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1.23.2008

The Joker Claims Heath Ledger?



I've heard mixed statements about the death of Actor, Heath Ledger. Some look at his young age, his bright future in the movie industry, his 2 year old daughter left behind and feel sorrow. Others look at the possibility of drug abuse and overdose and take the less compassionate "he got what was coming to him" attitude. I myself, am upset over the loss. I've always been passionate about movies and have great respect for actors and actresses. I've enjoyed many of his movies and felt that he truly owned each and every character he portrayed...but now, at this sad time, I'm wondering if his final character actually owned him?

In July of 2008, millions of movie-watchers will scurry to theaters to see "The Dark Knight" in which Heath Ledger plays Batman's most worthy adversary, The Joker! Although Ledger saw himself through the entire filming of the movie, it is apparent to me (and perhaps naively so) that some of the Joker stayed with him.

Now, I'm not saying that he died because of the character but hear me out...
To follow are some of the questions and thoughts that have been running through my head and that have forced me to look a little bit differently at what kind of metamorphosis takes place when an actor or actress takes on a role.

When interviewed about playing the Joker, Ledger was quoted as saying his character is a "psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy." He spoke about having trouble sleeping during the shoot as he went on to say "Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night" "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." On more than one occasion he was heard saying that his character "disturbed" him. He reportedly began using some prescription and non-prescription sleep aids as well as some anti-anxiety medication. Both of which were found in his New York apartment in the bathroom and near the bed where his body was discovered. The bottles still had pills inside. One possible theory is overdose but it will be 10-14 days before any autopsy yields conclusive evidence about his true cause of death. At this time, it is being called "accidental" by those close to him.

Could it be that the madness that is synonymous with the Joker actually penetrated his very being? Could there have been some sort of mental break? I suppose we will never really know but there are a few factors that make me suspicious. First of all, it is reported by the London Daily Mail that Jack Nicholson uttered the words "I warned him" when given the news of Ledger's death. Warned him about what? The only real commonality the two share is the character. Did Nicholson experience some emotional trouble after his portrayal of the Joker? Does the character still haunt Nicholson years after he finished the role? All are questions that we may find answers to in coming days as I'm sure Nicholson will be the target of additional interviews.

Is there some curse that haunts this role? Perhaps it had something to do with Ledger's passion for the parts he would choose. After his first success in the film "10 Things I Hate About You", he had many similar "teen" roles thrown into his lap but despite the pleadings of his agent and his family, he tossed these rolls aside and stated that he wanted to carve his own path rather than having it carved for him. Could this dedication to each and every character have led to his undoing? Did he take the Joker in so deeply that he couldn't escape? Friends and family are of little help answering these questions. Since his separation from Michelle Williams (the mother of his child and the actress who played his wife in Brokeback Mountain), Ledger had become somewhat isolated and was seen on occasion with only his daughter.

I know this may seem to be a silly rant but really...stop and think! Think about spending months or years of your life, day in and day out dedicating yourself to "becoming" somebody else. Its like a lie. I know you've all done this. Have you ever told a little white lie and then you have to keep telling it, and telling it, until at one point you don't even remember it as a lie. I know there are a few things that I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles about but now looking back I realize they weren't true after all. Perhaps this same "effect" happens with actors and the parts they take on. I know I've definitely read interviews where an actor or actress states how they will "miss" a character or how a role will always be a part of them. Maybe it was just an unfortunate pairing of an actor who worked from so deep within and a character who embodied pure insanity and evil that brought Heath Ledger to this end.

Well, as with all things, time will tell. In the mean time I wish Ledger's family and especially his daughter peace.


2 comments:

jack said...

Y'know ... I was wondering whether the role had anything to do with that.

I'm sure it was a dark place to be.

Jeannette said...

How curious.. I read the MSN article that quoted Heath describing his character. The first thing I thought was how it must have just consumed his being. I hope those close to him will come forward with more details..

Well written, my friend.