Heath Ledger's rise to stardom

Heath Ledger's rise to stardom
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Mike Munro introduces a story by reporter Rachel Friend about 'the next big thing' in Hollywood - Heath Ledger. The story was broadcast on 29 March 2000 and looks at the then-21-year-old actor's meteoric rise, including clips from several of his films on the eve of the release of The Patriot (Ronald Emmerich, USA, 2000).

A chase sequence from Two Hands (Gregor Jordan, Australia, 1999) shows Ledger with co-star Rose Byrne in Sydney's Kings Cross. The dark city streets, tracking shots and fast-paced editing are good examples of how to build tension in a film. Though only a short clip, Ledger's charisma in the role of the clueless but likeable Jimmy comes across instantly.

Excerpts from a trailer for The Patriot are shown to highlight the big-budget international roles Ledger is commanding – the film reportedly had a $100 million budget. It is clear from the footage that veteran Australian actor Mel Gibson is the star of the film and Rachel Friend talks with Ledger about what it was like to work with someone of Gibson's calibre. The clip’s special effects, pyrotechnics, ambitious battle sequences and lush sets and costumes effectively grab the viewer’s attention and are good choices to illustrate the film’s dramatic action and big budget.

The report includes behind-the-scenes footage from 10 Things I Hate About You (Gil Junger, USA, 1999), which Ledger considers to have been his breakthrough film. Here we get an idea of the broad scope of Ledger's talents as he confidently sings and dances on set, while staying on his mark as the camera follows his every move on a dolly. Though brief, it’s a good insight into how some film sequences are shot.

Ledger opens up about the 'identity crisis as an actor' he had when working on Sweat (1996), as we see vision of a much younger Ledger in the show. Unfortunately the clip from Ledger's first recurring role on television is so brief we barely get the chance to assess his performance, aside from an awkward facial expression mid-scene. His comment later illuminates this: 'I had no idea what I was doing, I had no idea what the camera was doing, what my face was doing, what my hands [were] doing... I was ready to quit'. The clip itself, with Ledger stripping off in a change room, is clearly targeted at a teenage audience.

Another very brief clip of Ledger and Julia Stiles from 10 Things I Hate About You sitting on a pedal boat shows the good looks and charm that has made Ledger Hollywood's new teen heartthrob. The obviously contemporary setting of the scene juxtaposes Rachel Friend's voice-over talking about Ledger shooting a film set in the 15th century (A Knight's Tale, Brian Helgeland, USA, 2001).

In conclusion, Ledger - ever the hard-working actor – says, 'I'm happy ... but I've got a longer career I'd like to chisel out first before I sit back and smile'.

Notes by Beth Taylor