Dear Mr Heath Ledger,
I just came across an article in the New York Times that was written about you. It made me sad, as always, when I think of you. Your death is one that I have never gotten over, although it’s been about three years now. It was different with Jimi, Janis and Kurt. They left behind legacies, and are remembered even to this day. But with you Mr Heath Ledger, and I mean this with affection, I feel like you never reached your peak, you never maximized your potential. Yes, you’ve given us award-winning performances with Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight. But if you ask me, you could have been so much greater than just that; that is what pains me the most.
I’d always thought you’d end up like Clint Eastwood, a great actor who would go on to direct his own films, and be good at that as well. I’d read of your interest in directing on Wikipedia: you shot a video for Modest Mouse and a few other artists, didn’t you? I like it when people do not limit themselves to only one kind of art, say acting. In a lot of ways, I do consider you to be an artist? odd, isn’t it? Actor, director, artist. I had believed that your films would be just as powerful because I knew it would come from the same spirit that gave rise to your acting. I think that if a work of art comes from a good spirit, the work will turn out well.
The article in the New York Times was that of the year 2007. Back then you’d done I’m Not There and they were interviewing you about it. I could already tell I loved your house by the way the writer described it. I could tell I loved the art on your walls. Upon spotting your Joker diary, the writer said you seemed almost embarrassed that the book had been spotted. And what Marc Forester, the director of Monster’s Ball, said about you: it all added to my admiration for you. In interviews, you were shy, never quite looking at the interviewer with a straight face. There is a certain immensity about you. It came across in the article. In your work, it is a given.
Brokeback Mountain came out when I wasn’t old enough to watch it, and people I knew ridiculed it because of the subject matter. They thought being gay was something to poke fun at. Clearly, they overlooked your performance; you were compared to Brando. A few years later, I watched it for myself and the first thing I remember feeling was embarrassment: I was embarrassed that I loved the depth of the characters. Later, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Brokeback Mountain was one of those ‘thick’ films. Heavy and saturated, it made my insides numb.
One writer also pointed out that you (if I may paraphrase) weren’t like other middle aged actors who aspired to return to their youth. In another article, I read that you once lived off ramen noodles and water because you refused to take on similar roles after 10 Things I Hate About You.
I thought about it: would I do that for my art, now that I am older and I see the reality of things? It takes a lot of strength to say no to a seemingly secure path, the easier path of the two. To stick so strongly by your principles knowing that there is a more assuring path. With your acting, you were hardly ever complacent. You were notoriously selective with them. You pushed yourself further every time: each role was always more demanding, each in its different ways. I know that you refined your characters and you gave them the depth they deserve. I know that surface value was never enough for you. You didn’t bother what the norm was or what was the easier path, you put your art first and let your raw performances come through. This is what I admire you for, Mr Heath Ledger: your strength.
As much as I revere you for being different on the screen, I regret not being able to keep up with you. Honestly, I didn’t connect with The Joker like I did with Ennis del Mar. But you see, I believe that this is the mark of a great actor. You created two extremely different characters, such that I empathized with one and felt apathetic about the other. That I could feel so differently about two characters played by the same person; what does that say about the actor?
And that is why I know you were brilliant.
Mr Heath Ledger, I am sad that the world does not seem to feel the loss I feel. Didn’t they see your spirit? Every time I think of you, the sadness is stabbing; I can always feel how much greater you could have been. They always said you were a talent on the rise. I knew you were just starting to immortalize yourself with your performances. So even if people don’t remember you like they do James Dean, I will. You have had that much of an impact on me.
You know, every time I Google you when it so happens I think of you, I always hope to find something new. I don’t think you know how pathetic that feels. Anyway, I hope you are well.
salamanda is a sixteen year old student who aspires to be a homeless poet. She is a writer who uses Hemingway as an excuse when she wants to keep her tenses short. She only writes poetry when nobody is around, so the existence of her actual work is much in question. She is a minimalist, a dreamer, and a Taurus. On any given day, she would rather be known as a poet than a proser.
Image taken from here.