I first became enamored of Heath Ledger when I saw "10 Things I Hate About You" on cable many years back. It was such a funny and spirited retelling of the venerable Taming of the Shrew, and I was suckered right away by the faux bad boy Ledger portrayed. Sometimes, when I'm not feeling especially sparkly and someone asks me about myself, I will tell them, "I hate peas." I don't hate peas, it's just one of the great exchanges in that film.
A Knight's Tale was where I next found him to be a cut above everything. I first saw it while visiting my parents, and my mom put it on with a gleam in her eyes, knowing it would be right up my alley. It was. Don't we all want to change our stars?
A couple of years ago, Ledger delivered the role that he will be best remembered for, the one that garnered him an Academy Award nomination, and the one that made him a hero to many gays and lesbians, that of Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. I own the DVD, but have only seen the film one time, on the big screen. His performance of a fractured, inward man who could never fully shake the mores of his world continues to haunt me.
He was a fine actor who seemed to choose roles only for the stories they told, and he played his part in the telling with gusto every time. I'll miss the man and I'll miss the films he'll never be in now, but I'll remember that for a time, Heath Ledger did change his stars, and became one.