Actor Heath Ledger perhaps had an inkling he would die young, according to friends in I am Heath Ledger on Channel 7 at 9pm on Sunday, September 10.
Ledger died in 2008 from a build-up of prescription drugs, which caused an overdose, at the age of just 28.
Close friend, musician Ben Harper says he has always wondered if people sense their own mortality.
“If anybody did, it was him,” Harper says.
Childhood friend Trevor Di Carlo travelled the world with Ledger during his career and notes the actor had something of an obsession with musicians who died in their 20s – Nick Drake, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.
“It was weird,” he says.
N’Fa Forster-Jones, who also grew up with Ledger in Perth, remembers his friend saying he had a lot to do: “I don’t feel I have much time.”
But perhaps he just lived his life like there was no tomorrow.
This documentary certainly shows a man in a hurry to grab as many new experiences as he could to try out new skills – and a man of immense generosity.
As well as an actor, he was an accomplished director, a gifted photographer and a painter who always gravitated to the world of the arts.
Ben Harper recalls Ledger’s email address was “I’firstname.lastname@example.org – and he always was”.
This film recalls Ledger’s early passion to be an actor, and one of its almost-eerie strengths is the intimate footage Ledger and his friends shot over the years.
Di Carlo says Ledger was self-taught as an actor, and his camera recorded his learning processes. It’s compelling to watch him test out different characters and scenes – including his take on The Joker in the Batman flick, The Dark Knight, for which he won a posthumous Oscar.
“It was the most fun I’d had as an actor … too good to be true,” Ledger says in this film.
His agent, Steve Alexander, recalls that for all of Ledger’s swagger and talent he was plagued by crises of confidence – including when he worked with his idol, Mel Gibson, on The Patriot.
Alexander says Ledger got caught up in the fear of whether or not he could do what he wanted to do.
“He almost pulled out of every movie he ever ended up doing.”
Fame came, but it wasn’t easy.
Alexander says that during the publicity for A Knight’s Tale in 2001, he noticed Ledger becoming increasingly upset.
“He finally had to get out of the room really quickly. He was least comfortable getting out there and selling the movie.”
But he took on more and more behind-the-scene career opportunities – including directing music videos for people like Harper.
“He was a one-man force of nature. He had command of his vision. I thought this guy is going to have a lifetime behind the camera as well as in front of it.”
This film was undoubtedly a tribute to Ledger through the eyes of his friends. As a result, it’s tremendously powerful and a compelling watch.
Harper sums it up: “Some people are just bigger than the world has room for”.
I Am Heath Ledger screens on Channel 7, Sunday, September 10, 9pm.