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The Work Ethic Of Heath Ledger Film Studies Essay

Prescription pills became the ultimate demise of the young Australia, born actor Heath Andrew Ledger. Ledger was born April 4, 1979 in Perth, Australia. He was raised by his parents Sally and Kim Ledger. Ledger began his acting career in Australia but came to America after an incident with reporters. He got his first American acting job in the movie Two Hands. Heath was most famously known for his role as the Joker in the movie The Dark Knight and received many awards posthumously for his outstanding performance. Ledger died just weeks before the release of The Dark Knight in his New York apartment on January 22, 2008 after an overdose on prescription pills. The pills were prescribed because he was not getting enough sleep while working on The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger was a rising star who died before he could realize his true promise.

Ledger lived a carefree childhood in Perth, Australia. He did a lot of hanging out, playing sports, and swimming at the beach. When he got older he and his friends would spend a lot of time surfing at Scarborough Beach. His sports of interest were hockey and cricket. He also liked to hang out at Wanneroo Raceway where his father Kim raced. He himself raced and won several titles as a go-kart champion. At the age of fifteen, Ledger was showing a lot of promise on the hockey fields. He played half-back for the Curtin Trinity Pirates. His club’s president said “he had a lot of potential to do very well as a sportsman” (theage.com). Many thought he could have pursued hockey farther. A former teammate said "We were pretty arrogant, we thought we were pretty good, but Heath just fit right in," he said. "After he joined the team, we won all the prizes. He certainly could have pursued hockey further, but I think he made the right (career) decision” (theage.com). While at Guliford Grammar School, Ledger began replacing hockey with drama and was quickly noticed by casting agents, and was eventually signed by his older sister’s agent. His sister, Kate was also an aspiring actor. He got one of his first acting roles in a TV ad for Chicken Treat. The young Ledger was shown basting a chicken in the commercial.

Heath Ledger had a passion for acting early on in his life. He got his first role as Peter Pan in his school’s play at the age of ten. After his first taste of acting Ledger continued too want to be a performer. His parents divorced when he was eleven, and he found a way to vent his frustrations by being on the stage. Ledger began working on choreography, and dance along with still acting. He found a role on the big screen as an extra in the movie Clowning Around, and he later got a small role on a TV show called Ship to Shore. At the age of 16 Ledger completed his graduation exams early and moved to Sydney Australia to pursue his acting career. When asked about his acting start he said “I never studied acting in Australia. I never had an empty stage and black pajamas to run around and express myself” (IMDb.com).

While in Sydney Ledger found small roles acting in television. He played in the two-part TV series Clowning Around and later found a role in the show Sweat. In the show Sweat, Ledger found his first controversial role as a gay cyclist. He had the choice of playing an Olympic Swimmer or the cyclist, and chose the cyclist because it was the more unique role. Ledger thought choosing and playing a homosexual cyclist would help too launch his career as an actor. After watching the show for the first time Ledger was quoted as saying “I was crap” (IMDb.com). He believed his own acting had been horrible. Later in 1997 he found a role in another TV series, Roar which was an American series, and then found his way into one of Australia’s most successful TV shows, Home and Away. In his first Australian film he was in the movie Blackrock. In Blackrock Ledger plays a surfboarding teen name Toby, who plays a part in the rape of a young woman. His role was short, but significant in the fact that his next role was his American film debut.

Ledger had a pretty easy transition from Australia to America based on the facts gathered about his life. Once he made the move he immediately caught the eyes of Hollywood directors as he starred in movies almost immediately. His reason for coming to America is a bit blurry, because some say it was because it was because of an altercation with Australian reporters and others say it was simply because America had the bigger movie stage. When Ledger arrived to America he did not have any altercations with the American press to speak of until he was thought to have been mocking the value of the Brokeback Mountain movie at an awards show. Heath laughed at while accepting the award but he attributes it to being nervous.

10 Things I Hate About You was Ledger’s debut as an actor in the American film industry. The film made its debut in 1999. Ledger played a teen rebel named, Patrick Verona. In the movie he was paid by friends to date a particularly cold hearted young lady who he eventually fell for later on towards the end of the movie. After that role he briefly went back to Australia and played in the film Two Hands, which was a starring role, where he played a tough street kid, named Jimmy, who was caught up in a gang. Jimmy gets in trouble with the gang leader, Pando, by losing ten thousand dollars while swimming at the beach. He plots to rob a bank to pay the money back, but before he can Pando and his gang attempt to kill him. He is saved by his brother who is actually dead, but is his guardian angel that watches over him. He eventually is able to carry out his bank robbery plans and successfully pays Pando off.

In 2000 Ledger found another starring role in The Patriot, starring alongside Mel Gibson. Ledger again played a young man who wanted to go off and fight in the Revolutionary War. During his audition for The Patriot Ledger lowered his script, told producers he was wasting their time, and his. He said, “I am the worst auditioner in the world, I really am fucking shit” (IMDb.com). He ended up getting the role without even auditioning. This role proved to help really launch Ledger’s career. He was approached to play in Spiderman afterwards but turned it down because he felt that he didn’t deserve the role. After The Patriot, Ledger played in, Monster’s Ball, and either had a leading or title role in; A Knight’s Tale in 2001, The Four Feathers in 2003, Ned Kelly in 2003, he then took a brief break in 2004, and got right back into things in 2005. 2005 was a big year for Ledger. He starred in three movies early in 2005, The Brothers Grimm, Casanova, and Lords of Dogtown. Ledger was said to have taken the roles to “dirty” his career. “I wanted to take the blood out of my career, kill the direction it was going. I wanted to be bad, I wanted to be good” (IMDb.com). The menial roles helped him too find himself as an actor.

Late in 2005 Ledger played his most controversial role yet. In December 2005, Brokeback Mountain the story of two homosexual cowboys was released among much controversy. Ledger co stars alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays an aspiring rodeo rider named Jack Twist. Ledger plays Ennis Del Mar a rough cowboy who fights Jack’s sexual advances at first, but eventually comes around. Jack wants to continue and have an open relationship, but Ennis is scared of how people will react when they found out. As a young boy Ennis witnessed town folk kill a homosexual man, and this forever scars him about being openly gay. Ennis and Jack secretly continue their relationship even after they are both married, and Ennis has kids. Jack visits Ennis and they are caught kissing passionately by Ennis’ wife, Alma. Years later Alma and Ennis divorce and Ennis found out that Jack had died from a homosexual bashing. The movie ends with the showing of Ennis’ small memorial of Jack in the back of his closet. When asked about the kissing of another man in the movie, Heath said “Now by no means do I wanna fuck him, we’re both very straight and sensible” (IMDb.com). He was also quoted as saying “I was kissing a human being with a soul” (IMDb.com). He felt that the scenes were no big deal. Around the time of the release the state of Texas had recently voted to not allow gay marriage, and the bulk of the movie was shot in Texas. This provided for plenty of different opinions on how the movie would turn out. By the end of its theater showings, the movie ranked eighth among the highest-grossing romantic dramas of all time.

While watching Brokeback Mountain, one might wonder about Ledger’s sexuality. In the movie there are some hot and heavy sexual scenes. It shows how Ledger can transform himself into the role he is playing and give his absolute all. With Ledger being a heterosexual it must have made the transition a little difficult but it was not shown at all during the course of the movie. He portrayed the soft spoken Ennis Del Mar very well and his role is considered one of his bests during his acting career.

It was on the set of Brokeback Mountain that Ledger met Michelle Williams, who played Alma, Ennis’s wife. On the set of the movie Heath and Michelle instantly clicked. The director of the movie, Ang Lee was quoted as saying, “Well, it started happening shortly after rehearsal” when he was asked about their falling in love (IMDb.com). Ledger and Williams went on to date for two years after Brokeback Mountain. During their relationship Ledger was often quoted as calling Williams his fiancée, and she would in turn call him her husband, even though they never had any marriage plans to speak of. Williams was quoted as saying “It’s strange to watch the film now because it means so much more to me. I met my husband there, the seed of my daughter was born there, it’s just really, really powerful. I had a few fantasies about a husband and a wedding when I was a little girl. But I’m really happy with things just the way they are now” when asked about wedding plans and calling Ledger her husband (IMDb.com). Out of their relationship, they had a baby girl named Matilda Rose Ledger, born October 28, 2005. In September 2007, Williams and Ledger separated for unknown reasons to the public.

In 2006 Ledger costarred with another Australian actor, Abbie Cornish, in a film called Candy. The film was a loose adaption of a novel wrote in 1998 about love and addiction between two heroin addicts. While on the set in Sydney shooting the movie, Ledger reportedly spat on Australian reporters. Also in 2006 Ledger made his directorial debut. He directed a music video for an Australian hip-hop artist, N’fa. Later in the year he directed another music video for friend, and singer Ben Harper.

I’m Not There was a film that portrayed the life of Bob Dylan was Ledger’s only role in 2007. In the movie there are six different actors who all play different personas. Ledger plays Robbie Clark, who is an actor who plays in a movie. It is essentially a movie within a movie. His character reflects the romance, and marriage side of Dylan’s life. Later in 2007 Ledger directed another music video, this time for Nick Drake’s Black Eyed Dog. Drake was a singer and songwriter that died from an overdose of antidepressant, who Ledger was interested in making a documentary film about.

In 2007 Ledger split with Michelle Williams for reasons that were not sure to anyone. Some reported that the two had been engaged but it was not known for sure by anyone. After the breakup Ledger had been reported to be seen partying a lot more and even experimenting with drugs. Sources close to Ledger say that he was so heartbroken over the loss of Williams that it began his spiral downward.

In his next and last complete movie role, Ledger gave what some call his greatest performance. He played a psychotic, twisted, heartless, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown in The Dark Knight, as the Joker. Ledger was warned about the role by Jack Nicholson, who played the same role in 1989. Nicholson said he told Ledger about how demanding the role would be. Ledger worked extremely hard at becoming the Joker and getting inside his head. He was quoting as saying” I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices, it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath, someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts” (IMDb.com). The movie was well liked all around the Globe. It is the fifth highest grossing film worldwide, and one of only five films to earn more than $1 billion worldwide. When asked about the role of the Joker Ledger said “The Joker, so far, is definitely the most fun I've had with any character. He's just out of control -- no empathy, he's a sociopath, uh, a psychotic, mass-murdering clown. And, uh, I'm just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it. It's just exceeded any expectations I had of what the experience would be like” (IMDb.com).

Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight is definitely one of his best in his career. It is quite obvious how much effort went into playing the Joker. His presence captivates you from the moment he enters the movie. His evil and psychotic voice and laugh makes him seem inhuman in the movie. When you hear “Why so serious” after the movie your mind automatically goes to Ledger and his great performance. His great effort definitely paid off for him big time in The Dark Knight.

After finishing filming The Dark Knight, Ledger began working on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, playing as Tony. He died a third of the way into filming and his role was recast with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law. The filming of the movie was suspended indefinitely two days after Ledger’s death. Ledger had been a key factor in the financial aspect of the film. The director Terry Gilliam was determined to finish the movie. He was at first going to have Ledger’s character “magically” transform into another character, he eventually decided against that and chose to replace Ledger in certain scenes with Depp, Farrell, and Law. Gilliam was making it seem as though Ledger’s character was traveling through magical realms. Many actors like Tom Cruise had come forward to be a replacement for Ledger but Gillian wanted to keep the movie to actors who knew Ledger closely.

Heath Andrew Ledger died January 22, 2008 shortly after finishing filming The Dark Knight and a third of the way into his starring role in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He was found naked, face down in his bed by his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, in his New York apartment. Once the EMT arrived Ledger was pronounced dead. After the toxicology reports came back Ledger was found out to have died from an overdose of prescription pills. The pills where all prescribed so the death was ruled accidental. There was a lethal dose of sleeping pills and anxiety pills found in his system. Ledger had been taking the pills since the filming of The Dark Knight because he was reportedly sleeping only two hours a night.

After his death an Australian woman came forward and claimed that Ledger may have been the father of her eleven year old child. If the allegations were true it would mean that Ledger was a father at the age of seventeen and didn’t even know it. A DNA test was asked for by the child’s stepfather but the mother was refused because she didn’t want it to seem like she was after Ledger’s estate. Her name was never released to the press for privacy reasons. Ledger’s estate was already in much controversy already because family members feared that Ledger’s father, Kim, would mismanage the estate. Although family members thought Ledgers father would not handle his money well, Kim publicly said that Michelle and Matilda would be taken care of and it is reported that around sixteen million was given to young Matilda. Matilda is also set to receive Ledger’s Oscar award at the age of eighteen, which he won posthumously for his role in The Dark Knight as the best supporting actor.

Heath Ledger was an amazing actor, and because of this many people were saddened by his death. Not long after his death, people were gathering outside his New York apartment. There were media crews, mourners and fans. Different memorials were made for him in different areas of New York. The memorials included pictures, posters and many flowers all dedicated to the young talent. Along with the memorials plastered all around New York numerous Facebook fan pages and websites were created to commemorate the life of the deceased actor. The next day in Australia Ledger’s parents and his sister Kate, gave a brief statement to the media, showing their grief and expressing their need for privacy. February 9, 2008, Michelle Williams gave her first public statement after Ledger’s death. She expressed her grief and described his spirit as living on in their daughter. Ledger’s body was returned to Perth, Australia where a memorial service that was attended by several hundred guests was held at Penrhos College. Ledger’s body was then cremated at Fremantle Cemetery and his ashes were to be buried next to two of his grandparents. This was followed a private service that was attended by only ten of his closest family members. Many actors made their sorrow apparent in statements to the media and award was even dedicated to him by Daniel Day-Lewis. Verne Troyer a fellow actor who played alongside Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus even went so far as to get a tattoo in remembrance of him, because Ledger had made such a great impression on him.

Based on the facts gathered about Heath Ledger it is easy to see that he was a talented young actor with an extreme work ethic. He rarely slept in his later years which caused his eventual overdose. He worked so hard on his acting roles and it was apparent in each role he took on. He also took on unique roles that required him to do a lot of research to get into his character. For the role of Ennis Del Mar, the homosexual cowboy he spent some time to learn what type of man he was. Before playing the Joker, Ledger locked himself in a hotel room to get the voice and the character exactly like he wanted. Things like that really showed that he took the time to perfect the different roles he played. Ledger was known to say that he wasn’t a guy who wanted much money, he would say that he just wanted his movies to be good, because they would live on forever unlike money would.

Heath Ledger was a young Australia bred actor who died at the peak of his career. He began his acting career as the hunky heartthrob, but wanted to change that by taking unique roles. He accomplished that in the movies he was most famously known for, Brokeback Mountain, and The Dark Knight. Heath died shortly before the release of The Dark Knight. He was found in his New York Apartment on January 22, 2008 after an apparent overdose of prescription pills. Heath was taking the pills because of the lack of sleep while playing the Joker. For his role as the Joker he received many awards posthumously. Heath was known in Hollywood as the hunk with the distinctive voice, and the extreme work ethic which eventually caused his death. Since his death was caused by his extreme work ethic, it leaves one to wonder why he was so serious.

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