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In Memory of Heath Ledger

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Of all the 20-something-year-old actors to emerge in the last ten years, none seemed to have come out of nowhere as assuredly as Heath Ledger. In 1999, he was Julia Stiles romantic foil in 10 Things I Hate About You . In 2001, he was that cute blonde thing in the inexplicable blockbuster  Brokeback Mountain  made America sit up and take notice (and not just because he was kissing Jake Gyllenhaal on the lips). Ledger’s portrayal of the closeted cowboy, at odds with himself as much as he is with society, revealed emotional depths that previous roles in Monster’s Ball and Ned Kelly had only hinted at.

More recent projects like the Bob Dylan bio-pic I’m Not There. and the Batman chronicle The Dark Knight suggested an actor who, far from resting on his laurels, was eager to take ever greater risks with each new movie. It was as if the success of Brokeback released a potential in Ledger that even he hadn’t known was there. His sudden death today, January 22, comes as a serious blow. The man who might have become the next Paul Newman or the next Sean Penn has become the next James Dean.

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