5 things we learnt from the Heath Ledger documentary

From his heroes to the role he could have played, but never got to…
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Heath Ledger was one of Australia’s most talented Hollywood acting exports – and one who is not only missed by his fans across the globe to this day, but by those friends and family members who loved him most.

Choking back tears watching I Am Heath Ledger, which aired last night, we can’t help but continue to contemplate the raw and emotional account of the actor’s life and death.

“Some people are just bigger than the world has room for,” Heath’s mate, musician Ben Harper, says of the fallen Hollywood star.

Many friends signed up to talk about their experiences with and memories of Heath, and, while watching them pour their souls out for the man they love and miss so much, we learnt a lot.

Here are five things we never knew about this Aussie legend…

1. Mel Gibson was his hero

Mel and Heath co-stared in The Patriot together.

Heath and Mel worked alongside each other on The Patriot, but it almost didn’t happen as we learned that Heath actually bombed the screen test.

Midway through, Heath stopped and said, “Sorry, I’m wasting your time…” But he wasn’t – as he got the job in the end, with his agent Steve Alexander revealing that Heath was so intimidated of working alongside Mel that he had a “crisis of confidence”.

“Acting with Mel Gibson for a young Aussie kid was a lot,” he says. “[But] Mel was great and really generous with him, and took him under his wing and was amazing.”

WATCH Heath’s sister, Kate, open up about her thoughts on the documentary. Article continues after this video…

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2. He sent Ben Harper a grand piano

Heath gifted his long-time friend, Ben, a grand piano telling him, “It’s supposed to be with you.”

Days later, Heath asked if Ben could write his then-unborn daughter, Matilda, a lullaby.

“I’ve never been trusted so deeply,” Ben said. “Nothing has ever been asked of me that was that precious.”

The song would eventually become Happy Ever After In Your Eyes.

3. He was a chess master

G’day, err, check mate… Heath played a mean game of chess, according to his dad, Kim.

Who knew that the actor was an impressive chess player?

“I always felt that he was five moves in front of me,” Ledger’s dad, Kim, says of his son’s chess skills. “By the time he was 10 or 11 or so, it was pretty hard to actually beat him. Heath was trying to achieve a grand master status, and was only a few points away from achieving his goal.”

In fact, Heath was set to make his directorial debut on an adaptation of The Queen’s Gambit about a chess player addicted to drugs. “He understood that story inside and out … he had something to say.

He had the ability to communicate his ideas, he could translate into film,” cinematographer Ed Lachman revealed in the documentary.

4. He housed Aussie actors when they came to LA

Heath and Naomi dated for two years.

Us Aussies have got to stick together, and no-one believed that any more than Heath as he put up several A-list stars in his pad before they found fame. From Rose Byrne to Joel Edgerton, Heath was everyone’s buddy.

“The Australian thing, to me, was, ‘Yeah, come one, come all!’” Naomi Watts, who dated Ledger from 2002 to 2004, joked in the documentary.

“People would stay a long time, sometimes a bit longer than necessary,” Naomi continued. “With him, it was just [having] friends to hang out with and share the journey. He was very big on sharing his success.”

5. He ALMOST played Spider-Man

Heath was viewed as a “dramatic actor”.

We can’t imagine anyone else than Tobey Maguire in the early-noughties iconic film series but it almost went to Heath.

Yep, the actor turned down the chance to play the superhero. After Monster’s Ball people viewed Heath as more of a “dramatic actor,” his agent Alexander revealed.

“When I read Spider-Man, I talked to him about it and it was almost immediate that he said, ‘That makes no sense for me. I can’t possibly be Peter Parker,’” Alexander said.

“He was looking, always, for something that was going to be truly challenging … ways that he could disappear into a character and be almost recognisable.”

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