January 23, 2008

RIP, Heath

From the New York Times:
In a recent interview with WJW-TV, a Fox affiliate in Cleveland, about “I’m Not There,” in which he was one of several actors playing the music legend Bob Dylan, Mr. Ledger struck a philosophical note. He responded to a question about how having a child had changed his life:
“You’re forced into, kind of, respecting yourself more,” he said. “You learn more about yourself through your child, I guess. I think you also look at death differently. It’s like a Catch-22: I feel good about dying now because I feel like I’m alive in her, you know, but at the same hand, you don’t want to die because you want to be around for the rest of her life.”
I heard Heath Ledger had died through my coworker tonight at the annual meeting, watching the news ripple through the rows as it came in through a Blackberry news alert.

I wondered -- briefly -- why the news felt more meaningful than any of the other multitude of deaths that have occurred already in this new year, here in Boston and further abroad. We've been at war now for seven long years since 2001, during which time I've always known that other human beings are encountering untimely deaths around the globe. Cancers, heart disease, strokes and respiratory diseases are part of the U.S. experience. Malaria, dysentary, drug-resistant TB and other infectious diseases are unpleasant additions worldwide. The 57 million people that died in 2002 primarily passed from a combination of those causes.

So why does his passing touch me? As a devout movie watcher, his performances entered my visual memory in a visceral and lasting way.

I never felt "A Knight's Tale" or "The Order" or "Ned Kelly" were entirely his fault; "Brokeback Mountain" and "Monster's Ball" and even "The Patriot" showed his talent in a variety of meaningful ways. I enjoyed him in "The Brother's Grimm." Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in the new Batman movie, due on IMAX this summer, now takes on the unique resonance of the young actor's last performance, where he appears to fill some large shoes occupied until now by Jack Nicholson. I'm hopeful that the laughing, brilliant maniac portrayed in the trailer.

I hope the movie is a classic. Heath certainly was.

He leaves a two year old daughter and the promise of a brilliant acting career behind.

He'll be missed.

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