Spike TV premiered I Am Heath Ledger on Wednesday night, a documentary about the late actor that weaves a story around the life Heath lived on and off camera. Taking footage shot by Ledger himself and supplementing that with interviews with family, friends, and Heath himself, I Am Heath Ledger tells the story of the late star that details his triumphs as well as his darkest moments. I Am Heath Ledger compiles such a wide array of resources in telling the story of the actor’s too brief life that even the star’s most ardent fans are likely to learn something previously unknown about him.
I Am Heath Ledger Tells the Story of an Actor Born For Stardom
As Entertainment Weekly shares, Heath was fascinated with acting and filmmaking from an early age and, as family and friends reminisce about Heath’s interest in entertaining, it seems as though he was destined for fame. Whether Ledger was watching his sister work on her own film projects or dreamily gazing up at the stars and yearning for fame and success as an actor, he seemed happiest while pursuing that far off future.
While Ledger knew what he wanted to do and wouldn’t be stopped by any obstacles life threw at him, Spike’s I Am Heath Ledger documentary reveals that the actor had his share of self-doubt. One such moment came midway through Ledger’s short career when he was working on The Patriot with Mel Gibson. The actor became obsessed with perfecting his performance to the point that he feared he would fail to give his character the depth he felt it deserved.
Gibson took to Ledger and became a mentor for the rising star, giving Heath someone to model himself after throughout his career.
“It’s not what Mel says, it’s what he doesn’t say,” Ledger would later tell friends.
That self-doubt wouldn’t stay with him throughout his career. In fact, I Am Heath Ledger reveals that the actor felt his version of The Joker in The Dark Knight was his best ever performance. There were some challenges. For instance, the prosthetics used to make the scars across his lips would crack and require a return to the make-up department. To limit this, Heath licked his lips often to keep the prosthetics moist. The lip-licking action ended up becoming a trait of The Joker and made Ledger that much more likable in the role.
While there was talk about the effect the strains of his Dark Knight role was having on him, Ledger often said he was having a great time on set. Even when he wasn’t required to be in character, Heath would visit The Dark Knight set, so he could observe Christopher Nolan’s directing style.
A Knight’s Tale Was a Bad Time for Heath Ledger
By the time Ledger was cast to star in A Knight’s Tale, he had built a big enough fanbase that his name was a big draw and, as Time reports, producers expected the star to participate in press tours and promotional interviews. Heath was cast in A Knight’s Tale partly for his look, which made him especially popular with female fans, so parading him around on promo tours was thought best for building interest in the film.
There was just one problem. Heath found that side of acting distasteful. He didn’t like feeling like a sellout and he hated being thrust into the public eye so blatantly.
“He wanted fame. And then when he got it, he didn’t want it,” said director Matt Amato in one segment of I Am Heath Ledger. “He was mortified, and he felt owned.”
Following Ledger’s death, theories about the dark life of Heath Ledger spread like wildfire with the idea that Ledger was miserable throughout that final period of his life. The Ledger family and Heath’s closest friends argue that wasn’t the case, however. While a dark depression would help make sense of the actor’s death, his closest loved ones tell I Am Heath Ledger that Heath spent his last days as happy as he had ever been.
“The truth is, he was super happy and was loving life, and he struggled with some demons but he wasn’t wanting to go anywhere but forward,” says Steve Alexander, Heath Ledger’s agent.
[Featured Image by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images]