Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Heath LedgerO, let us lay a Funeral Wreath
Upon the grave of Ledger (Heath),
Who nevermore shall draw his breath
And sleeps in the embrace of Death.

For all that I’m tempted to be sardonic and jokey about Yet Another Celebrity Death, I just can’t bring myself to do it in the case of Heath Ledger, who died today in New York City, apparently as the result of an overdose of sleeping medication. Intentional or inadvertent, it’s too early to say.

Ledger was 28 when he passed on to that Great Soundstage in the Sky. I can relate to that, for I have a 28-year-old daughter. It’s frightening to imagine death at that early an age...but, alas, it happens. Just ask She Who Must Be Obeyed, whose sister died at the age of sixteen. It is beyond painful.

I recall first seeing Ledger on the screen in The Patriot, a 2000 film that starred Mel Gibson before he revealed himself to all the world to be a Gaping Asshole. Ledger had notable roles in Monster’s Ball and A Knight’s Tale, his performance in the former so heart-rending that I could not bear to watch the whole film. More recently, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, which just had to be a serious acting challenge (a gay what?!!?) any way you slice it. At the time of his death, Ledger had two movies in the can: The Dark Knight, in which he played the Joker to Christian Bale’s Batman; and I’m Not There, a film based on the life of Bob Dylan in which Ledger played one of several fictional characters based on Dylan. He was a talented young actor who, so far, had managed his career well and who had a bright future ahead of him. No more.

My bet is that no foul play was involved, and that Heath Ledger was the victim of carelessness and/or unlucky biochemistry. And that’s even more of a tragedy than if he were the all-too-commonplace victim of Hollywood excess and self-indulgence, in which case we could all complacently reassure ourselves that, well, “he brought it upon himself.” Heath Ledger’s untimely death, instead, reminds us that the Unexpected Visitor is always lurking just around the corner, and that success and vibrant youth cannot dissuade him from his dark mission.

Godspeed, Mr. Ledger.

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