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Money, fame are not enough

January 27, 2008
Parkersburg News and Sentinel
The death this past week of actor Heath Ledger not only is tragic, it also proves once again that success can come at an extremely high price.

Ledger, 28, one the young shining stars of the movie industry, is believed to have accidentally overdosed on prescription medications at his New York apartment, although a preliminary autopsy proved inconclusive, according to the Associated Press. However, six different types of prescription drugs, including anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills, were found in his apartment.

Ledger, probably best known for his role as a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain,” seemed to have everything going for him. However, below the surface he apparently was a very troubled man. He had just recently broken up with his girlfriend, whom he met on the set of “Brokeback Mountain” and later had a child with. Allegedly the reason for the breakup was his excessive use of drugs. And he had just recently completed playing the Joker in the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.” He had complained to friends that he was having trouble sleeping at night after playing a dark character like the Joker.

Maybe the “troubled soul” identity did not fit Ledger; his many friends say he was outgoing, friendly, still loved his ex-girlfriend and adored his daughter. However, Ledger seemed to be pulled toward these dark roles. He won acclaim as an actor in “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, and his career as a leading man seemed secure. However, he did not seem to follow this path. Just about every role he took was of a foreboding nature. While we can admire him for attempting to stretch his craft, it also says something about him.

However, even if Ledger’s death was accidental, there is no question his life was in a downward spiral. Ironically, this downward spiral came while his career seemed to be rocketing to new heights. Unfortunately Ledger’s friends who witnessed his downward spiral either were unable to help him or, if producer Lee Daniels’ attitude is typical, did not realize there was a problem. “The definition of substance abuse is really up to one’s perspective,” Daniels, who produced Ledger’s critically-acclaimed film “The Monster Ball,” told the AP. “I didn’t see him as a drug addict. I saw him as somebody who enjoyed life. I know drug addicts; he was not a drug addict,” he said.

We, who so admire the talents of actors, musicians and other artists, and live vicariously through their art, are left to wonder after a tragedy like this, how some people with as much talent as Heath Ledger could be so unhappy and troubled. The obvious answer is, with all their money and fame they may be able to buy all the drugs, good times and, possibly friends, they want, but they can’t buy the one thing we all find indispensable —happiness.



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