Thursday, January 22nd, 2009, will mark the one-year anniversary of actor Heath Ledger’s passing. That same day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the Academy Award nominations for 2008 (a posthumous nomination for Ledger is considered a virtual certainty). To honor his memory, Entertainment Weekly has published a 28-page retrospective of Ledger’s career featuring heartfelt interviews with a variety of Ledger’s friends and colleagues. It’s a fitting tribute and well-worth the read. You can hit the jump for just a few highlights, and some of the interesting information revealed within the piece.

  • After Heath’s audition for his first major film, 10 Things I Hate About You, director Gil Junger exclaimed, “Ladies, I have never wanted to sleep with a man, but if I had to, that would be the man. Please hire him immediately.”
  • Ledger was at one point approached for the role of Spiderman, but he told his agent, Steve Alexander, he wasn’t interested. According to Alexander, “Sony asked me to come over and read the script for Spiderman. It was going to be a really cool tentpole movie. But as soon as I said Spiderman, Heath said, ‘It’s not for me. I would be taking someone else’s dream away.’ He never second-guessed his decisions or said ‘what if’ — which was amazing, because I certainly did!”
  • While filming Lords of Dogtown, Ledger asked the prop people to use real beer during his scenes to allow him to get into character. Dogtown director Catherine Hardwicke recalled, “With other actors, it was a problem. They came on the set too fucked up and couldn’t say their lines. For Heath, that was never an issue. But you just never know. There was one scene where his character is losing it at a party. He got up on the roof, and we didn’t know if he was going to fall off and kill himself or throw his surfboard at somebody or what. Everybody was semi-terrified. You just didn’t know where his chemistry was. I literally prayed.”
  • Ledger, who wasn’t a huge fan of Hollywood fame, was relieved when he didn’t win the 2005 Best Actor Oscar for Brokeback Mountain (he lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman). According to friend and cinematographer Nicola Pecorini, “Heath was extremely relieved he didn’t win the Oscar. Nicola Pecorini, friend and cinematographer, The Order and Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: I saw him the next day and he was like, ‘It’s a big, bloody weight off my back.’ I said, ‘Don’t you have even a little regret?’ He said, ‘No. It’s over! I’m free now!’ If he had won, he would have had to deal even more with this system that wanted to guide his career and his life.”
  • Director Terry Gilliam almost stopped making The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus after learning of Ledger’s death. “For me, it was like, Let’s just close up shop here, because without Heath I don’t want to continue on this project,” Gilliam said. “He was so central and so important. And everyone just kept beating me up, saying, ‘No, you have to keep going for Heath. He wanted to see this film.’ Then we made the quantum leap: What if we get three actors to replace him?…It was just that I didn’t know what else to do, so let’s just gamble and do it. Because I was determined that Heath’s role was not just going to disappear.” Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp will be playing “physically transformed” version of Ledger’s Tony in the film.
  • Alexander is convinced that a Dark Knight sequel would have certainly included Ledger. “There’s a moment in The Dark Knight when Heath’s hanging upside down and he says to Batman, ‘You and I are destined to do this forever.’ It’s a very sad moment. A sequel certainly would have happened.”

Again, be sure to check out the whole piece over at Entertainment Weekly.

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