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Feature: Heath Ledger
What Lies Beneath Heath?
The star chats to us about Brokeback Mountain, the movie that’s about to make him a megastar…
Heath Ledger has gone from doing bit parts in Australian soaps like Home and Away to becoming one of the most promising actors of his generation, already being compared with movie greats such as Marlon Brando. His recent film Brokeback Mountain has won several prestigious awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and it has netted him a Golden Globe for his portrayal of tormented Wyoming rancher Ennis Del Mar. With the Academy Awards just around the corner, its rumoured that he and Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays his gay lover Jack Twist in the film, might be competing for the best actor Oscar this February.
Heath was born in Perth, Western Australia on April 4 1979. Getting the acting bug after taking drama classes at school, he quit education a year early and headed to Sydney with his friend Trevor DiCarlo to try to break into professional acting. After getting roles in a number of forgettable TV programmes, including his time as a lovelorn surfer in Home and Away, Heath was cast in Two Hands, a gritty Australian crime film that brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Before he knew it, Heath was soon acting alongside the likes of Mel Gibson in the bloody historical drama The Patriot and starring in his own movie, the hugely entertaining A Knight’s Tale.
Since then, Heath has seen some ups and downs career wise with some of his films being Oscar-winning hits Monster’s Ball, while others have been less than successful. Ned Kelly and The Four Feathers, for example, were outright box office flops and left many thinking that the antipodean actor might not have what it takes to carry a film on his own shoulders. Fortunately, acclaimed director Ang Lee saw his potential and cast him in Brokeback Mountain, a film that depicts a burgeoning love between two men. One, Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist, is more comfortable with his sexuality, while the other, Heath’s Ennis Del Mar, is married and has trouble coming to terms with his intense feelings for another man.
“When I read the script it was probably one of the most beautiful screenplays I’ve ever read. I had a real lump in my throat.” reveals Heath, talking about the film that many critics are calling a true cinematic masterpiece. “It felt like a story that hadn’t been put on screen, which is rare to come across.” Although, in hindsight, its clear that Heath was right to take the role of Ennis, he’s aware that many actors would have turned such a difficult and potentially controversial role down. “People, I guess in the past, have been nervous [playing such a role]. They connect it to be being a risk and personal fears and anxieties. I guess I never felt like I was putting anything at risk. I looked at it as a beautiful opportunity to work with this brilliant material and this brilliant director… and so I felt like I’d be crazy to walk away from it.”
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