Remembering Heath Ledger 15 years after his passing
The actor certainly left his mark in Hollywood, with his role in ‘The Dark Knight’ still lauded to this day.
On January 22, 2008, the world was shocked by the tragic news that Heath Ledger had been found dead. Just 28 years old and at the peak of his career, the Australian passed away from cardiac arrest in his New York City apartment due to an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
Now, 15 years later, Ledger’s impact on cinema can still be felt. His various roles were diverse, varying from romantic rom-com heroes to complicated and insidious characters. Directors and people who had the chance to work with Ledger praised him for his methods.
Christopher Nolan, who directed ‘The Dark Knight’, one of the last productions Ledger would star in, described the Australian as “bursting with creativity” and noted his seriousness and intuition.
Ledger’s Most Iconic Roles
After getting his diploma early and leaving school at 16 to pursue acting, Ledger’s first box office breakthrough was the teen comedy ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, a modern adaption of William Shakespeare’s comedy ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Ledger took on the role of an alluring bad boy attempting to woo ill-tempered and abrasive Kat Stratford.
He was celebrated for being effortlessly charming in this role, and the film ended up grossing a total of $53.5 million worldwide. Ledger was also nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Musical Performance for his performance of the song ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.
Just over six years later, Ledger would go on to star in one of the most pivotal LGBTQ+ films of the 2000s: ‘Brokeback Mountain’. The movie depicts a complex romantic relationship between two American cowboys played by Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Released in 2005, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is now regarded as a turning point for queer cinema entering into the mainstream. It has since been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
Making history with The Joker
One of his last works, released six months posthumous, ‘The Dark Knight’ would become Ledger’s most recognized and awarded roles. ‘The Dark Knight” is the second film in the Batman trilogy, and follows Batman’s attempts to dismantle organized crime in Gotham City while his efforts are derailed by The Joker, played by Ledger.
His performance won him an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and several other Film Critic Awards. ‘The Dark Knight’ is also Ledger’s second film to be selected by the Library of Congress and preserved in the National Film Registry for its significance. Years later, Ledger’s performance is still considered one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time.
In 2022, Variety listed him as the best superhero performance in the last 50 years. From internet memes and references to the character’s dialogue, Ledger has created a character so intricate and well delivered that it is still a cultural point of reference 15 years later.
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