Heath Ledger’s energy, creativity and hunger for experience is brought movingly to screen in the intimate documentary ‘I Am Heath Ledger’, in which his friends and family share their memories, nine years after his death.
Musician Ben Harper speaks for all of Heath’s loved ones, revealing he still feels there is something very wrong with the world without Heath in it. Ben, who wrote a lullaby for Heath’s baby Matilda when she was born, says:
“I honestly think the earth is off axis, I think there’s something that is universally out of alignment with what happened. I’m not supposed to be talking about this with you. This is fucked up. This is not something that’s supposed to be happening right now.
“Heath was the most alive human. If it wasn’t on the edge, it didn’t interest him. If there wasn’t some kind of risk involved, he had no time for it. He went all the way to the edge. Some people are just bigger than the world has room for.”
There are plenty of surprises in the film, telling the story of Heath’s phenomenal career, culminating in a posthumous Oscar for ‘The Dark Knight’, but also his fun with friends and, most of all, his tireless pursuit of creativity...
1. Heath initially moved to LA from Australia when he met and fell in love with Lisa Zane, the elder sister of actor Billy. She was 17 years older than him, and one friend described their relationship as being like the book ‘A Sentimental Education’, where Lisa taught him much about art and life.
2. He took millions of photos. His former girlfriend Christine remembered how he took photographs all the time “be in the moment and capture it on the camera. He just got you in your most authentic self.”
3. He once took his childhood Australian pal to a “friend’s house”, they knocked on the door and it was Naomi Campbell.
4. Heath’s home in Los Feliz became open house for any passing Australian actors. Ben Mendelsohn initiates an agent asking him, “Are you one of the Aussies that lives at Heath’s place?” This happened, even when Heath was overseas working. Ben also remembers Adrian Grenier being there on one of the evenings, long before ‘Entourage’ was a thing.
5. Heath freaked when the prospect of huge stardom actually beckoned. His face was on the poster for ‘The Knight’s Tale’, and he didn’t like it. His friends remember him crying about it. “He wanted fame, and then when he got it, he didn’t want it.”
6. Heath sent his musician pal Ben Harper a grand piano as a present, and then asked him to write a lullaby for his baby daughter. “Nothing’s ever been asked of me that was that precious.”
7. Heath found much of his creative satisfaction in directing his friend’s music videos, including Ben Harper’s ‘Morning Yearning’.
8. According to his friends, he never slept - “too much energy, too many thoughts, too much to do.” For a while, this was great, it meant he packed an awful lot in, turning up at his friends’ houses for breakfast, phoning his agent with ideas. Only later did his problems sleeping lead to fatal problems for him.
9. His love of chess became legendary among his friends and family and he was planning to direct a film based on a chess game, called The Queen’s Gambit.
He was also trying to achieve a Grandmaster status and, at the time of his death, was only a few points short of this goal.
10. Playing the joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ didn’t take it out of him as was reported. Voice coach Gerry Grennell remembers him having lots of fun between takes, in contrast to the dark journey he went on with his white-faced creation.
Contrary to reports of his depression at the time of his death, his friends and family insist he was in the best place of his life, with a child he adored, and films he was planning to make.
‘I Am Heath Ledger’ premieres on Spike TV on 17 May, and is released on DVD from Virgil Films on 23 May.