Actor Heath Ledger isn't joking about his career path

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Actor Heath Ledger isn't joking about his career path Empty Actor Heath Ledger isn't joking about his career path

Post  Admin on Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:43 pm

Actor Heath Ledger isn't joking about his career path


The addiction drama 'Candy' gives Heath Ledger another serious role to savor.

Heath Ledger is still young - 27 - and has done barely a dozen films since coming to America from Perth, on the Australian coast, in the late 1990s. But audiences can be forgiven for thinking there are two Heath Ledgers: the pretty but unpromising kid with the Bob Geldof-circa-1985 hair who starred in "10 Things I Hate About You" (1999) and "A Knight's Tale" (2001), and the mature young father who truly broke out in 2005, and, in "Brokeback Mountain," gave an Oscar-nominated, heartbreaking performance.
It's a revelation that isn't lost on Ledger, who despite his newfound gravity begins an interview by jokily pretending to go out the window when a reporter walks in. Then sitting down and rolling a cigarette, he discusses his new film, "Candy," opening Friday, and mulls a career change others might wait decades for - and which is about to include playing Batman's archvillain.

"When I was making those [early] roles, I was really youthful and careless and I wasn't attached to anything," he says. "I didn't even really care about performance - it was silly and commercial, and I would [have felt] way too concerned with myself if I took it seriously. Where the film was shot was more appealing to me than what it was.

"And so it was just a reflection of a time of my life. From 18 to 22, I was alone, living in L.A. with a bunch of friends, partying. It was more a direct reflection of that. I don't know if I knew, or cared to know, what I was capable of back then. And I guess I'm just starting to, for lack of a better word, care more."

And that, it seems, has made all the difference. Ledger - who started his career on Australian TV in his teens - first gave intimations of deeper things in "Monster's Ball" (2001), in a small role as Billy Bob Thornton's ill-fated son, but that film's turnaround belonged to Halle Berry. Four years later came "Brokeback," a film several actors had passed on during years of development. Ang Lee's movie, starring Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as ranch hands who fall in love, spawned a minor cottage industry of jokes, but it earned Lee a Best Director Oscar and was one of 2005's most critically respected films. And Ledger was the dark horse in the Best Actor race, ultimately losing to Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Capote."

"When I started to watch some of the films I'd done, I realized I was doing movies that I might not actually want to see," Ledger says with a small smile. "I thought, I need to be more cautious about my choices - it reflects on who I am. So I became more respectful of that.

"While I was doing press for 'Knight's Tale,' I felt like a product ... and it felt like a 'Here for a good time, not a long time' kind of thing. It dawned on me that I was sitting at this junction, and these choices would dictate my future, and I just put the brakes on it."

So rather than do more empty action like "The Four Feathers" (2002) and "The Order" (2003), Ledger got serious (even last year's romp "Casanova" was a step up). In "Candy," which he filmed prior to "Brokeback's" release, he plays a young Aussie whose heroin addiction is also taken up by his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) before both are nearly destroyed by it. The gritty indie film's depiction of drug use is tough instead of bleak chic, more "The Man With the Golden Arm" than "Trainspotting."

"It was like I diverted off the map and took a back road to the place I wanted to get to," Ledger says.

The actor, who'd previously dated Heather Graham and Naomi Watts, met his fiancee, Michelle Williams, on the set of "Brokeback" (she also was Oscar-nominated for it). They now live in Brooklyn, and being a dad - their daughter, Matilda, just turned 1 - and living in New York instead of L.A. has helped ground him, he says.

He'll be seen in Todd Haynes' upcoming "I'm Not There," and he's starting to perfect his cackle for his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," director Christopher Nolan's followup to 2005's "Batman Begins." Christian Bale will again be the Caped Crusader.

The Joker was last played onscreen by Jack Nicholson in 1989's "Batman," but Ledger isn't white-faced when he considers the challenge.

"I think [getting the role] was tougher for other people to comprehend than it was for me," Ledger says, giving a crooked grin as he smokes out a window. "I'm looking forward to it. A part of me feels like I've been warming up to [playing the Joker] for years. In 'The Brothers Grimm,' [director] Terry Gilliam helped me put on a sort of clown act and adjust to that sort of pace. And I feel it's something within me I know how to do. I like putting on a mask. It'll be dark and sinister and exciting.

"Not being a huge comic book fan, and not one to really follow comic book movies, I'm relaxed about it," he adds. "The kids in the neighborhood are on to me, though."

Rest In Peace Heath Ledger
You will be Never forgotten
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