10 things I loved about Heath Ledger

2008-01-26 00:00

Obituaries — especially obituaries for the young, beautiful, and unexpectedly dead — are a hopeless genre to write. The deadline is, by definition, past, and you know you’ve already been scooped countless times.

For one thing, there was the novelty of a guy that effortlessly good-looking — who in his or her right mind wouldn’t want to get next to Heath Ledger? — gravitating to eccentric, even flamboyant, character roles. In Lords of Dogtown (2005), Ledger plays not one of the blond skate rats, but Skip Engblom, the middle-aged and perpetually drunk surf-shop owner who coaches the skateboarding team to greatness. This scruffy, inspirational sports picture, a fictionalised remake of the skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, can barely contain Ledger’s gonzo performance. He’s fresh from Val Kilmer College, comically unhinged and unprecedentedly ugly. Late in the movie, after the Z-Boys skate their way to juicy endorsement deals and desert Skip one by one, he hurls surfboards off the roof of his store in a self-destructive rage, then sprawls on the roof’s edge, guzzling from a bottle of whiskey while the crowd below gasps for fear he’ll throw himself off. Hard to watch on the night he presumably died of an overdose? A little bit.

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