Actor Heath Ledger cracks the big time

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Actor Heath Ledger cracks the big time

Post  Admin on Sat Mar 08, 2008 4:24 pm

Actor Heath Ledger cracks the big time
Reporter: Tracy Bowden
13/01/2006

MAXINE McKEW: Celebrated young Australian actor Heath Ledger looks set to crack Hollywood's A-league with his latest film role. 'Brokeback Mountain' is based on a short story by Annie Proulx. Ledger plays a ranch hand in the American Rocky Mountains who unexpectedly and overwhelmingly falls in love with a cowboy. While the film might break all the stereotypes of the typical western, renowned director Ang Lee says his film is not a gay cowboy movie but a great romantic tragedy. And while the film has outraged some conservatives in the United States, it's enchanted many critics. Earlier today, Tracy Bowden caught up with the actor, who's now been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role.

TRACY BOWDEN: Set amongst breath taking scenery in the Rockies, 'Brokeback Mountain' is quite simply a love story, albeit an anguished one. A far cry from the traditional western, it follows the emotional journey of a ranch hand and a cowboy who meet one summer in 1963 and form an intimate connection and an unbreakable bond. Heath Ledger plays the stoic, silent Ennis del Mar.

TRACY BOWDEN: What was it that made you want to do this film?

HEATH LEDGER: Ang Lee is the director, or was the director, and I always wanted to work with him. The screenplay, it was one of the most beautiful scripts I've ever read. So a combination of those two things and also the character of Ennis del Mar. I'd never come across such a complex, lonely figure and I felt it was going to be an opportunity to mature as a person and mature as an actor and that's always exciting.

TRACY BOWDEN: Did you worry at all initially about whether you could be Ennis, whether you could get that character?

HEATH LEDGER: Um...yeah. It's kind of a rule of thumb for me to self-doubt going into any kind of project. I always think that I shouldn't be doing it and I don't know how to do it and I'm going to fail and that I fooled them. I always try to find a way out.

TRACY BOWDEN: So you get the role and then you panic?

HEATH LEDGER: Yeah, yeah, I do. And my agent actually, he recognises it as a pattern of mine, and so he doesn't respond at all. He just kind of brushes it off and...but you know, it seems to be a necessary process of mine in order for me to kind of focus in more and concentrate and try to defeat myself, my own anxieties and so this was no exception to that rule.

TRACY BOWDEN: How did you find that place that he was in? That quiet character and all those different parts of his personality that you portray, often without not saying a word?

HEATH LEDGER: Yeah, a big part of Ennis, purely because as you said, there were very few words to convey his story and his battle, a big part of it was actually in fact going inside him and trying to explain his battle. I knew it was going to be a very physical performance and so I wanted to physicalise this battle within his posture or lack of posture, within his accent, like his voice was very important. I wanted him to be clenched and I wanted his mouth to be a clenched fist and I wanted to words to be just punching their way out from within. Just any form of expression had to be painful. So I spent a lot of time developing his stance, his physical and mental posture, cause that was going to be really important to the character.

TRACY BOWDEN: Given its subject matter it's probably no surprise the movie has raised eyebrows in parts of the United States, with some cinemas refusing to screen it.

HEATH LEDGER: Whether or not it's controversial I think it's relative to the person that you are. I don't think the topic is controversial and nor do I think it should be. I'm an actor and I've taken it upon myself - I've made it my responsibility to investigate different walks of life and try my best to portray it. And it's good to be a little ruthless with your career. If you make decisions based upon people's reactions or judgments then you make really boring choices. And I would just get bored with my choices. So, you know, you have to be a little ruthless.

TRACY BOWDEN: The film's been...not been played in some cinemas in the States. Does that bother you?

HEATH LEDGER: No. I think the ironic thing is it's created free publicity for the film, you know, more people will want to see it now. So no, it doesn't bother me.

TRACY BOWDEN: Director Ang Lee has said that Heath Ledger underplays powerfully, but the reaction of the critics has been anything but low key - one comparing the Australian to Marlon Brando and Sean Penn.

HEATH LEDGER: It's a bit embarrassing, because I would never compare myself to those two. It's obviously an honour just to have your name within the same sentence. But I would never compare myself to them, personally.

TRACY BOWDEN: After a series of patchy roles that saw him viewed by some as a Hollywood lightweight, 'Brokeback Mountain' is a turning point for Heath Ledger in more ways than one. He met his partner Michelle Williams playing opposite her in the movie and now they have a baby daughter Matilda.

It's ironic in a film about love, lost love, lost opportunities, you found love.

HEATH LEDGER: Yeah, I know. It's incredible just...to what extent this film has changed my life. As you said, not only is it a beautiful film and I'm proud of the movie but it's also given me two beautiful girls and Brooklyn. It's completely changed my life, so I'll be forever grateful to Ang for hooking me up.

TRACY BOWDEN: How fulfilling is that other new role of father?

HEATH LEDGER: Um...it's completing fulfilling. It's quite miraculous, it really is. Just waking up every morning to that smile, just - it brightens your day, it really does. And I'm incredibly proud of both of them.

TRACY BOWDEN: You've been back here in Australia. How important is it to keep the Australian connection, for you?

HEATH LEDGER: It's hard for me to shake it cause I am Australian. It is very important, yeah. And I love Australia, I love coming home and Michelle loves Australia as well, which is a good thing. Even work-wise, I'm going to try and come back as often as possible and work back here again.

TRACY BOWDEN: The 26-year-old actor doesn't pretend to enjoy the publicity and the profile that goes hand in hand with Hollywood, but seems to be attempting to accept it.

With success comes a high profile, when you're an actor. There's no way around it. Is that the downside of success for you? - being recognised, people seeing you around, the interest?

HEATH LEDGER: I guess so. I don't want to sound like a whinge, so it definitely balances out, I get a lot of out of it. I learn a lot about myself and life and people around me. And that time between action and cut I thrive on. So, yeah, it's a little uncomfortable with people, cameras and you know, the spies, the stalkers that hunt you down with those cameras. But, you know, I guess you've just got to take it on the chin.

TRACY BOWDEN: Heath Ledger is nominated for a Golden Globe and there's talk of an Oscar but he's trying not to get too carried away by all the hype. Now, Golden Globes just around the corner. How are you feeling? Are you nervous?

HEATH LEDGER: Yeah. Yeah, I am a little bit. But you know, I'm very proud of Michelle, she's been nominated as well and I don't know, it'll be sweet. I guess I'm just being told by the people around me just to breathe and relax and just kind of go with it and don't take it too seriously, so that's just what I'll do.

TRACY BOWDEN: Thanks for talking to us.

HEATH LEDGER: No worries.

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Rest In Peace Heath Ledger
1979-2008
You will be Never forgotten

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