Features Film

10 Years Gone: What Heath Ledger Means to Me

WHEN I think of Heath Ledger I think of loose DVD discs.

It may not sound like the most romantic thought, but it brings me back to cherished childhood memories. A time before streaming services, when you could always find a loose selection of DVD discs stacked atop the DVD player. Discs that lived independently from their designated boxes, collecting fingerprint smudges and more scratches than a DJ’s vinyl.

The status of those DVDs – free from the safety of their boxes – could be attributed to their popularity in our household, as well as general untidiness that comes from living with three young boys.

Ledger, who passed away 10 years ago today at the tragically young age of 28, was the charismatic core of two of these beloved DVD films: 10 Things I Hate About You (one of my mum’s favourites alongside Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde) and A Knight’s Tale. Two films we watched countless times and would often watch as we went to sleep each night.

In both, Ledger brought the type of strikingly handsome cool factor that was more than enough to captivate my young self. Whether it was his charming and quirky romantic ploys in 10 Things or his fierce jousting bravery and straight man humour opposite the theatrically goofy Paul Bettany in A Knight’s Tale.

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It did not hurt that Ledger’s long hair blonde hair was in keeping with my other childhood favourites, including West Bromwich Albion’s Richard Sneekes, Super Saiyan Goku from Dragon Ball Z, the WWF’s HHH and The Lord Rings’ Legolas.

Of course, age has given me a more critical appreciation of Ledger’s compelling on-screen aura. I have grown up to admire his brave and sensitive performance in Brokeback Mountain (2005) and, even more so, his defiant words in the face of the vile backlash to the film. My personal favourite typically cool and articulate response to one journalist – with words that ring even truer today. As he said: ‘People are very quick in life to label things which they are uncomfortable with.’

Then there is his transformative – and most iconic – performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). Each time I watch it I gain a greater admiration for his frightening level of skill while I also find myself lamenting what could have been.

That being said, I prefer not to dwell too long on Ledger’s personal life or opportunities lost. Instead it seems more fitting to reflect on what he gave me – and to many others.

For me, that is a ton of warm childhood memories. Not to mention slightly vaguer memories of watching Ledger in Candy (2006) on my small bedroom television when I was struggling to fall back asleep late one school night. Or watching Ned Kelly (2003) as I studied Peter Carey’s book for my A-Levels.

Most simply, I will always connect Ledger with those DVD discs – and all the times he entertained my family.

Heath Ledger is a jigsaw piece of my childhood I will never misplace. As for the DVDs, they are now a precious part of my cinematic library. Safely filed away, never to be lost.

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