The inevitable feeling when contemplating talents who’ve died young is one of deep regret, the loss compounded by the wistfulness of what could have been. In the trailer for I Am Heath Ledger, a film on the actor’s life which will open later this month, we learn that he was not only great in front of the camera, but he would probably have been great behind it. “He was always a director,” says a childhood friend. “Acting was just a way to get there.”
Ledger’s sister is in this trailer speaking proudly about his talent, but we can surely not fathom what it must have been like for her to lose him. Perhaps it’s the selfish impulse of a fan to think this way about our favorite artists gone too soon. But his art is why we loved him and wondering what more he could have done, what generous ways he could have changed the culture, is probably another facet of coping with our grief, the visceral kind you get when someone you don’t know but greatly admire dies.
At any rate, we did get a taste of his directing work; before Ledger’s death he had planned on making a documentary about Nick Drake, the elusive ‘70s singer who died at 26 from an overdose. While that was never completed, he managed to cut a short to Drake’s “Black Eyed Dog” starring, in part, himself, and a series of opaque, arty shots that mirrored the depression Drake was singing about in his song. (Ledger also directed two other music videos, one for West Coast rock band Modest Mouse and another for Australian singer Grace Woodroofe.)
The clip was, of course, released after Ledger’s death in 2008 from an accidental overdose, when Ledger was 28, too young for it to make sense.
In I Am Heath Ledger, which will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, it looks like we’ll get the full range of his talent, contextualized with commentary from the friends and family members who loved him. It’s been almost a decade since he passed, which seems unreal.