heath Ledger will doubtless be best remembered for his incredibly moving, compassionate performance as Ennis Del Mar, a cowboy who finds a perplexing, forbidden and secret love with a fellow ranger, Jack Twist, in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005), and his death will revive the generally acknowledged lament that both his performance and the film should have won Oscars.
It was a painstakingly wrought performance, described by Rolling Stone magazine as "an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn't just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens. He knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack's closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost."
Ledger, a handsome man, had refused to follow the easy route to fame and fortune in teen movie roles, but welcomed the opportunity to stretch his exceptional talents with parts that would prove challenging and fresh. "I feel like I'm wasting my time if I repeat myself," he said.
Other performances which demonstrated his range as well as his talent came in The Patriot (2000, in which he played Mel Gibson's confrontational son), Monster's Ball (2001), Ned Kelly (2003), The Brothers Grimm (2005) and Casanova (2005). He plays one of the six incarnations of Bob Dylan in the biopic I'm Not There (on current release) and a sinister Joker in the forthcoming Batman adventure The Dark Knight, and had recently visited London to film scenes for Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
The son of Kim Ledger, a mining engineer whose roots were Irish, and his wife Sally, a teacher of French with Scottish ancestry, Heathcliff Andrew Ledger was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1979, and named after the hero of Emily Bront's novel Wuthering Heights - his older sister had already been named after the book's heroine.
His parents divorced when he was a boy and he grew up with his mother, his sister and two half-sisters. "It taught me respect for women, and patience," he said later. "Growing up with all those women around you, you learn to wait your turn." Educated at a boys- only private school, Guildford Grammar, he was cast in a local stage production of Peter Pan when he was 10 and played occasional roles on television before dropping out of college in his teens to drive with a friend to Sydney. "I believed I could be an actor, and I left home at an early age to pursue that dream."
After a year as a self-confessed "beach bum" (he was an avid surfer), he won roles in Australian soap operas, including Sweat (1996), a series about Olympic hopefuls in which he played a gay cyclist, and Home and Away (1998), in which he was a surfer, Scott Irwin. A recurring role as a Celtic warrior in Roar, a US-financed television series set in fifth-century Ireland and filmed in Australia, brought him to the attention of a Hollywood agent, but his first major break came when the Australian director Gregor Jordan gave him the leading role of an affable strip-club bouncer whose life is threatened in Two Hands (1999), a lively thriller that was favourably compared to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Its success led to Ledger being cast in his first American film, Gil Junger's 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), an amusing transposition of The Taming of the Shrew to a high-school setting. Ledger later said that after acting in two screen hits - as the son of a farmer turned militia leader (Mel Gibson, who said he possessed "that unknown factor that sort of lights up the screen") in a tale of America's battle for independence, The Patriot (2000), and in A Knight's Tale (2001), a medieval comedy in which he starred as a scruffy low-born who masquerades as a gallant knight in order to enter a jousting contest - he had to …
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Publication information: Article title: Heath Ledger. Contributors: Vallance, Tom - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 24, 2008. Page number: 46. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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