Will Heath Ledger be awarded Best Actor Oscar 2008 posthumously?
At least, that is the rumor being bandied about in tinselville. The late Health Ledger, who plays the Joker in the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight, has received rave reviews for his performance. The Australian premiere of The Dark Knight has prompted critics to say that Heath Ledger was “manically mesmerizing” and took the shine out of the rest of the cast.
The Daily Telegraph’s film editor Vicky Roach was quoted as saying the interest in Heath Ledger’s last movie was morbid but his triumph in creating one of the most memorable villains in history must be applauded.
It is this electric last performance that is fueling rumors that Heath Ledger may win the Oscar for Best Oscar, posthumously. While some say that the fact that Ledger has given such a great performance as the dark Joker in The Dark Knight is enough, and does not need an Oscar for endorsement, others feel that the Oscar nomination would be a just one, and not ride on sympathy.
So far, the only posthumous Oscar Best Actor winner is Peter Finch for his role in Network. Other posthumous Oscar award winners include Sidney Howard for the Gone with the Wind screenplay (the first posthumous Oscar,) Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson in 1984 for the Bridge on the River Kwai screenplay, and cinematographer Conrad Hall for Road to Perdition.
As far as the Best Actor nominations go, James Dean was nominated twice posthumously for East of Eden and Giant. Spencer Tracy was nominated posthumously for his role in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Massimo Troisi was also nominated posthumously for his role in Il Postino. So were Ralph Richardson and Jeanne Eagels.
None of them won.
History does not bode well for Heath. Besides, do villains really have a chance at the Oscars? Most of the Oscars go to inspiring, sensitive roles. True, there have been villains who have won, notably Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter for Silence of The Lambs, Charlize Theron for Monster, Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland among a handful of others. Most of these performances have plumbed the different shades of darkness. Going by the acclaim that Heath Ledger has won so far for The Dark Knight, it does look like his performance is up there with the others.
Heath Ledger had been nominated many times but did not win any awards, except for the Robert Altman award for I’m Not There and the MTV best kiss award, the New York Film Critics Circle and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for Brokeback Mountain. In 2006, Ledger was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe award for his role in Brokeback Mountain.
Previously, Heath Ledger had been nominated for Australian Film Institute awards for Best Lead Actor, Two Hands (1999), Ned Kelly (200) and Candy (2006).
Heath was born to a French teacher, Sally Ledger Bell, and Kim Ledger, a race car driver, in Perth, Australia. Heath first appeared in the Australian movie, Blackrock (1997), followed by Ten Things I Hate About You and Two Hands, in 1999. Ledger then acted in The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, A Knight’s Tale, The Four Feathers, Ned Kelly, The Order, and The Brothers Grimm. Ledger’s final performance (incomplete) was for Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Ledger also wanted to be a director and was working on producer Allan Scott’s adaptation of the 1983 Walter Tevis novel The Queen’s Gambit.
The extremely promising Heath Ledger died in his Manhattan apartment in January 2008, of an accidental prescription drug overdose. He was just 28 years old. Heath’s toxicology report said that the medications found in the toxicological analysis were commonly prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, depression, pain, and cold. In November 2007, Heath had said in an interview that he had trouble sleeping largely due to exhaustion from work. Heath’s costar Christopher Plummer confirmed this and also said that Heath was suffering from a cold or a respiratory illness that seemed to be chronic.