Wow. It's always difficult to comment on the passing of someone so young and seemingly in the highpoint of their lives. I didn't know Ledger and have no idea what kind of person he really was, but if some of his true character came across the screen than I'd say he seemed to be a pretty good fellow. While I thought Brokeback Mountain was overhyped (Big Eden remains my favorite in this genre) his own performance was superb. I remember seeing him for the first time in The Patriot and then A Knight's Tale, both of which I enjoyed and thought he did a good job in. How sad. I think though that this 2006 interview about why he did the Brokeback film tells us something of what kind of man he was:
Heath Ledger’s critically acclaimed performance as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain was inspired by the personal experiences of his uncle, gay Australian tough guy Neil Bell, the actor told press in Hollywood Sunday...
Ledger said his uncle’s difficult early life and tough personal experiences helped him forge what is being acclaimed as one of the strongest and most emotionally powerful performances in recent cinema history.
In the film, Ledger's del Mar is tortured by the decades he spends hiding his love for another cowboy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
"I had a dear friend of mine, who's my uncle," explained Ledger. "He's a big guy. He goes to bare-knuckle fighting out in the Nevada desert, and he's gay." [...]
"His father approached him when he was 20 and said: 'Are you gay?'," Ledger said. "He was about to deny it, because his dad was very Victorian, very stern. But he said 'yes'. "Two weeks later, his father came back to him and said, 'I believe you're ill, and I want you to go to hospital and get fixed. If you don't go, I want you to leave the family'."
Bell eventually moved from Perth to Los Angeles, "and from that point on, he accepted his sexuality to himself", Ledger said. "It was only a couple years ago that he really came out to me and my friends." (GayWired.com)
However overhyped I find this movie to be, his performance in it was very moving and reading the above makes me appreciate what he did all that more. RIP, Heath.
h/t Box Turtle Bulletin