The news is flashing across the blogosphere at just under the speed of light, so you may have already heard: the actor Heath Ledger was found dead this afternoon in a Manhattan apartment, apparently of a drug overdose. He was only 28.
It's a sad and cliche'd end for a talented young man who I think had the potential to be one of the greats. I remember seeing him in a short-lived TV series called Roar way back in the early '90s -- I think I was one of about six people who actually watched that one -- and thinking "this kid has some presence, he's going to go somewhere." He was brilliant in Brokeback Mountain, in which he completely submerged himself into a character of few words who expresses everything physically, a difficult performance that few actors would even attempt. And based on the trailers I've seen for The Dark Knight, the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins, there's a good chance that his take on The Joker is going to eclipse even the immortal Jack Nicholson's version.
You know, there are some celebs that you expect this sort of thing from, and some you don't. Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan could OD tomorrow and I wouldn't feel at all surprised. Sad for their wasted lives perhaps, but not surprised. This one, though, coming out of the blue like this... wow. Like the death of River Phoenix fifteen years ago -- god, has it really been so long? -- this news has hit me like a hard fist to the stomach because I didn't realize until just this moment how much I really liked and respected the kid.
What a damn shame...