Some actors achieve notoriety and great fortune through endlessly repeating the same part (usually themselves) in every film they're given.
Then there are those who are different in every film they appear in. Even the turkeys ("Brothers Grimm" anyone?!) gain something by their participation.
Heath Ledger was one such actor - an actor whose name usually guaranteed a film's place on my 'must buy on DVD' list.
The oscar-nominated "Brokeback Mountain" may be the film which most of the newspaper obituaries are talking about, and it is a personal favourite to the extent that I have a framed poster from the film with Ledger's autograph, along with that of the other main cast members, on my living room wall. But Ledger gave memorable performances in a whole host of other films too. "A Knight's Tale", "The Patriot", "Casanova", and "Ned Kelly" to name just a few. I was looking forward to his performance in the Bob Dylan flick "I'm Not There", and even more so to his performance as The Joker in the forthcoming Batman film "The Dark Knight" which was already being promoted as the film that would lift his career into the stratosphere.
At the time of writing there are reports all over the web of 'a drugs overdose', although it's too early to say yet what the real story is. An interview with The New York Times, back in November, holds some depressing clues as to the possible reason for his death. He told the paper that the Dylan film stressed him out a little too much and he had trouble sleeping while portraying The Joker, whom he called 'a psycopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy'. Talking about his sleep problems the actor 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' before going on to say he took Ambien pills, which only worked for an hour.
Whatever the cause of death, today's news is not just sad, but depressing. We've lost an eminently watchable actor who never appeared to 'sell out' and appeared to inflict a punishing work schedule on himself, whether working on a big Hollywood production or a small indy film. It's sad that the cost of his performances, which always seemed to be of 'The Method' variety, appear to have exacted such a price on this genuinely talented actor.
Rest in Peace, Mr Ledger, and thanks for the wonderful movie memories!