Wednesday, January 23, 2008

another one gone too soon

An overwhelming number of people in the blogisphere have posted commenting about the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger yesterday. The reoccurring theme in the posts are shock and unexpected sadness at the loss of this talented artist. Everyone keeps saying that they are much more effected by this news than they would have guessed they would have been. Myself included.

Reflecting on this while reading the posts, I have come to realize for myself, (that as far as I knew) Heath Ledger was not a part of this crazed young Hollywood culture that I have come to despise and ridicule. From what I knew of him, he was an actor who was committed to his craft, took risks in his work, took parts in films based on the strength of the role or the strength of the director or cast not on the paycheck, loved his little girl, and lived in Brooklyn. He kept a relatively low profile, and even his romantic breakups were not extended tabloid fodder.

I could totally see something like this happening to Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan; Brad Renfro's death last week was not surprising (his police record for drug abuse was common knowledge.) I equated Ledger with actors who I think are above that behavior, a Leonardo DiCaprio or a Tobey Maguire, who separate "play time" from "work time" and who are recognized more for their talent than their escapades. I was (and still am) seriously looking forward to seeing Ledger go head to head with Christian Bale (one of the greatest actors of my generation) in this new Batman movie.

Lately, Encore has been showing the Ledger/Miller Casanova, and every time it is on, I stop to watch. (I really should just buy the dvd.) Ledger is so versatile in the film, charming and funny, and yet still full of sincerity. I just love his scenes with Jeremy Irons. It is the same role that David Tennant played that year on TV, yet each actor made it his own. I think that Ledger captured the physical sensuality of the part in a way that Tennant did not (then again, Tennant's Casanova was far more clever.) Ledger did the same thing with his part in Brokeback Mountain; he didn't have a lot of lines, but his face and gestures communicated so much.

The one good thing to come out of this tragedy is that it is obvious that people have not become completely immune to these kind of losses. And that as fun as it can be to indulge in some old-fashioned schadenfreude while following stories of Britney Spears' manic behavior, people still actually care about each other. Talent is still appreciated, not just on a "how much did we take in at the box office" way either. I feel bad for his parents and his daughter, because they will experience the loss of the man, but I also feel bad for us, the audience, who have lost the artist.



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