Heath Ledger’s sisters: ‘He wasn’t depressed about The Joker’ 

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A new Heath Ledger documentary will have a one-night theatrical release on May 3rd with a shorter, 60-minute version to air on Spike TV on May 17. It’s called I Am Heath Ledger. It’s produced and directed by Derik Murray (who is no stranger to the celebrity documentary genre having made I Am Bruce Lee and I Am Chris Farley) and Adrian Buitenhuis (who directed the Facing documentary series). Heath’s family and close friends, like producing partner Matt Amato, Naomi Watts, Ang Lee, Ben Mendelsohn and Djimon Hounsou were interviewed for the film. Ex-girlfriend and his daughter’s mother, Michelle Williams, did not participate but did give it her blessing. Unlike other documentaries on Heath, much of the footage comes from video Heath himself filmed. Heath, apparently, loved to document his life and projects and the inclusion of these videos allowed him to narrate a good portion of what is on screen.

Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose after filming his memorable turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. After his death, his father Kim revealed the diary Heath kept during filming TDK. Heath favored method acting and this diary spoke of Heath’s seclusion and isolation while filming to prepare for the angst-riddled Joker. As a result, many people thought his overdose was less-than accidental. Heath’s sisters, Kate Ledger and Ashleigh Bell, feel this documentary clears up that misconception. All method aside, they say Heath was having the time of his life playing that part.

Ledger’s sisters as well as his longtime friend Matt Amato, a filmmaker who co-founded the production company The Masses with Ledger, brought up another reason they were keen to participate in this documentary: to clear up rumors and misconceptions about Ledger’s state of mind after filming The Dark Knight and playing the Joker.

“I hope it’s an antidote to a lot of the gossip that exists in the world,” Amato said on the Tribeca panel. “There are some really terrible things about Heath out there.”

Bell added that, “I don’t know if it was the case that we wanted to clear it up, but as soon as he had the movie everything that came into light about The Joker, we were all so confused.”

“I was really shocked, because that was him having fun,” Kate Ledger said.

“It was coming out that he was depressed and it was taking a toll, and we were going, ‘What?’” Bell said.

“Honestly it was the absolute opposite. He had an amazing sense of humor, and I guess only his close family and friends really knew that. But he was having fun. He wasn’t depressed about The Joker,” Ledger added.

Near the end of the film, Alexander echoes what Ledger’s siblings said on stage Sunday night, saying that, “He was struggling with his demons, but he didn’t want to go anywhere but forward.”

[The Daily Beast]

I thought Heath was a very good actor and I enjoyed many of his performances, if not the movies themselves. I’ve never really understood method acting so I don’t know how much baggage a person carries when knee-deep in a character. I guess I kind of bought into the hype of The Joker theories at the time and I’m happy the family can tell this side of the story.

As for the documentary itself, the media is lit up about it. I’ve read several pieces that wax from how wonderful it is to see a mirthful Heath to how it deepens the heartbreak of his loss. I didn’t know much about him beyond his films prior to his death, so I’m on the fence about this doc. Part of me would like to see this side of him but then I’m worried I’ll just be heartbroken once I get to know him better. The important thing is that Heath’s family is not only presenting the Heath they want the world to know but the person they think he would want us to know too.

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Photo credit: WENN Photos, Getty

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25 Responses to “Heath Ledger’s sisters: ‘He wasn’t depressed about The Joker’ ”

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  1. detritus says:

    He was the first celeb death to really, really hit me. I’m going to watch this and I’m going to cry big salty tears.

    I loved him from the beginning in Ten Things, and his cheese movies finding his stride, I think I’ve watched every one (even that horrible priest one). I think he would have blown most of the current acting crop out of the water if he had been with us longer. RIP Heath.

  2. Shambles says:

    Oh, Heath… you beautiful, gorgeous man. I’ll watch this. Such a profound loss of a great talent, way too soon.

  3. Justjj says:

    I don’t know about these documentaries, I felt the same about ‘Montage of Heck’ let the beautiful nuances of the human experience and the myriad of intimacies someone knows in their life to rest peacefully with the person who lived them. It just feels sort of violating to cross those lines posthumously no? I don’t know. RIP Heath. I won’t be watching this.

    • Miss S says:

      Agree with you. It’s sharing too much when some things should remain private no matter how famous the person is.

      • SM says:

        I agree. Not sure relatives should make something private public after the passing of a celebrity. He seemed like someone who valued his privacy and stuggled with celebrity if I recall correctly. I also have to side eye that justification of clearing the air. Even his family members who were close to him and who I understand did not live with him can not know everything about him and how he felt at the end of the day. It seems like they are trying to minimise the mental health issues. You do not have to be unhappy at all times to have deamons and to struggle which lead to accidents like this one. You can be happy and joke around and still stuggle. And do you really need to drag a dead person into the spotlight to talk about how you feel about the rumours and gossip. If he was happy then good but do not drag a dead person into the spotlight to make your self to feel better about yourself.

  4. hoopjumper says:

    Jesus, did he really look that young? Oof.

  5. Nicole says:

    This loss hit me hard too. I spent my teen years watching him on screen (10 things and a knights tale) and I was so excited for TDK. When news of his death hit i was in denial. Still hurts

  6. Chaucer says:

    Did we ever find out how the Olsens were connected? I think some of the pills were MK’s, right? Trying to help a friend get some sleep and it went horribly wrong? I have no idea, that’s just what I’ve read elsewhere. I feel horrible for all involved. :(

  7. Aims says:

    He was so brilliant in brokeman mountain . He nailed it and the self loathing and torment his character had about being gay was heartbreaking . He was such a gifted actor . Such a shame .

  8. LolaBones says:

    This is the one celebrity death that always hits me whenever I remember. He was so young and talented.
    Damn, I had forgotten he was in Lords of Dogtown. That part was so nicely done, I kept forgetting it was him.
    Btw, Idk why people keep ignoring it but his last film was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but I guess it was cooler for the media to blame the Joker.

  9. Char says:

    I had forgotten he was in The Patriot with Mel Gibson. Heath’s smile was just adorable. I also bought into the “method acting the Joker led to his suicide” because it just seemed to make sense. Or at least gave him an excuse for accidentally OD’ing. His Joker was just phenomenal, IMO. I still enjoy Jack Nickolson’s Joker, it worked at the time, but Heath’s was both funny & dark/creepy. Heath & Robin Williams are 2 celebrities that make me sad still, when I see them on tv now.

  10. Bridget says:

    I thought the “Heath was depressed” was just a way of sanitizing “Heath was partying too hard” – at the time of his death, he was hanging with a hard partying crowd. It’s conveniently glossed over an awful lot.

  11. Bess says:

    It’s a shame that his daughter will never know her father, but please do not make Ledger into some sort of martyr. It’s not like he died in the line of duty or protecting someone else. He died of an accidental drug overdose.