Actor Heath Ledger at the premiere of his 2006 film “Candy” in New York City.
As we remember the life and work of actor Heath Ledger on what would have been his 37th birthday, the scene-stealing star of such films as “The Dark Knight” and “10 Things I Hate About You” was working toward a career that would have brought him out of the spotlight.
When Ledger passed away Jan. 22, 2008, due to an accidental overdose of prescription medication, he had not yet fulfilled his ambition to direct a feature film. However, he had been sharpening his teeth by directing music videos, following a path laid by such prolific directors as Spike Jonze, David Fincher and Michel Gondry.
To mark the occasion, here is a collection of Ledger’s largely unrenowned adventures behind the camera.
Ben Harper, “Morning Yearning”
In the same year that Ledger formed a music label with Ben Harper, Ledger directed the video for the singer-songwriter’s “Morning Yearning.” First appearing on the soundtrack to the film “Henry Poole Was Here” and later Harper’s “By My Side,” Ledger chose to feature beautiful backlit shots of Harper that match well with the mellow tune.
Modest Mouse, “King Rat”
Sadly, much like Terry Gilliam’s film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” Modest Mouse’s animated video for “King Rat” – a bonus track on the rock band’s 2007 “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” – wasn’t released until after Ledger’s death. According to Complex, “Ledger fully conceived the vision for the video, but died before he could complete it. The Masses (a film and music collective which Ledger was a part of) eventually stepped in and completed the video and gave director credit to Ledger.”
N’fa, “Cause an Effect”
In one of two music videos Ledger would direct for African Australian rapper N’fa, the actor-director went art house for the title track to 2006’s “Cause an Effect.” Even more amazing than the startling visual effects and face paint is that fact that it was all shot in Ledger’s garage.
Nick Drake, “Black Eyed Dog”
Besides his hope to one day direct a full-length film, Ledger also discussed making a documentary about singer Nick Drake, who died at the age of 26 after overdosing on an antidepressant. According to MTV News, Ledger told a crowd at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, “I was obsessed with his story and his music and I pursued it for a while and still have hopes to kind of tell his story one day.”
Though he didn’t get to craft a longer piece about Drake, Ledger shot a music video for the song “Black Eyed Dog.” Since Ledger’s passing, low quality footage of the video was posted on the Internet. The video features black-and-white shots of Ledger, the camera pointed directly as his face as he moves around morosely, ending with Ledger floating in a bath tub.