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Christopher Nolan's Heath Ledger Tribute

Christopher Nolan's Heath Ledger Tribute

Heath Ledger finished filming this summer’s Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, in which he plays a villain, the Joker. Christopher Nolan, the film’s director, recalls Heath‘s charisma and shared these beautiful memories in the latest issue of Newsweek:

“One night, as I’m standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for The Dark Knight, a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I’d fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you’d asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn’t know. That’s real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That’s what Heath had.

Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren’t many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.

One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they’d really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It’s tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there’s plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they’d given him.

Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He’d brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he’d made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I’ve never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn’t take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.

When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.

Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it’s Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can’t help but smile.”

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Photos: Vince Bucci/Sean Gallup/Getty
Posted to: Christopher Nolan, Heath Ledger

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  • so so sad

    nice article.

  • Waverly


  • Mia

    Why did this have to happen to Heath… I never fully appreciated how talented he actually was…

  • Violette

    That’s a lovely piece, really really sad, but lovely.

  • Steph

    Waverly @ 01/28/2008 at 2:54 pm
    I sure hope nobody says that about you when you pass…

    This is a great compliment to a wonderful actor and from what I’ve read from his family and friends… a magical human being. RIP Heath!

  • Brianna

    Very moving, a very nice tribute.

  • ashley

    Waverly– STFU!

    C.Nolan is a class act and Heath was a beautiful, lovely person. Why did he have to die, why? :’(

    Love you, Heath bb.

  • Susan

    That was really nice.

  • LucĂ­

    great article! heath touched so many people, including me.
    he really had something special, and his smile was perfect

  • sophia

    this is powerful, a beautiful insight to an actor who really loved what he did. As it would seem, he wasn’t an actor who wanted to be treated like some…(special) He wanted to be treated just like everyone else. I admire that. It is no wonder he is getting tribute after tribute by his fellow actors, because of his being humble and the abilty to really appreciate the geniune love for acting. He will be missed for sure.

  • http://adf anon.

    That was beautiful. It was touching to see that instead of people talking about rumors of his death, someone was actually thinking about all the great things he’s done when he was alive, rejoicing in the time he was here, remembering the things that made him Heath, and mourning in his death. He seemed to be amazingly dedicated. That was what he loved, and he showed it so much. It was an inspirational article. Do what you love and do it in the best way you can, because you never know if you’ll get to do it again.

  • Soph

    What a touching and beautiful tribute. We will miss you Heath. Rest in peace.


    What a gorgeous tribute for an immensely talented actor. Heath was certainly someone unique who immersed himself in his work and his family, and I’m glad that people know that. Whether they are just discovering it for themselves, or if they always knew, Heath touched everyone with each and every magnificent perfomance. He will be truly missed. Thank you for giving us what beauty and charisma you did, while you were here, Heath.

  • TheTabloidsChic

    This is nice, but let the man RIP already!

  • Beluu


  • Annika

    That was beautiful, a great tribute to Heath and it shows you how he was as a person. He’ll be missed so much.

    R.I.P. Heath

  • ssara

    Thank you for sharing that article, it brought tears to my eyes…
    Amazing how you can be touched by someone you never met…

  • [~F a m o u s~]

    i wonder how long it’ll take before someone makes a movie about heath. smh

  • shannon

    that was so sad but moving at the same time

  • juC

    he sounded like a really nice cool guy

  • Lillianne

    That’s what I like to read. Thanks JJ.

    I wish I could tell Christopher Nolan that as long as he remembers Heath his spirit will be with him.

  • marie

    i wish i saw when they were filming in chicago : (

  • Anon

    I’m glad I appreciated him when he was alive. I have been his fan since the beginning. And yet, even now, I still am learning new, amazing things about him. I will never get over this. He was so beautiful.

  • Alwayslearning

    I am glad that Matilda will have stories like this about her father to look at when she grows up

  • lol

    That’s so lovely. I’m welling up. :(

  • Ashley

    Aw, that was very touching.


    thanks for putting this on your site
    it was a lovely lovely tribute
    rip heath ledger

  •,24716.htmlbSarahMichelleGellar-TheAirIBreatheMovie-Trailer-WatchTheVideo/b/url/center Shirley

    Thank you
    I love you Heath

  • kiki

    Beautiful written and very touching.
    He will be missed greatly by his fans!

  • d.

    Nice tribute. Sounds like Heath was a lovely person.

  • Amanda

    What a touching, beautiful tribute. The world has lost an incredible human being. Heath will never be forgotten. My thoughts continue to be with his family and friends. He will be greatly missed by millions.

  • salma

    heath is simply beautiful his soul is as beautiful as his angel face
    hope he’s with them now (ANGELS)

  • http://lizzie Lizzie

    Heartbreaking. Young, talented, living to the fullest. Hard to let him rest in peace, when we aren’t ready to let him go. It’s true, death is hardest on the living left behind.

  • Life is good

    I was shocked and still saddened. I am glad that I enjoyed his movies before he died, I had been in Australia when he was just starting out and saw him on a Teen soap called Home and Away.

    May he rest in peace and stories like this one is what explains the essence of the man.

  • lola

    Thanks for posting this; it’s beautiful. And tragic.

    –read my blog at

  • j

    That was beautiful and sad.

  • snappyfish

    What a lovely tribute.

  • olympia

    a beautiful and fitting tribute. i hope his family gets to see this if they haven’t already.
    Rest in Peace special man.

  • D.Nichols

    Heath Ledger was an actor’s actor…not the commercial shallow type we see so often. He was on track to be one of the best , his depth was amazing…such a loss for all of us, his family and especially his precious daughter. He will be truly missed.

  • mar sweet
    its sad to think we lost such a great actor & person

  • SF

    Very beautiful and very moving. I can’t believe he’s dead. Much too soon, much too fast.

  • angel hair

    this is heartbreaking. it makes the loss that we’ve already suffered seem even greater….. to have lost such a wonderful actor/human being… to an accident.
    i really really really wish it hadn’t happened. :(

  • slove

    i watched brokeback mountain today and sobbed, not only for his beautiful performance but for this great loss. i feel so strongly like i knew him, so i can’t even imagine what his friends and family are going through.

    i saw him in chicago over the summer when they were filming, he came out of a store on michigan ave and i remember looking at him and making a face like “i know who you are, but i’m not going to make a big deal.” and he gave me this amazing smile. i’ll never forget that quick moment, and i’ll never forget him.

  • santiago a baez/pacogroup

    why bad things happen to nice people?
    as paparazzi, i will never give a nice review any celebrety……. heath was nice to as and very playful person…mr ledger , god give u a nice place in haven… we the nyc paparazzi will miss you very much!
    to quick to soon! nice people like you do`not last. is sad but othey nasty celebrity last longer ………for mathilda we wish her all the best in life…….

    mr penn,mr josh harnett, merryl streep,scarlett johanssen,cameron diaz,chris martin, nathalie portman,iman,and many more nasty celebs ……..take some class and be like heath ledger,we with the camera will never kill you………may heath ledger …rest in peace the

  • ellizabeth

    His death was a tragedy first of all for his family and friends and then for all of us, his fans, who were starting to get a feeling that there was no other actor right now, like him. He had so much to give. He was a fearless and creative actor. There aren’t many like him. But, in our hearts and minds he will live forever.

  • baz

    man, what a fcuking tragedy.
    this is just fcuking wrong.

    heath, mate, i fcukin’ love you man

  • Jane

    Beautiful tribute to Heath! My heart goes out to his little one and his family and friends I can only imagine how difficult this is for them, I wish them all the strength in the world to go on, and keep his memory alive! Heath is really a great all-around actor. His role in A knight’s Tale is my favorite, what a brave knight! Really enjoy every minute of it even on DVD: , Thanks for all the great memories Sweetheart! God bless you! Always miss you!!!

  • Kings

    Beautiful tribute to Heath! My heart goes out to his little one and his family and friends I can only imagine how difficult this is for them, I wish them all the strength in the world to go on, and keep his memory alive! Heath is really a great all-around actor. His role in A knight’s Tale is my favorite, what a brave knight! Really enjoy every minute of it even on DVD: , Thanks for all the great memories Sweetheart! God bless you! Always miss you!!!

  • Jackie

    All I can do is cry.

  • julia

    oh, god… i still can’t understand why did Heath do that? why did he die? i can’t understand… but this article is very very very nice and touching…. i’m crying… and i’m really happy that everybody remembers Heathy as a talanted actor and a kind man. thank you, Heathy! i still love you!!!

    your real fan Julia