HEATH ANDREW LEDGER
April 4, 1979 to January 22, 2008
By Katharine Blossom Lowrie
He had a somewhat lumpy face, a bit of a goofy smile and an undistinguished nose. Yet, something transformative happened when he spoke in that rich baritone, when those young/old brown eyes communicated his complex inner life–a connection happened. No, Heath Ledger was never about surface or superficiality. He came from a deeper place. That depth, which crystallized with restrained brilliance in his Oscar-nominated role as the laconic, gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2005), was not plumbed without great peril to his psyche. (Jake Gyllenhaal, shown in still above left, costars as Jack Twist, Del Mar’s love interest in the film.)
He fought to keep the private man private
Unlike many of today’s publicity-hungry young stars, Heath Ledger detested notoriety and fought to keep the private man private. Even friends encountered no trespassing signs, many say, and interviewers found him fidgety and walled off. Esteemed in the industry, innately likable on screen, the blond, 6’1″ Australian-born actor, who sought to play against his sex-symbol image, had his demons. Appeasing them with drugs, partying and alcohol spelled his end. Still, the startling details that dribbled out following the shocking news that he had died of an overdose at age 28 in his SoHo loft on January 22nd didn’t seem to fit. The combination of sedatives and painkillers with long generic names that made his heart forget to beat, his lungs forget to breathe, his brain forget to function, seemed no more Heath Ledger than his parting from his wife, nixing rehab and running around with notorious party-girls Lindsay Lohan and Mary Kate Olsen.
His absence is experienced on a different level