INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "I'm Not There"

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INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "I'm Not There"

Post  Admin on Sat Mar 08, 2008 4:43 pm

INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "I'm Not There"
11/22/2007
By Max Evry in New York City

"Music, on so many levels, has affected my life and still continues to. I guess one example is to me music, particularly a voice singing, songwriters, poets, Dylan, whoever… to me it’s such a pure expression of a song from the soul that deeply connects to mine. It’s always been a key that unlocked or enabled me to express anger or pains of any sort. So it’s always been a wonderful excuse or door opener for me in terms of being able to express, creatively and personally."

“I’m Not There” is a wonderful curiosity, a pastiche of the many different personas legendary singer/songwriter/actor Bob Dylan has inhabited during his long career. Writer-director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven) has taken the unconventional approach of having six different actors, including Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett, play different incarnations of Dylan specific to particular phases of his life. All these phases are presented in a non-linear cut-up technique that makes the movie as enigmatic a puzzle as Dylan himself. The movie is less about Dylan than it IS DYLAN.

Acclaimed young actor Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) plays “Robbie”, an aspect of Dylan that represents his time as an actor and celebrity, and also a father trying desperately to stay connected to his wife, played by Charlotte Gainsborough.

Q: A lot of younger audiences today aren’t as aware of Bob Dylan as their parent’s generation. Do you feel an audience needs a certain awareness of Dylan in order to understand “I’m Not There”?

HEATH: I don’t think you need to be a Dylan genius in order to appreciate it. As a story, as a film, the experience of it, ‘cause it is a film, it is a movie. It’s not a quiz, there’s no Q & A afterwards. Quite frankly I think the less you know the better off you’re going to be because you’re not going to be straining yourself to try to digest every single line of dialogue. You’re just gonna strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Q: Your character “Robbie” represents Bob’s tumultuous personal life. What did you discover about the man himself in preparing for this role?

HEATH: About “Robbie” or about Bob?

Q: About Bob.

HEATH: Umm… I dunno, because essentially Todd kind of dissected Bob and I was like an amputated limb, so I was just concentrating on one arm of Bob Dylan. Likewise Todd dissected the script too and handed us little short films, and we just concentrated on our individual stories. I tend to feel that the story of my character and Charlotte’s character lives with him and the circumstances of the era represented more a portrait of Dylan than perhaps the individual. I dunno, at the end of the day I read the books, I watched the documentaries, my catalogue of Dylan’s music was expanded, but the beauty of Todd’s film is I can’t tell you that I know anything more about Bob Dylan than you do. I think that’s beautiful, that Todd attempted to respectfully preserve Bob Dylan’s mystique, and has respectfully kept him in the shadows still.

Q: How has music in general affected your life?

HEATH: Oh gosh, where do I start? Music, on so many levels, has affected my life and still continues to. I guess one example is to me music, particularly a voice singing, songwriters, poets, Dylan, whoever… to me it’s such a pure expression of a song from the soul that deeply connects to mine. It’s always been a key that unlocked or enabled me to express anger or pains of any sort. So it’s always been a wonderful excuse or door opener for me in terms of being able to express, creatively and personally.

Q: Whether playing a real person like Dylan or an iconic character like The Joker, is it helpful for you to go back and really read all the material, or is it counterproductive?

HEATH: I think it’s a bit of both. I think it’s necessary and unnecessary. We can under-prepare, we can over-prepare. I think it’s all just to feed our superstitious needs and to comfort ourselves. At the end of the day you usually just have an innate understanding of what you need to do. I was definitely a fan of Dylan, but Dylan was someone I felt I had scheduled to become obsessed with, because I do get obsessed with musicians and artists. I think Todd prematurely invited this obsession on this film. The Joker too, I was definitely a fan of what Jack Nicholson did and the world Tim Burton created. I can tell you now if Tim Burton directed “The Dark Knight” and he came and asked me to play The Joker I’d say “no”, I couldn’t reproduce what Jack did. The reason why I confidently stepped into the shoes is when Chris [Nolan] asked me I’d seen “Batman Begins” and I knew the world he created and I also knew there was a different angle to be taken. That’s why I did it.

Q: You play Dylan during the period in his life when he had young children. How did you relate to this role as a dad?

HEATH: The same as if I wasn’t a dad. (pause) No, okay. (laughs) I guess just like anyone in this industry, like yourselves or the crews on movies, it’s a fairly Gypsy-esque lifestyle. I can certainly relate to that, struggling to keep a consistency with family life and your social life and your professional life. It’s both an annoyance and also an addiction. I can definitely relate to it. I didn’t agree with Robbie and a lot of his actions and his words, it’s not my job to agree, but I can try to relate and understand.

“I’m Not There” is now playing in limited release.

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

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