Author Topic: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar  (Read 27137 times)


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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2009, 12:21:29 am »
I thought this was a very nice article.

Delicately Campaigning for a Star Now Departed

Published: February 5, 2009

It's a Hollywood studio dream come true. One of the best young actors of our age turns in a bravura performance in one of the top-grossing films of all time and is rewarded with an Oscar nomination.

There's just one catch. One year to the day before he was nominated for best supporting actor in “The Dark Knight” Heath Ledger was found dead in a New York apartment. So how do you run an Oscar campaign for someone who is no longer with us?

Very carefully. Warner Brothers has managed to walk the line between elegy and ghoulishness, reminding the public and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that one of the great performances in 2008 was the last of Mr. Ledger’s career, but doing so without seeming to commodify his death.

There is a kind of institutional graciousness at work. Many Oscar campaigns are executed not because of the quality of the movie — see the campaign for “Seven Pounds” — but because A-list talent requires it. Mr. Ledger, though, has no needs on this earth; a victory will not serve as a career booster and fee raiser.

The movie did stupendously in theaters ($532 million domestically and counting), and it continues to do well as a DVD; an added laurel or sticker connoting Oscar recognition will not alter that math. Still, it seems right. If this body of work is all that we as moviegoers will have from Mr. Ledger, probably best to hold this performance dear.

Warner Brothers entered the Oscar season with big hopes for “The Dark Knight.” The studio, and many who follow the Oscar competition, felt that the movie, a sequel to “Batman Begins” from 2005, had a legitimate shot at best picture, a rare feat for a franchise film based on a comic book series. “The Dark Knight” was not just a popcorn movie. With its noirish visual template and mordant take on human motivation, critics flocked to its corner and elevated it beyond its cartoonish origins.

The film was conjured by the British director Christopher Nolan, whose pedigree derives from “Memento” and “The Prestige.” But the singular achievement that the put “The Dark Knight” into a higher orbit was the glory of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker.

The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis clearly liked the movie but was completely smitten — as were we all — by Mr. Ledger’s version of the Joker.

“No matter how cynical you feel about Hollywood, it is hard not to fall for a film that makes room for a shot of the Joker leaning out the window of a stolen police car and laughing into the wind, the city’s colored lights gleaming behind him like jewels,” she wrote last July when the movie came out. “He’s just a clown painted on black velvet, but he’s also some kind of masterpiece.”

It is exactly this image, with a make-up-smeared Mr. Ledger meeting the wind and speed with canine glee, that is one of the more oft-seen print ads in the trade press this season, where everything and anything with a shot at an Oscar (and sometimes something without a shot) is offered “For Your Consideration.” It is a vivid image, but you don’t have to veer too far into semiotics to see that the man hanging his head out the car window is on his way to a reckless, chaotic death.

Is it wrong for us to stare, to reminisce, to regret? Hardly. Mr. Ledger’s death, which created a huge wave of public grief, was clearly a seminal moment in popular culture. The studio needed to navigate all those currents in releasing the film and in the Oscar ritual as well.

When the nominations were announced, the studio’s broader aspirations were not fulfilled — best picture and best director nods were not to be — but the film did receive eight nominations, including a best-supporting-actor acknowledgment for Mr. Ledger.

That left the studio with both an opportunity and some problems. Mr. Ledger’s death created a reservoir of sympathy and an opportunity for tribute from his colleagues. But it was unlike other instances in which the Academy was considering the work of someone had died.

Peter Finch, who played Howard Beale in “Network,” was on tour in 1977 promoting the film when he had a heart attack and died. He went on to become the first and still the only posthumous winner of an acting Oscar. Mr. Ledger’s death by accidental drug overdose was a terrible event that occurred before the movie was even released.

On a more practical level it meant he would not be a physical presence on the promotional trail. I worked the Oscar circuit in 2006 and watched Mr. Ledger in support of “Brokeback Mountain,” then a favorite for best picture, and can say he never was much of a campaigner. A polite, nice man, he had little aptitude or appetite for trite talk at parties or events, even when he was up for a best actor Oscar, as he was then. For “The Dark Knight” the studio has eschewed any R.I.P. allusions in its trade advertising, instead relying on a steady (and not frantic) visual presence of somebody now best known for his absence, showing him in various guises: the crazed man in the nurse’s uniform, the immovable object standing in the middle of the street.

The specter of Mr. Ledger has created a large overhang this award season. His performance was recognized with victories at both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild ceremonies. And what would usually be moments for agent thanking and mom waving suddenly became something as solemn and reverent as an observance at Arlington.

“All of us who worked with Heath on ‘The Dark Knight’ accept this with an awful mixture of sadness but incredible pride,” Mr. Nolan said as he stood in for Mr. Ledger at the Golden Globes, adding, “He will be eternally missed, but he will never be forgotten.”

Sasha Stone, who blogs at Awards Daily ( and has been a ferocious advocate for “The Dark Knight,” said she thinks the noncampaign campaign has been effective.

“They had to walk a tightrope there, and no one really knew if they could,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “The studio didn’t flood the press with ‘Dark Knight’ ads, and they really could have.” (She remains, by the way, unconvinced that Mr. Ledger is a lock to win.)

Warner Brothers’ cautious approach — speaking of which, the company did not respond to a request for comment about the campaign — has served both the actor and the moment very well. When it came to the show part of the business, Mr. Ledger the person was always a bit of a ghost even when he was alive. On Feb. 22 when the awards are handed out, he will not be at the Kodak Theater, but his presence will be hard to miss.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 04:52:17 am by retropian »

Offline Mandy21

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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2009, 11:51:06 am »
Wow, Retropian, ouch...  That one's got me in tears.  Thanks for sharing.
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Offline ifyoucantfixit

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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2009, 12:09:08 pm »

     what a magnificent piece of writing.  It took my breath away.

     Beautiful mind

Offline optom3

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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2009, 12:38:28 am »
Wow, Retropian, ouch...  That one's got me in tears.  Thanks for sharing.

Oh Mandy !!!!
 I so agree with you. My breath caught in the back of my throat and tears welled, just waiting to spill over. Life is so very hard at present and all this revisiting of Heath (did it ever go away?) makes it all just a little more unbearable.

Offline sel

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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2009, 04:32:42 am »
Thank you for sharing Retropian.

BbM, I swear

Offline Mandy21

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Re: Heath Ledger nominated for Oscar
« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2009, 10:41:00 am »
And the Oscar goes to Matilda if Ledger wins
By STEVE POND, For The Associated Press Steve Pond, For The Associated Press – 13 mins ago
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – If Heath Ledger is named best supporting actor at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, his daughter, 3-year-old Matilda Rose Ledger, will become the owner of the Oscar statuette.

But it won't really be hers until her 18th birthday on Oct. 28, 2023 — and even then, only if she signs a contract.

Matilda, daughter of the late Ledger and actress Michelle Williams, has been designated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the eventual owner of her father's Oscar, should he win for his portrayal of the Joker in "The Dark Knight."

The actor died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs last year at the age of 28.

But Ledger's nomination, and his daughter's young age, led to one of the trickiest situations the academy has dealt with in its eight decades of awarding posthumous Oscars.

"It's complicated, because there are two different questions that have to be answered," says Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy. "First, we have to decide who gets the job of accepting the award onstage on the night of the ceremony. And then there's the question of the eventual disposition of the posthumous statuette, which may not stay with the person who accepts it."

In Ledger's case, says Davis, the second question was the hardest to answer.

Academy tradition calls for a posthumous statuette to go to the spouse, or, if there is no living spouse, to the oldest child. Ledger wasn't married, and Matilda is his only child.

Yet because she is only 3, Matilda is legally unable to sign the winner's agreement — a contract required of all nominees that says the recipient will not resell his or her Oscar without first offering it back to the academy for $1. The agreement is the academy's way of limiting what might otherwise be a lively secondary market in Oscars.

"From our point of view, somebody has to sign the winner's agreement, and a 3-year-old can't do that," says Davis. "Nor can a parent sign any kind of legal document that obligates a child to do something once they turn 18. I didn't know that before we looked into it, but it's a good law."

After conversations with Williams and with Ledger's family in Australia, the academy hit on a solution: "In the event that Heath Ledger should be selected as the supporting actor recipient, the statuette will be held in trust for his daughter by her mother, Michelle Williams, until Matilda reaches the age of 18," says Davis. "At that point, she may execute what we call an heir's agreement and keep the statuette forever — or, if she chooses not to do that, it will return to us."

In other words, the Oscar statuette can spend the next 15 years with Matilda, but her mother, who has signed the academy's agreement, will be the legal custodian. When Matilda is old enough, she can claim ownership by signing the agreement. If she does so, she'll become the official owner and will be legally bound not to sell her Oscar; if she opts not to sign, the statuette will revert to the academy without any payment.

As for who would accept the award, that — like many other aspects of the ceremony — is a matter that show producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon are keeping under wraps. Davis will only say that tradition calls for a posthumous Oscar to be accepted either by a close relative or "an artist who was close to the nominee, and who can speak credibly for him or her." (The last posthumous Oscar went to cinematographer Conrad L. Hall in 2002, and was accepted by Hall's son.)

"We always had a very good idea of what we should do and who was going to accept," says Gil Cates, who produced 14 Oscar shows that included nine posthumous nominations and three wins. "You need to line up someone who's respectable to avoid any embarrassing or difficult moments, and for me it was always easy to agree with the academy on a legitimate person."

The decision was also simple for this year's other posthumous nominees, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, producers of best-picture nominee "The Reader." If the movie wins the top prize, the other nominated producers, Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris, will also accept on behalf of Pollack and Minghella, and the statuettes will then be given to their widows.

Faced with the prospect of a minor potentially taking possession of Ledger's Oscar, the academy has in recent days revisited the way it handled underage winners such as Tatum O'Neal, who was 10 when she won best supporting actress for 1973's "Paper Moon," and Anna Paquin, who in 1994 won the best supporting actress award for "The Piano" at age 11.

"What we've tended to do is have them sign anyway, and then get back to them after they turn 18 and ask them to re-execute the agreement," Davis says. "I would love to tell you that that has happened in every single case, but your call prompted a little research. And in a couple of cases, we've never completed the circle."

In other words, there may be some Oscars out there not under academy control?

"I don't expect any trouble," says Davis with a laugh, "but, in fact, yes."
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