Last fall in Venice, Heath Ledger revealed that he wanted to do a movie about Nick Drake, but that these aspirations had gradually faded because the musician who had taken his life at the age of 25 was too much of a mystery. “I felt like I would be taking too many liberties,” he said.
This is one of the things I’ve learned about the man this week. Other than being testimony to his dignity, the lack of insight into his life, both happy and sad moments, also testifies to his character and respect for the art.
It was also just one of the many facts benevolently turned into fictions in different attempts to make some sense of the story of a successful, talented young man inexplicably falling asleep, alone in his apartment, never to wake up again. One of those fictions that are familiar and relatable enough to stick, to be referenced in biographies years down the road, to produce even greater fictions that will make up for the ones he will never be able to embody on the big screen. To get people to take the time to notice, to appreciate, to remember. At the end of the day, all entirely unnecessary.
It is difficult to have any kind of emotional investment in the film industry and not feel the blow and mourn the loss of the guy you count on to keep unveiling new territory in acting and keep the hope alive for the tragically scattered 21st century generation of actors. His talent, his work, his devotion to the art, and willingness to step aside and allow his characters to take the limelight have set new standards of integrity, honesty, immediacy and courage for an entire generation.
We remember. And we remember kindly.
Sincerest condolences go out to his friends, family, colleagues and fans as they say their final goodbye to him in the days to come.