THE starting point for an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of Heath Ledger seemed obvious for the woman tasked with creating it.
The Perth actor, who died in 2008 at the age of 28, left an impressive canon of film work and his impact as an actor remains undisputed, but curator Allison Holland wanted to capture the man himself — the friend, son and creative spirit who was one of WA’s great success stories.
“He’s a local hero and so many people knew him so I felt a great sense of community and how people relate to him as West Australians,” Ms Holland told The Sunday Times this week at an exclusive look inside the exhibition, Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures, which opens next Saturday at the Art Gallery of WA.
Ms Holland has spent the past six years putting together this exhibition, featuring Ledger’s personal belongings, intimate photos and famous costumes from some of his 18 films.
“The object of this exhibition is to focus on Heath’s legacy and to focus back on his achievements as an actor and his creativity,” Ms Holland said. “That was always my guideline for selecting objects.”
Ms Holland met Ledger in 2003, when she working on a Ned Kelly exhibition at the State Library at the same time the actor was filming a movie about the outlaw and he had wanted to see some of the Kelly Gang artefacts on display. Fourteen years on, it’s Ledger’s story that is being told through photos and costumes.
Ledger was a keen amateur photographer and the exhibition features a number of his snapshots, which AGWA director Stefano Carboni said would give fans an insight into his life.
“Photography was a passion of Heath’s and the exhibition includes an array of photographs he took throughout his work and travel, which convey his love for the camera as well as offering behind-the-scenes insights into the film industry,” Dr Carboni said.
The exhibition also features several of Ledger’s most famous costumes, including the suit he wore to play The Joker in The Dark
Knight and a variety of personal effects, from his beloved motorcycles, to his acting awards to his journal in preparing for his Oscar-winning role as The Joker.
Ms Holland said nearly 10 years after his passing, people were still grieving and remained fascinated by the actor.
“I think that the reason why he is so fascinating for people is he was genuinely a very generous and beautiful person,” she said. “He had a very lovely nature, he was down to earth. Everybody that I’ve met through this process over six years talks about how he was exceptional.”
JOKER COSTUME (The Dark Knight) “The Joker costume started with the shoes,” Ms Holland explains. “A very famous clown called Reg Bolton, a Perth based clown, said ‘a clowning costume always starts with the shoes’, so (costume designer) Lindy Hemming found the shoes first and built the costume up from that.” MOTORCYCLE A keen motorcyclist, Heath had this bike shipped to Canada when he was filming Brokeback Mountain. The actor enjoyed the anonymity afforded him by wearing a motorcycle helmet. DIARY Ledger embellished his working script for The Dark
Knight with pictures and hand-written notes, giving an insight to his creative process. TONY COSTUME (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) The last costume Heath wore was for the 2009 fantasy film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. After his untimely death, the role was filled by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. AWARDS Four of Ledger’s most significant awards are on display. His Golden Globe, Academy Award and BAFTA award all from The Dark
Knight and his Australian Film Industry Award from Brokeback Mountain.