The rumour Heath Ledger's family want to clear up

Publish Date
Thursday, 27 April 2017, 9:14AM

After the premiere of I Am Heath Ledger played at the Tribeca Film Festival, the late actor's sisters Kate Ledger and Ashleigh Bell took to the stage for a rare public interview about losing their brother and why they've decided to open up about it now. 

“For us, it was a lot about showing the world what they didn’t know about him,” Bell said, in a panel interview with the film’s directors. “Obviously he was such a prominent actor and everyone knew that side of him already...But we knew the photographer, the father. He was such a filmmaker. He was such a creator of everything. It was really important to us to be able to show…”

“...more than just the celebrity,” Kate Ledger, sitting to Bell’s left, jumped in. “Because he was really not a celebrity. In his eyes, he really wasn’t. We wanted that to come through.”

The documentary features interviews with co-stars and collaborators including Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ang Lee, childhood friends, and the entire Ledger family. Michelle Williams, with whom Ledger had a daughter, did not participate, but she gave the project her blessing—something that Kate Ledger said was a major factor in their participation.

But the biggest selling point of the film is Ledger himself. The doco features endless supplies of footage that Ledger shot himself, often in selfie mode, narrating major events of his life. 

Ledger’s sisters as well as his longtime friend Matt Amato, a filmmaker who, along with producer Sara Cline, co-founded the production company The Masses with Ledger, brought up another reason they were keen to participate in this documentary: to clear up rumors and misconceptions about Ledger’s state of mind after filming The Dark Knight and playing the Joker.

“I hope it’s an antidote to a lot of the gossip that exists in the world,” Amato said on the Tribeca panel. “There are some really terrible things about Heath out there.”

Bell added that, “I don’t know if it was the case that we wanted to clear it up, but as soon as he had the movie everything that came into light about The Joker, we were all so confused.”

“I was really shocked, because that was him having fun,” Kate Ledger said.

“It was coming out that he was depressed and it was taking a toll, and we were going, ‘What?’” Bell said.

“Honestly it was the absolute opposite. He had an amazing sense of humor, and I guess only his close family and friends really knew that. But he was having fun. He wasn’t depressed about The Joker,” Ledger added.

Near the end of the film, Alexander echoes what Ledger’s siblings said on stage Sunday night, saying that, “He was struggling with his demons, but he didn’t want to go anywhere but forward.”

Of the final product, Kate Ledger told the Tribeca crowd that they were “super proud” of the final product: “We love it. We think it’s amazing.”

“It was kind of a cathartic experience for us, actually, because we, on purpose, haven’t done anything. We’ve had loads of requests, of course, over the years, and we’ve waited until we felt comfortable,” she said about what it was like working on and seeing the film.

“Bittersweet is probably the understatement of the century,” Bell said. “This was always going to be very difficult for us.”