A decade ago, I was living in Gainesville, had just started grad school, and gathered with some friends to watch UF's football team defeat some SEC rival (I want to say Georgia). Friend (and occasional commenter at this blog) Pat and I walked to the Winn-Dixie to get some more beer. When we got back, friends at the apartment told us that Headline News had just reported the death of Michael Hutchence.
I thought of that night when I saw the Headline News report about Heath Ledger's death. In both cases, it seems like some surreal, sick joke, where you can't quite believe what your eyes are seeing. At 28, Ledger just seemed to be really starting his career, overcoming the teen stigma of silly films like A Knight's Tale and The Patriot and finding a home in films like Brokeback Mountain, I'm Not There and The Dark Knight. The trailer for that last film was the most recent thing I'd seen Ledger in, and he looks scary as hell, in a very good way: not teetering on the edge of madness like Jack Nicholson's enjoyably campy version, but dancing right across it and transforming the kitschy, runny clown makeup of the character into something truly frightening.
I wasn't going to blog about this, because a lot has already been said in just a few days, much of it either vague or exploitative. But then I read Kim Morgan's exquisite eulogy, and wanted to direct folks to it. I admired Ledger, but she was a true fan, and she writes of his career with tremendous cinephiliac empathy, and her usual fine eye for detail. I can't imagine the late actor will receive a nicer tribute.