New documentary "I Am Heath Ledger" is an intimate portrait of the late actor

Documentary: "I Am Heath Ledger"

Heath Ledger is considered one of his generation’s brightest young stars, and one of its most tragic losses. 

Ledger, who died in 2008 of an accidental drug overdose at age 28, got his first break as the lead in the 1999 teen comedy “10 Things I Hate About You.” That break led to a succession of starring roles, big budget films and an Academy Award win for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” a movie he would never see released.

Nine years later, there’s a new documentary that celebrates Ledger’s life and work called “I Am Heath Ledger.” Co-director and producer Derik Murray and the actor’s sister, Kate Ledger, joined “CBS This Morning: Saturday” to discuss how his personality, spirit and passion for recording his own life shaped the documentary.

Though there was no particular impetus for making the documentary now, Murray said, “We had a strong interest in making a film about him and as we started learning about the depth of him being an artist beyond acting, this great artist that was interested in photography and filmmaking, we couldn’t resist, we dove right in.”

I Am Heath Ledger Official Trailer by SPIKE on YouTube

The documentary features many of Ledger’s personal home videos. According to Murray, Ledger documented his life from an early age, using the exercise to perfect his acting skills in lieu of traditional classes.

“He never took any acting classes. He took the camera, pointed it at himself, he acted out these various skits, he’d look at the footage and modify accordingly.” Murray said.

“It’s truly reflective of who Heath really was,” Kate Ledger said. “The creative spirit, you know, he was more than just the celebrity persona that people saw. He was really multi-talented and just a beautiful soul, and I think that really comes through the film.”

Kate Ledger was quick to dispel the notion that her brother was troubled by the darkness of portraying the Joker, or that the role contributed to his death in some way.

“He had the best fun ever with Batman. I mean, he could not wait to show us,” she said.  

Murray said the most interesting things he learned about Ledger while making the documentary were how he turned the camera on himself and his passion for photography.

“It wasn’t a hobby, it was who he was. Everywhere he went that camera went with him,” Murray said.  “The film is basically wall-to-wall with clips and video and photography that Heath produced, he shot.”

Because of how much footage in the film was made by Ledger, they have often called Ledger a co-director of the movie.

According to his sister, Ledger had plans to try his hand at directing. She believes that he would probably be doing just that if he were still alive.

“I Am Heath Ledger” opens nationwide May 3 and airs on Spike TV on May 17.