Thank you, Heath Ledger, for a life less ordinary

24 January, 2008

He was young, he was not really restless, or as he came across to the many millions who had seen his steady rise on the silver screen. Heath Ledger, the quiet underdog to have joined the ranks of young, thinking stars, failed to live up to our expectations in real life. Ledger died of an overdose on January 22, 2008. Heath was perhaps the less talked about celebrity, at loggerheads with the paparazzi flash bulbs, the gossiploids, a man with the Arien resolve to claim the highest peak and shine at the end of his quest.

As news has it, he was waiting for his massage therapist in his Manhattan apartment, when he was found dead on his bed by his housekeeper at about 3:30 pm. While the cause of his death is being speculated over as possible suicide, a claim his family and friends deny, what is more or less certain is that he died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Heath was suffering from pneumonia. Whatever be the reason, we will have to wait for an autopsy report. Heath was, however, reportedly separated from Michelle Williams, whom he met on the sets of Brokeback Mountain. He had a daughter with her.

Heath started his onscreen career early, in Australia where he appeared as a gay cyclist in Sweat. His career hit big time in 2000, as high profile and critically acclaimed roles came his way in movies like The Patriot, A Knight’s Tale, Ned Kelly, and The Brothers Grimm. What could perhaps be the most talked about role in his filmography was of the reticent, gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, a short story by Annie Proulx adapted by Ang Lee. He dared to play a character his bigger contemporaries had declined. A courageous meteor, Heath came in from virtually nowhere, shone, and just when we thought a star, not just a scintilla, was born, the glow died in one little lapse of the moment.

Heath’s death brings to mind the ugly connection between celebrities, substance abuse, and death. Before Heath Ledger, the tragedy that seems to envelop stars has claimed many a celebrity, snatched them away from their fans in a ruthless battle between stardom and a search for a stable personal life. River Phoenix, once a close friend of Keanu Reeves, was found dead of an overdose of heroin and cocaine outside the famous Viper Room in 1993. Or Kurt Cobain, the name synonymous with Seattle Grunge, whose life was fraught with complications. Or Michael Hutchens of INXS. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Phil Lynott, Janis Joplin, Dinah Washington, the list could go on. So will their tales of sorrow behind an illustrious public façade.

We will keep on adding pages to our memory of those who left their mark, if only briefly, but the mark will remain forever, so will your loss. Rest in peace, Heath Ledger.




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