A Knight's Tale

Heath Ledger in a publicity portrait of him as William Thatcher wearing an armour plate and leaning on a sword.
A Knight's Tale
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At only 21 years old Ledger became a Hollywood leading man when he played English peasant cum jousting knight William Thatcher in the playfully anachronistic medieval romp A Knight’s Tale (Brian Helgeland, USA, 2001).

The role called for dashing good looks, physical stamina, horseriding, comic turns, steamy romance, singing and laid-back hunkiness. As you can see in this portrait created to publicise the film, the armoured, blonde Ledger has effortless charm in swords (ahem, spades).

Capable of being much more than just a poster boy, the role represents a progression in character development, billing and the assurance of his performance from his first Hollywood turn as naughty teen dream Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You (Gil Junger, USA, 1999).

When referring to this role film historian Graham Shirley makes the comparison between fellow Aussie Errol Flynn and Ledger, calling him a ‘dashing hero’.

Although Ledger’s face was used to promote the movie in posters and publicity photographs like this one, he maintained that it was an ensemble movie. He was known as a team player and for his generosity with other actors, borne out by Damon Herriman’s story about working with Ledger in Candy (Neil Armfield, Australia, 2006) featured in this collection.

Determined not to be typecast as just a heartthrob, Ledger played diverse and emotionally challenging roles including the sensitive, repressed son of an abusive prison warden in Monster’s Ball (Marc Forster, USA, 2001), a heroin addict in Candy, a dimension of Bob Dylan’s personality in I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, USA, 2007) and the psychopathic Joker in the Batman film The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, USA, 2008), for which he won a posthumous Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Notes by Beth Taylor