Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why So Serious?

22 January 2008

I got home from lunch with tyranist this afternoon and my lawyer friend Ian, back in L.A., had sent me a link to a story about Heath Ledger being found dead. I had heard nothing, so at first I thought it was a hoax, maybe tied in to that strange viral marketing campaign for THE DARK KNIGHT. But immediately after, tyranist IMed me to tell me the news. I turned on CNN, and that was that.

He died of, as far as people know at this point, a drug overdose. Intentional or not, there was a bottle of sleeping pills next to him, when he was found by a housekeeper. Creepily, one of the headlines CNN had going over the bottom of the screen was "Actor Heath Ledger found dead in Mary-Kate Olsen's apartment."*

I told my little sister the news a few minutes later. I took her to TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU when she was ten or so, and that was our introduction to the Australian actor. I later saw him in THE PATRIOT (as the title character), which was, I believe, my favourite movie of 2000.

He became really famous a couple years back with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, as you know, which garnered him an Oscar nomination, a fiance, and a kid.

And his fame would've really grown next summer with the release of THE DARK KNIGHT, where he would've been this generation's Joker (still will, I suppose), probably coming back for future installments (I sure would've). The reinvention of the Batman franchise seemed to be for the long haul, so that's the kind of part he could've been playing for a dozen years.

And now he's dead, at twenty-eight years old.

I called my pal Merrill, who works for Fox News, and we spoke about it until my cellphone died.

My cousin Ryan and I talk about Batman often, so I let him know too. I suspect he isn't really familiar with Ledger beyond his Joker role, but that's okay, I only know about Hitler because of World War II.

And the Holocaust.

And that late great cartoon series, "The Young Hitler Chronicles."

But I'm digressing.

Strange to lose Brad Renfro and Ledger, both actors in their twenties, in the same week. I don't know what Heath Ledger's legacy will be. It could be that he'll be one of those James Deans or Marilyn Monroes, who died young and are always remembered as glamorous and attractive. Or he could be among the River Phoenixes and Brandon Lees, who died leaving people wondering what great heights they might have reached.

Or he could join Freddie Prinze and many other actors who died young but aren't really remembered anymore. I doubt it, but it's possible.

I never met Heath Ledger (it was the other BROKEBACK guy). He seemed cool. But most Aussies are.

Rish Outfield

*Apparently, this was refuted later in the day.

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