Australian movie based on the novel of the same name by screenwriter Luke Davies. Heath takes on another controversial role as junkie Dan, with co-stars Abbie Cornish as Candy, and the fabulous Geoffrey Rush as Casper. In his tribute to Heath, Director Neil Armfield reports that he and Heath got off to a rather wobbly start, coming as they were from completely different directions and with very different ideas about how to play a scene. Heath also told Armfield and Davies that it was a great script, but it had way too many words. The director eventually conceded that the actor was right, and the early takes in which Heath did it his way were the ones that got used. Fabulous film, but the subject matter makes it difficult to watch.
I’m Not There (2007)
Weird Bob Dylan biopic also featuring another brilliant Australian actor, Cate Blanchett, who is currently in line for an Oscar for this. Heath is exceptionally cool as a character who plays a character who plays Bob. Or something like that.
Batman: The Dark Knight – due for release July 2008
However it turns out, this remains the last film that Heath ever wrapped, and will be watched for that reason alone. The director noted that Heath’s character, The Joker, rides a skateboard, and lo and behold, all the young crew suddenly started turning up on set with their skateboards, although if they’d been asked why, they probably wouldn’t have had a clue. That’s star-quality charisma for you.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (in production)
We may or may not ever get to see this, as Heath was in the middle of filming when he died. There have been rumours that the movie will be shut down, that they will use computer animation, that another actor will complete Heath’s role. My first instinct on hearing all this was that the idea of a CGI Heath Ledger walking around onscreen was just too, too much. But then again, Heath was such an out there, edgy, innovative actor, maybe he might even have enjoyed the idea.
Lords of Dogtown (June 2005)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, a fast-paced, edgy, testosterone-fuelled journey through the mid 1970s surf and skateboarding culture of Venice Beach, California, aka Dogtown. Based on actual personalities and events surrounding the legendary Z-Boys skateboarding team, who revolutionised the sport.
Heath gives a virtuoso performance as the Z-Boys’ mentor, the charismatic but permanently wasted Skip, in all his psychedelic glory. When the movie was released, the real Skip Engblom stated that his wife thought Heath played him perfectly. He then quipped that this was great for him, because his wife now thought she was sleeping with Heath Ledger! Instead of horseriding in this one, Heath skateboards and surfs. Loaded with accurate 1970s surfer-skateboarding culture detail, together with a brilliant 1970s soundtrack. Includes Tyson the famous skateboarding bulldog, who gets a featurette to himself on the DVD.
Fabulous stuff – one of my top three Heath Ledger movies.
The Brothers Grimm (August 2005)
This is on my (ever shorter) list of Heath movies still to see. It got very mixed reviews, but it’s also got Matt Damon, and on the basis of the actors alone, must be worth a look. Heath greatly admired director and former Python Terry Gilliam, and enjoyed working with him so much that he went back for a second round in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, filming at the time he died.
Brokeback Mountain (December 2005)
Heath plays Wyoming ranch hand Ennis del Mar in a career-defining performance. A masterpiece of a movie that generated huge amounts of buzz and earned Heath his one and only Oscar nomination. All the necessary ingredients to be included on any list of Great Movies – outstanding writers, screenplay, director, actors and performances, sweeping landscapes, gorgeous cinematography, haunting music, local detail, taboo subject matter, desperately sad love story. You can watch Heath in this once or you can watch him a hundred times and you will still see something new. Magnificent.
Casanova (December 2005)
A comic romp filmed entirely in the sumptuous city of Venice and surrounds, in which Casanova finally gets his romantic comeuppance (no pun intended). Heath in the lead role does charismatic, unscrupulous, hyperactive and comic hero with an equal degree of skill, successfully extricating himself from all manner of scrapes just in the nick of time. He even gets to ride another horse or two. A host of fine actors also do their bit, including co-stars Sienna Miller as Francesca Bruni and Jeremy Irons as Pucci, the feared Papal inquisitor.
Two Hands (1999)
Heath’s first proper movie after various bits and pieces, mainly on Australian television. Extremely black Australian comedy-drama, set in Sydney’s notorious King’s Cross district. Heath does a fine job playing bouncer and petty criminal Jimmy, who gets in way above his head with the big boys and has to take desperate measures to save his own skin. Co-star Bryan Brown is brilliant as downmarket Sydney crime boss Pando.
Heath Ledger interview on Two Hands
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Heath’s first big international role, in a cool and very funny modern reworking of The Taming of the Shrew. Heath stars at bad boy Patrick Verona, who runs his corny seduction lines on Katarina Stratford (Julia Stiles) in the expectation of instant success, but she brushes him off in no uncertain terms until he can prove himself worthy. Heath’s performance of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, racing up and down the stands of the sports stadium with a huge grin on his face, waving his legs in the air like a goofy giant stick insect as he successfully evades the security guards, is one of the funniest things I have seen in cinema. Just as good as it was in 1999.
The Patriot (2000)
American Revolution saga where Heath got his next big break, cast as Mel Gibson’s son. Did very well at the box office and generally rated highly, but not even Heath looking gorgeous in period costume could prevent me from losing interest in the plot and falling sound asleep. The first of several movies in which Heath appears on horseback.
A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Heath plays William Thatcher aka Sir Ulrich von Lichenstein in an entertaining medieval action movie-cum-love story with a bit of rock music thrown in. Heath smoulders in leading man mode, falls in love with the beautiful maiden, shows us his dance moves, and gets to jump on another horse. His support actors also give brilliant comic performances. A lot of fun, and definitely improves on subsequent viewings.
Monster’s Ball (2001)
A confronting prison movie starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, with Heath’s short but intense role as guard Sonny Grotowski earning rave reviews from other actors. Cited by Daniel Day Lewis when accepting his recent Screen Actor’s Guild award, which he dedicated to Heath’s memory.
The Four Feathers (2002)
More horseback action, with Heath playing British army officer turned pacifist Harry Faversham, the newest of several movie versions of the 1902 novel by A.E.W. Mason. Got very mixed reviews, and still on my list of Heath movies to see.
Ned Kelly (2003)
One of many dramatisations of the life of the Irish-Australian outlaw, with Heath on horseback yet again. Heath prepared meticulously, reading and re-reading Ned Kelly’s famous Jerilderee Letter and getting his Irish accent right in order to better play Ned. Canned by a lot of critics and not a commercial success, but certainly better than the farcical 1970 Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger, which was dogged by huge amounts of public controversy as well as mishaps on set.
The Order (2003); alternate title The Sin Eater
Heath plays Alex Bernier, a Catholic priest who has lost his faith, again directed by Brian Helgeland, of A Knight’s Tale. Not a success.
While we’re on the subject of the CIA and the dark arts, I may as well review this one. It was released in cinemas mid last year and is now out on DVD. The Bourne Ultimatum is the third in the series of movies, based on the Jason Bourne novels by Robert Ludlum.
This is the action movie to end all action movies, filmed at a simply frenetic pace, and with over 170 stunt performers listed in the credits. Despite the Hollywood blockbuster mega-budget and cast of thousands, the production team has done a brilliant job in choosing locations and shooting in a way that manages to preserve the raw, chaotic tone of the earlier Bourne movies.
The Bourne Ultimatum has more of everything – more pace, more action, more agents and assassins, more high-tech surveillance techniques, more spectacular car pile-ups, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, an even more gritty performance by Matt Damon as renegade CIA operative Jason Bourne.
Damon’s Bourne is the quintessential action hero, but with far more complexity to his character than the usual cardboard-cutout action men. He is just as smart, driven, resourceful, ruthless and more importantly, bulletproof as in the earlier movies, but this time with extra edge. Damon as Bourne moves through the movie like a human steamroller, fitting in perfectly with John Powell’s dramatic musical score and the fast-paced camera action.
There are excellent performances by the other actors, with Julia Stiles in a much more prominent role as agent Nicky Parsons, and Joan Allen, who is again brilliant as Pamela Landy. Paddy Considine convincingly plays Guardian journalist David Ross, David Strathairn is perfect as ruthless CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen, Edgar Ramirez and Joey Ansah are completely believable as killing machines Paz and Desh, and veteran British actor Albert Finney does a star turn as the sinister Albert Hirsch.
The Bourne Ultimatum is filmed on the streets of Berlin, New York, London, Madrid, Paris and Tangiers, and consciously plays homage to old thrillers such as All the President’s Men and The French Connection. British director Paul Greengrass is once again at the helm, and his intelligent and considered director’s commentary should not be missed.
Techno artist Moby’s brilliant Bourne theme song Extreme Ways has been specially remixed, and is once again a fitting finale to an extremely satisfying action movie, one that will set the standard for many years to come.
It stars Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) as the maverick Highland police constable who steadfastly resists any promotion that would take him away from his beloved Highland village of Lochdubh. There is derring-do and crime aplenty in Lochdubh, much of the crime minor, and Macbeth adroitly manages to keep the perpetrators out of jail, unless things get really ugly or they kill themselves in the meantime, both of which happen relatively frequently.
One of the best and most hilarious episodes of the third series is “The Lochdubh Assassin”, which has four spivved-up Glasgwegian hard men tracking down a young man on the run to his bolthole in Lochdubh. The locals outwit them at every turn until they are literally begging to be sent off to the jail in Inverness.
The cast of characters in Hamish Macbeth is fantastic, not the least of whom is Hamish’s adorable sidekick, Wee Jock the Highland Terrier, and from someone who does not love dogs at all, that is saying something. Several of the actors will also be recognised in that other extremely popular Highland TV series, Monarch of the Glen, which I also greatly enjoyed.
Hamish Macbeth is loosely based on the characters from the “Death of a …” crime novels by M.C. Beaton, featuring the detective of the same name. Incidentally, all of the title covers for this series that are stocked in our library seem to feature chintzy English houses with thatched roofs and cottage gardens, bearing very little resemblance to the houses of the Highlands. Oh well, never mind.
M.C. Beaton is also the author of the Agatha Raisin mysteries.