In light of the recent and tragic passing of Heath Ledger, production has shut down after 20 days of filming in London on what would have been his next movie, director Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Ledger was the linchpin in the $30 million dollar project from the cursed director.
Okay, calling Gilliam cursed is a bit harsh, but let’s be real for a moment. This guy has had terrible luck. Whether it was studio interference on projects like Brazil or The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, or box-office bombs like Tideland and The Brothers Grimm (for which Ledger also starred) it’s been one thing or another. Which is a shame because he’s quite the filmmaker. There was even a documentary about Gilliam’s quixotic quest to bring The Man From La Mancha to the big screen, which was really one derailing problem after another.
While Ledger wasn’t the star in this movie, funding for the project depended solely on the actor. According to US Magazine:
?I just got the call [Tuesday] saying everyone was being let go,? the on-set source tells Usmagazine.com. ?We were supposed to start this weekend, but obviously they fired everyone today.
?They don?t know yet what they are doing with the footage that was already shot,? the source adds.
Parnassus was supposed to follow an ancient traveling theater company which arrives in modern London with a magical mirror that can transport its audience into fantastical realms of the imagination. Christopher Plummer was supposed to play the Doctor and Ledger’s role was an outsider that fends off the devil, played by Tom Waits.
While conducting interviews with MTV about the Bob Dylan biopic and obviously his role as The Joker in Chris Nolans The Dark Knight, Ledger also talked a bit about his role in the now defunct Gilliam project. In that interview, Ledger said:
?That?s just going to be a hoot,? Ledger smiled. ?It?s going to be fun! Terry couldn?t even tell you what the movie is about,? Ledger laughed. ?It?s mind-bending. I really don?t know how to sum it up.?
Ledger went on to say that ?I love Terry. I?d really do anything for him,? Ledger insisted. ?I?d cut carrots and serve catering on his movies.”
Also: While we’d never attempt at churning out some kind of trite obituary or placing his acting career in context, what’s most sad about Ledger’s death is he never seemed like a bad guy.
He always came off as shy, a bit awkward and slightly uncomfortable in interviews, but intelligent. He supposedly loved playing chess and would often go to Washington Square Park and play with people. I don’t think anyone would call him vapid.
His death feels eerily similar to River Phoenix’s death a decade ago; the difference, however, was it was widely known Phoenix used illicit drugs very recreationally.
The thing that always impressed me about Ledger’s acting chops was his desire to not trade in on his obviously good looks. Almost charting the same path as Brad Pitt, it seemed as if Ledger was more interesting in being a part of interesting projects with good directors or good stories or other good actors. He seemed to hide on screen, even if his physicality as an actor wouldn’t let him.
That was what always impressed me the most – he was searching and prodding and trying to constantly find things that interested him even if they weren’t your “typical” Hollywood career choices. There’s almost nothing more enjoyable than watching a fearless performer and following them as their career evolves. Unfortunately, we won’t have that luxury now with Heath Ledger.
He will be missed. Enjoy this great interview from 2005 with Charlie Rose and director Ang Lee. It was during the time of Brokeback Mountain. Gay cowboy jokes aside, that was one ballsy fucking career move and an even ballsier performance of emotional restraint and quiet anger. Is it possible, in retrespect, that we underestimated just how profound that performance really was? Skip ahead about 30 mins to get to Heath.