Spike TV‘s anticipated documentary I Am Heath Ledger premiered Wednesday night, and we learned so much!
It not only reminded us how much we loved Heath Ledger, but through stories from costars and friends and old interviews and footage of the man himself, the doc also offered a whole new look at a celeb we thought we knew so well.
Mostly it made us wish we hadn’t lost the talented star so young…
Here are the highlights of what he found so intriguing (below):
1. He changed his stars.
As a kid growing up in Perth, Australia, he dreamed of becoming a movie star.
He stuck plastic stars to his bedroom ceiling, and often pointed up to them as he told his family:
“That’s where I’m going to be. I’m going to be in the film industry and I’m going to be a film actor.”
Heath left Perth at 17 and really did make his own fate.
2. He refused to let Hollywood typecast him as a rom-com lead.
After he was so ridiculously charming in 10 Things I Hate About You, Hollywood started beating down his door to get him in similar vehicles.
But Heath wasn’t trying to be a matinee idol — he wanted to be the total package movie star. So he rejected a TON of offers:
“People in Hollywood, they don’t like to hear no. So I had a lot of fun saying no.”
That is, until something magical came along…
3. He got to work with his idol.
Mel Gibson is obviously a controversial figure these days after some horrible drunken outbursts, but for an aspiring Australian actor he was a true inspiration.
So when Heath got to work with him in 2000’s The Patriot, it was a dream come true.
That dream almost became a nightmare as Heath — from the audition process onward — suffered from a severe crisis of confidence.
He later said it was Mel who helped guide him past his doubts, becoming a true mentor for the rising star.
4. He turned down Spider-Man!
After A Knight’s Tale, Heath was rocketed into stardom — and he didn’t react to it like he thought.
Costar Naomi Watts says Australians call it “tall poppy syndrome,” the idea that if someone is too successful, they feel the need to be cut down to size with the rest of the flowers.
In that way, Heath retreated from the spotlight into smaller, more unrecognizable roles. That meant saying NO one more time, even to Sam Raimi who offered him the lead in Spider-Man. Heath said of the superhero role:
“That makes no sense for me, I can’t possibly be Peter Parker.”
Instead his character work eventually led him to a very different superhero film…
5. He LOVED being The Joker.
People had the misconception Heath was drawing on a deep torture to play his final role as the chaotic Joker in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight.
But according to those close to him, he was thrilled with the character he had created and never had as much confidence on a film.
He also hung out on set even when he wasn’t working in order to learn from Nolan, as he was planning on making his directorial debut.
Overall he was in a very good place when he died. His agent, Steve Alexander, said:
“It’s still hard when people talk about it, or have preconceived ideas surrounding that period of time but that’s what people do; they come up with their version of it that makes it convenient and tidy and also tells a good story. The truth is, he was super happy and was loving life, and he struggled with some demons but he wasn’t wanting to go anywhere but forward.”
That may actually make his passing hurt even worse somehow…
What did YOU think of I Am Heath Ledger??
[Image via Spike.]