Let's Remember Heath for More than Brokeback Mountain

On Tuesday the headlines all screamed, "Heath Ledger Found Dead." Television news stations rushed onto the air with word of Ledger's "tragic death." Even CNN, MSNBC and FOX interrupted their ad infi-nauseam coverage of the presidential race to notify viewers of this breaking news.

And they all mentioned one thing in common.

"The Brokeback Mountain star..."

"...nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain..."

"...the actor who rocketed to fame as a gay cowboy..."

Yes, this is all true. Brokeback Mountain was Ledger's "break-out" film, even more so than 10 Things I Hate About You which actually brought him widespread attention six years earlier.

But let's not give in to the media's natural propensity to remember deceased actors for one film and one film only. While Brokeback was certainly Ledger's most controversial performance, at least in the eyes of prudish American moviegoers, it was not his only outstanding role. C. Robert Cargill has a terrific piece about some of Ledger's great films, including Brokeback, but here are a few lesser-known movies that you shouldn't forget when you remember Heath Ledger.

Candy (2006)

Ledger stars with Abbie Cornish as a pair of young lovers addicted to heroin, trying to kick the habit and start a life together. In my review of the movie last year, I called it "Romeo and Juliet on smack." And I take back what I said about Ledger taking on the role of the Joker in this summer's Dark Knight. It's become obvious since I wrote that story that Ledger took the idea of treading in Jack Nicholson's footsteps very seriously.

Monster's Ball (2001)

Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton got so much attention for this film that Heath's name is hardly ever mentioned in connection with the movie. (This is the film Halle won the Oscar for.) But Ledger's portrayal as Billy Bob's son earned him some acclaim and helped cement his place in Hollywood.

Two Hands (1999)

An Australian flick set on the streets of Sydney, Ledger plays a young thug who gets into trouble with the local mob boss played by Bryan Brown. Aussie movie critic Leigh Paatsch called this "Ledger's finest hour in his homeland." For this performance he was nominated for a best actor award by both the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia.

Ned Kelly (2004)

Ledger plays Australia's most notorious outlaw, Ned Kelly, a 19th century thief, bank robber and gunslinger who became a folk hero for defying authorities, and who is sort of the Down Under's version of Butch Cassidy. This movie wasn't a critical hit, but the rest of the cast is to die for: Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom.

Ethan Morris: Go ahead and write me.