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In remebrance of Heath Ledger, an actor of our generation

Seemingly every year, actors and actresses that our parents grew up watching on the big screen pass away. Stars that they watched and admired, cheered, cried and sympathized with pass on, like the rest of us. America’s fascination with the big-screen makes these passings difficult, almost as if these actors or actresses were a part of our parents’ lives, which, in a sense, they were; then, like today, we grow up with cinema. Of the many ways that we mark the progress of life, one is with the big screen; among other ways, we measure time by the movies that we see, and the actors and actresses that we watch. We find solace in these movies, and comfort. They make us think, they make us cry, and the extent that the actors we watch can become someone else awes us. And so it was that our generation lost such an actor, too early, as Heath Ledger passed away on Tuesday night, January 22, 2008 at the age of 28.

Ledger was born on April 4, 1979, in Perth, Australia. When he was 17, he and a friend traveled to Sydney, where Ledger believed his dreams would come true. Supposedly with only 69 cents in his pocket, Ledger eventually won a break with the movie “Blackrock” in 1997, and then moved on to “Sweat,” a very short-lived television show. In 1999, Ledger moved to America to audition for a role in “Two Hands,” which he got. His next film was “10 Things I Hate About You,” in which he starred opposite Julia Stiles.

Throughout his film career, Ledger worked hard to avoid being typecast, taking many different roles offered to him, acting in “A Knight’s Tale,” “Monster’s Ball,” and “Ned Kelly,” before he finally broke through with his role as Ennis in “Brokeback Mountain,” a role which garnered him an Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category.

Most recently, Ledger appeared as Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” another role that was met with critical acclaim. And, in the role that had generated the most excitement for Ledger, he will appear this summer in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” of the Batman franchise, appearing opposite Christian Bale as The Joker.

Ledger, an actor who had broken through his earlier, unsubstantial roles, seemed destined to be one of our generation’s greatest actors. In an age of successful older actors – this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Actor, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp, Tommy Lee Jones, and Viggo Mortensen, are aged 46, 50, 44, 61, and 49, respectively – Ledger was a shining light for actors over 20 and under 30. He had reportedly beaten out Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and even Robin Williams for the role of the Joker in “The Dark Night,” and subsequently was the centerpiece of advertising for the film. Now, however, producers of the film face difficult decisions in proceeding with the film’s release.
Upon learning of Ledger’s death, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd released a statement saying, “It was with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Heath Ledger…it is tragic that we have lost one of our nation’s finest actors in the prime of his career.”

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