'My friend Heath would never commit suicide'

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'My friend Heath would never commit suicide'

Post  Admin on Sat Mar 08, 2008 7:15 pm

'My friend Heath would never commit suicide'

By Brian Pendreigh

TRAGIC Hollywood star Heath Ledger was working with a veteran Scottish screenwriter and producer on what was to be his debut as a film director, it emerged last night.

Allan Shiach, who has a string of hit movies to his name, was due to meet Ledger tomorrow to finalise preparations for The Queen's Gambit, a high-tension drama about a delinquent teenage girl who turns out to be a chess prodigy.

Shiach told Scotland on Sunday he was in e-mail contact with Ledger just days before his death, some of the conversations taking place with the insomniac actor at 5am New York time.

But Shiach dismissed suggestions Ledger may have committed suicide following the break-up of his relationship with actress Michelle Williams.

"He was enthusiastic about getting to the next stage. I can't imagine that it was anything other than accidental," said Shiach, who co-wrote the classic thriller Don't Look Now, with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, and was executive producer of Shallow Grave, the black comedy that launched Ewan McGregor's film career.

Ledger, the star of Brokeback Mountain, A Knight's Tale, The Patriot and the forthcoming Batman movie The Dark Knight, was found dead in his New York apartment last Tuesday. The likeliest cause seems to be an overdose of sleeping pills or similar prescription-type drugs, though there have been reports of recreational narcotics.

"He had been clean of drugs for years and years," Shiach insisted. "When I heard he was dead I assumed it was an accident. I still must assume it was an accident. I know he slept short nights, because he used to correspond with me till five in the morning, New York time."

Shiach admitted the 28-year-old Australian star had been hit hard emotionally by his split from partner Williams, with whom he starred in Brokeback Mountain, and by being away from their two-year-old daughter Matilda.

"I watched him two or three times with the kid when I went to his house in New York. He was devoted to that child and would travel back and forth just to see the kid."

But Shiach added that Ledger was making practical plans right up to the day he died about The Queen's Gambit and other matters.

"I spoke to him last week about the schedule and the budget and we were to meet this coming week, on Monday and Tuesday in London. We were down to casting details and things."

Ledger was going to act in the film, as well as direct it. They had offered the lead role to Ellen Page, the Oscar-nominated new star of the comedy Juno. They were waiting for her to confirm acceptance and were planning to shoot in North America and Russia this year.

Shiach, who works in the movie business under the name Allan Scott, revealed Ledger had also set himself a personal goal. "One of his reasons for being interested in The Queen's Gambit was the fact that he was a very, very advanced chess player. He was in fact very close to grandmaster and he said to me he thought he would try and go for grandmaster before we started shooting the movie."

The Queen's Gambit is based on a novel by Walter Tevis, whose other works include The Hustler, The Color Of Money and The Man Who Fell To Earth, all of which have been filmed.

Its central character is Beth Harmon, who grows up in a Kentucky orphanage, where the children are given tranquillisers to keep them quiet.

She learns to play chess with the janitor. She proves a teenage phenomenon, but has become addicted to drugs and is also a habitual thief.

Shiach has had the film rights to The Queen's Gambit for 20 years and wrote the screenplay. At various stages actress Molly Ringwald and the late Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci were involved.

Ledger, who made his Hollywood debut in 10 Things I Hate About You in 1999, persuaded Shiach to let him direct on the strength of music videos and commercials he had directed. "We worked for about a week in New York and then we worked briefly in LA and then we worked quite a lot in London, because he was in London a lot last year, with Batman as well as the Terry Gilliam film."

Ledger had completed filming the new Batman film, in which he presents a dark new vision of The Joker, and was in the middle of shooting The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus with Gilliam. Production on the latter has been shut down and may be abandoned.

"At the minute, frankly, I am still recovering from the shock and sadness of his death," Shiach said. "He was a lovely and modest and decent and nice man, and how sad it is that we have lost the immense potential that he had. I think he was extraordinary, because he was a very, very thoughtful person."

The full article contains 834 words and appears in Scotland On Sunday newspaper.

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

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Re: 'My friend Heath would never commit suicide'

Post  Meera on Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:10 pm

thank you for posting the article.
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