Down Under With Heath Ledger 17 September 2002

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Down Under With Heath Ledger 17 September 2002

Post  Admin on Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:56 pm

Down Under With Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger has appeared in such films as "10 Things I Hate About You," "A Knight's Tale,"

"The Kelly Gang" and "The Patriot." He has become popular among younger audiences because of his rugged good looks and thick Australian

accent.

Often looked upon as a younger version of his "Patriot" co-star, Mel Gibson, 23-year-old Australian film actor Heath Ledger has come a long way since his rooted beginnings as a stage actor in his native country. He got his first big break in 1999 with the teen-age comedy, "10 Things I Hate About You," followed by "Two Hands," in which he was nominated for the Australian Film Institute's award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

Since then, he went on to star in big-time features such as "A Knight's Tale." The Perth native now stars alongside Wes Bentley and Kate Hudson in Shekhar Kapur's epic adaptation of A.E.W. Mason's "The Four Feathers."

Ledger talks with The Review on his experience filming "Feathers." He also speaks about his up-and-coming films "The Kelly Gang," about the life of legendary Aussie bandit Ned Kelly, and "The Sin Eater," which reunites Ledger with "Knight's Tale" director Brian Helgeland.

How did you get involved with "The Four Feathers?"

It came to me while I was shooting "The Patriot," actually. It was like three years ago and then you know, I met Shekhar, sat down and we had lunch.

Where did you have lunch at?

Oh f***, um, I think it was some hotel -- I think it was the Bel Air Hotel. Yeah, so we went there and he sort of picked my brain and then it wasn't until I was shooting in Prague on "A Knight's Tale" where he called me up and said, "do you want to come down and audition?" So I went down and they really put me through a ringer.

What kind of things did he put you through?

In the audition?

Yeah.

It was f***ing torturous. Basically, I was improvising for eight hours. He'd sit me down, roll the camera, and he'd ask me to play Abou, who was Djimon Hounsou's character, and sit there and talk to Shekhar, who'd play my character. He'd roll camera and be like, "Talk to me about destiny," and at that point I'd read the script like twice, so I had no idea what I was doing.

You were actually quoted in Premiere magazine saying, "I get bored in auditions." Could you explain why?

I hate them. Yeah, it's the most awkward position you can be in. You walk into a room, and you're asked to pour yourself into this piece of material knowing that you're not performing for anyone. You're being tested, you're being judged and you're being watched. It's just a very insecure, vulnerable position to be in.

What drew you to this movie?

A couple of things. Initially, Shekhar Kapur. I was, and still am, a huge fan of his work, "Bandit Queen" and "Elizabeth," obviously. Secondly, just the character. His journey is so epic and he really starts at one place and ends on another and it was also because I was curious about this character. On paper and in the day and time he was labeled a coward; it really read black and white. He was cowardly on paper, he didn't want to go to war and was using his wife as an excuse and he receives these feathers of cowardice and wants to reclaim his dignity. In that cowardly act, I found him to be courageous because he was standing up for what he believed in and he was standing up against the systematic and regimental lifestyle that he has been spoon-fed his whole life. There was just a hell of a lot of subtext to be added, and I knew Shekhar would be more than able to provide me with that.

This is the sixth time "The Four Feathers" has been made into a movie; how does this one compare to the earlier versions?

I'm not sure cause I've never seen the other movies.

Since you had not seen the previous versions of the film or read the book, how did you approach the role?

Well, I guess for that reason I was taking a real clean slate. I was just working off the script, and the script alone, being that its not just an adaptation of a book and it being a remake of a movie from the past. My approach I guess was just, in that four weeks of rehearsing, just getting an understanding of the story and the character's motives. It's just a matter of talking and discussion.

On a personal level, did you relate to your character's ambitions and philosophy, especially about courage?

I did. I guess I related with the fact that courage is an internal quality as opposed to the physical aspects of courage. I related to the fact of courage being purely as simple as listening to one's instinct and following through with it, i.e. the fact that he stood up against the regimental and systematic lifestyle that he grew up in and all these military expectations from his father, his friends and his wife even. And he stood up and walked away from that, which I think is courageous. I guess I do understand that, you know, just standing up tall for one's own belief.

Of all the character's you've played, which one do you identify with most?

All of them. In the end of the day, it's me there playing them. I was certainly attached to Ned Kelly. I just finished playing Ned Kelly in Australia, and that was certainly the most exciting role I've done. Ned Kelly is an iconic Australian figure.

Do you feel any pressure with "The Four Feathers," in that you're the star and the success of the film is perhaps riding on your performance?

No, because my job's done. I don't care, its not my money. I'm being paid -- I've done my job. I don't think I should take those pressures on-board.

Do you prefer doing smaller movies like "Monster's Ball" or do you like the big-budgeted blockbusters like "The Patriot" and "The Four Feathers?"

I guess I feel a lot more comfortable on a smaller set. It keeps you alive during a smaller movie and smaller roles; there's less pressure. "Monster's Ball," the whole movie was shot in four weeks; my work was over in two days. It's fun to be able to walk in and out, and not have the pressures of creating a huge arch for your character for carrying the movie.

Would you take a pay cut to do some more independent films?

Totally. I could care f***ing less about money. I've never had it in my life, so I wouldn't know what I'd do with it.

What was it like working with Shekhar Kapur?

Awesome. He's a wonderful guy, and he's a wonderful friend. As a director, he's incredibly passionate and gets incredibly excited about the idea of creating. He nurtures your performance, and he's very caring and understanding toward the actor.

What was it like working with some of the other actors?

I loved it. We all became such good friends -- Michael Sheen, Rupert Penry-Jones, Chris Marshall, Wes Bentley. We became very good friends, and of course Djimon. He's a f***ing sweetheart. They are all such brilliant people.

And Kate Hudson?

Yeah, she was great to work with, too.

Actually, the best scenes in film are probably the ones between you and Djimon Hounsou. Were you two as friendly with each other off the set as you were on-screen?

Oh, he is my brother. He's such a beautiful, beautiful soul and such a big heart and very generous to work with. He's such a huge presence. At first, he can be intimidating. He'll walk into the room and he's massive in his look, and, as a matter of fact he can just pick you up and snap you over his knee. We had a ball, we really did.

Since this film depicts a world super power going against a Muslim nation, that and your character's appearance kind of resembles John Walker Lindh, do you think people will draw parallels to this film with the events of the past year?

Yeah, I think people will. I think people have been. I think you are right now. I think it's just ironic, the timing, because in the end of the day the politics of the movie is purely a backdrop for a simple story of emotions and human qualities. So f*** it, I kind of like the fact that people are talking like it's some "big conspiracy."

The epic scale of the film has been compared to "Lawrence of Arabia." Do you think that's a fair comparison or is there another movie you'd compare it to?

Yeah, that's fair. [Laughs.] That was an easy one to answer.

What was it like on location in Morocco?

It was beautiful. I loved it up there. Love the desert. Love the people, the food. It was hot, it was sweaty, sticky. There wasn't much wildlife out there. There was one flower that grows in the desert, this orchid that locals would dry up and crush up and drink with tea and then run around tripping their asses off.

Of all the places you've filmed on location, which one was your favorite?

Probably Morocco, just 'cause it was so majestic. Everything out there seems insignificant, you just feel like a piece of sand. It's very humbling.

What was the hardest part about preparing for this role?

It wasn't that hard; if anything, it was interesting. We spent four weeks, prior to shooting, sitting around a table discussing the movie. Shekhar really handed us his brain on a plate. Actually the shooting process was a lot harder than preparing.

Did you have a voice coach for the film?

Yeah I did. A good friend of mine, Jerry Grenell, who is a genius. He worked with me on Ned Kelly as well to do the Irish accent.

Was there a scene that was particularly difficult to shoot?

Oh man, the whole thing. I was in the makeup chair at 3 in the morning and got out of it at 6 a.m. And I worked all day until 8 p.m. got home at 9, got to bed at 10 and woke up again at 2:30 a.m. So you never stop thinking when you're on that sort of pattern. You go to sleep thinking what you're doing the next day. It was like that for six months. It took me a good month to stop pacing around my house. Once I got home, I could not stop pacing. I'd walk, I'd sit down for about five seconds and I'd jump up 'cause everything inside of you is moving so fast.

What was the best time you had working on the movie off the set?

I guess it was every Tuesday night, we'd play drums with this Sudanese drum band. We'd just kinda get blind drunk on red wine. That was fun; it was really cheery being in the middle of the desert pounding away.

What was the best time you had while filming?

There was a pretty cool moment I remember and that was when they did a helicopter shot. I'm on a camel, my camel, Big Mouth was his name, and I'm kind of wandering aimlessly through the desert through the dunes. And it was just me and me alone aside from the crew hiding in the desert for a big wide shot, and I just jumped on my camel and rode off into the sunset for hours and hours, and I had Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" playing.

Speaking of your camel, there's one scene in the movie where you drink the blood of your camel. How did you guys do that?

How did I do it?

I mean, I'm guessing you didn't really pierce your camel and stuff.

You guess. [Laughs.] No, you're right it was just a little blood knife with little blood tubes on the side. It was fun; that was one of the last shots of the movie, and we had no time. The last four weeks of the movie we shot straight, we had no days off. That last scene, the blood scene, we had literally 15 minutes before the sun would go down. I had to cut the blood and somehow get the camel to walk off and leave me there. We had one wide shot and one insert shot of me drinking the blood. In the wide shot, I cut the camel and was pretending to drink it, and then I kind of pretended to fall down and at the same time, I was pushing the camel away. And when I did fall to the ground and I kind of belch out [belches], and the camel took off on its own cue and walked off perfectly over the hill and disappeared off in the horizon. It was perfect.

Is there something that attracts you to period pieces like "A Knight's Tale," "The Patriot" and now this one?

I don't know. I mean, in the end of the day there's a hell of a lot more stories to tell from the past. I don't know, I guess it's just the fact that there is no clear picture on how they communicated or how they spoke back then so you are taking a guess, you are taking a liberty in terms of portraying a person and a particular posture about the way they relate. It kind of gives you more of a range and more room to play.

In a lot of these period pieces you have a lot of horse riding scenes. Did you grow up with horses or was this something you had to train for?

Yeah, I grew up around horses most of my life, but it wasn't until six years ago when someone asked me if I could ride a horse for some movie and I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can ride a horse," and then you're there bouncing around on the saddle and they are looking at each other going, "Oh, ****."

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

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Re: Down Under With Heath Ledger 17 September 2002

Post  Admin on Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:57 pm

After doing these pieces, if you could be born in another century, which would it be?

God. Do I have to be born in a different century? [Laughs.] I'm pretty happy in this one, no matter how f***ed up it is.

You're originally from Perth, Australia. It was reported somewhere that one of the traditions down there is that people build cannons and shoot them off every second Sunday of the month, is that true?

[Sarcastically] Yeah, listen um, one of my favorite hobbies is getting all my friends together and building cannons and firing them off. I take great pleasure in doing that.

OK, so if you weren't an actor, what would you be?

A cannon maker.

Back to "Four Feathers." When the movie first premiered in August, were you nervous about how the audience would receive the film?

I generally don't give a **** what people think. I've seen it, I like it, I'm proud of it and that's really it. My job's kind over from this point on, there's nothing more I can do from this point on.

What do you hope audiences will get from the movie?

A tall belly of popcorn?

Aside from "The Sin Eater" and "The Kelly Gang," are you working on anything else right now?

No, I'm not.

Is there a particular director you want to work with?

Well there's tons, man. There's too many of them.

A favorite?

No, not really.

As an actor, who are your role models?

Usually the people I work with become my role models. As a kid I never grew up watching movies, I was never a big fan of them. I never had someone I wanted to become.

Do you have a good relationship with the other Australian actors like Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe and Geoffrey Rush?

Yeah, yeah, we all get along. We all get together on Sundays and build cannons together.

How do you feel about being such a well-recognized celebrity with all these Web sites on the Internet dedicated to you?

I don't know, I'm not that recognized. I don't really get out to places where you would be. I don't go on the Internet, I don't have an e-mail address and I've never seen any of them or read any articles. I hang out with my best friends who've been my best friends since I was three. I just forget about it, I don't really deal with it.

Do you think people who enjoyed your previous work will like this one?

I don't know. Generally, I'm not that calculated in terms of what audience I want to please. I'm not really out there to please people, unfortunately. I try to just keep a true mind to cater the performance.

Since your beginnings on the stage, how have you grown as an actor?

I don't know, I guess that's one to be answered by someone who's been observing my work. That's the beauty of this job is that you don't stop learning and there's no such thing as perfection because in the end of the day you are lying. You can never be perfect, so you're not gonna stop growing, hopefully, until you die. I don't know, there's tons of things I've learned. Good preparation, things like that. It's hard to put a finger on it.

Is this film a turning point in your career?

I guess so, but I never sit around and think about my career that much. I'm a pretty lazy person. I mean once I hang up this phone I'm gonna go home and sit in front of the TV and cook and clean my ****. I snap off pretty quickly. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Do you see yourself as a director or a writer of movies someday?

Perhaps, yeah.

Is Foster's Australian for beer?

I've had one Fosters in my life. [Laughs.] You can't even find a Fosters anywhere. Never seen it at a pub. VB is the Australian beer, Victorian Bitter.

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

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Posts : 234
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Age : 27

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