Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
Anyone who writes on the web knows that it shares a lot in common with pinball; it’s a never-ending session of sending out information, aiming for certain point beds, watching it randomly bounce around and occasionally fire back at you in a barrage of lengthy emails, rapid comments, angry message boards and the savored angry person outside your window with a mask on. It’s not often that you think deeply about the information you’re handling beyond professional guidelines, or while you’re eating or relaxing. Yet, this week we’ve dealt with a tremendous loss in the art and industry that /Film covers, and I’m sure we’re all watching the Web cover it, break it down into 0101s, and eventually wash over it in the span of a week.
When Peter first called me from Sundance to tell me the news, our connection was bad, like the cliche. I thought I heard him say that Heath Ledger had passed away; no, that he was dead. Not possible. He said it again and, knowing Peter, it hit, even through the Utah static blizzard.
I liked Heath Ledger’s work as an actor, his career was blossoming. He was one of those upstanding young actors that you just watch, because soon enough he’s going to be the actor you watch get older as you do. No need to rush it, growing up on movies, it’s natural. So, the first thing that hit my mind when I finally had time to think about this offline is that I never thought of Heath Ledger as a celebrity, almost subconsciously. I thought of him as an actor, but more so as, yeah, an artist. In this Internet culture of Easter Egg-colored celebrity websites, what I’ve learned since Tuesday, is that when a real artist dies, in these days and these times you really, really freaking feel it. Sure, it hits home like you knew the guy; but more than that it’s like you knew someone indelible and invaluable to our culture and times…before you knew it. And I’m not going to cave in and write a requisite blurb-filled litany of his filmography. There’s no need right now. I’m pretty sure everyone feels the same way about him that I do, and the exact reason “why” we’ll long after keep discovering. I’ll watch and enjoy his movies in the future, but it’s the epiphany of appreciation I felt on Tuesday that I’m most going to remember and contemplate.
Warner Bros. has taken the entire website for The Dark Knight offline and replaced it with a white background and a photo of Ledger. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this occur in my few years working online. Here’s a link.