By Cass Scott
A few weeks ago our Heath Ledger died, and the mainstream Australian media have been beside themselves ever since. At my gym, where they have four television monitors mounted on the wall playing the four main channels, I noticed that Heath Ledger coverage was on simultaneously on every channel for the entire hour that I was there (the weirdest one was a photo of a thoughtful looking Heath accompanied by the caption ‘remembering Heath’. It looked like he was supposed to be remembering himself).
Because of the wild media frenzy that takes place in this country whenever someone of note dies (remember Steve Irwin) or even does anything - Nicole Kidman’s pregnancy eclipsed all other world news for a week – I was reluctant to write about this for the Tattooed Heart. But then I googled Heath’s tattoos and they were wild!
It would be a weird thing to have photos of your tattoos posted on websites around the world with captions saying what they supposedly mean. If you were prone to depression and anxiety it might make send you into a downward-spin of existential despair at the lameness of the world. I probably shouldn’t be furthering the media intrusion into Heath Ledger’s life, but I am posting this tribute for a two reasons. Firstly, because I liked Ledger’s films. Secondly, it was a year ago this week that luscious tattooed babe Anna Nicole died from taking a combination of prescription drugs. Stop mixing prescription drugs everyone! I know some of you reading this probably do it! How many more stars with crazy tattoos have to die?
The first film I saw Heath Ledger in was Two hands and he made a lasting impression. Aside from the fact that it’s my favourite Aussie crime caper movie, Heath’s smouldering performance in the film is what made him a star. When I was thinking about what tattoos Heath Ledger had, I first thought of that yin yang symbol on his arm, which was only a fakey for the movie, but played a significant role in the storyline. Heath went on to get a number of real tattoos, a lot of them self-designed. ‘They all have many meanings, and I usually get tattoos when I need to be reminded of something,’ is how he explained it in one interview. Of the ‘old man river’ tattoo on his arm he said, ‘I feel that I’m at a stage in my life now where life is just about to really speed up and flash by and so I feel like I am on old man river paddling on a little row boat.’ Quite an intuitive comment considering how short-lived and exceptional his life turned out to be.
Ledger was a formidable actor. I don’t want to go on and on because enough’s been said, but his performances in Two hands (sexy!) Brokeback mountain, Candy and more recently as one of the Bob Dylans in I’m not there were deep, intense, quite often harrowing and always unforgettable. I even liked that scene where he sings a song to Julia Stiles from the football stands in 10 things I hate about you. It’s so totally embarrassing, but quite adorable - go Heath.
If what I’ve read is true, Heath was a pretty intense guy. He had a self-described obsession with the life and music of folk singer Nick Drake and planned to make a movie about his life. Heath had aspirations to be a director and already produced a short film clip to one of Nick Drakes songs ‘Black eyed dog’ which is about depression (Nick Drake died of an overdose on anti-depressants at the age of 26 which if you choose to you could find meaningfully coincidental). When I think about Nick Drake’s music, and his tragic life, and imagine Heath Ledger relating to it, I can’t help but feel saddened. They shared a likeness as thoughtful, sensitive individuals whose creative contributions will be remembered long after they are gone.
RIP Heath Ledger 1979 – 2008 with love from The Tattooed Heart.