Alex Constantine - April 10, 2008
Actor said he was 'obsessed' with long-dead singer.
By Jim Fraenkel, with additional reporting by Rodrigo Perez
Appearing at a news conference at the Venice Film Festival in September to promote the Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There," Heath Ledger, who died on Tuesday, spoke of his "obsession with an artist by the name of Nick Drake," an English-born singer/songwriter whom he characterized as a "very mysterious figure."
"I was obsessed with his story and his music and I pursued it for a while and still have hopes to kind of tell his story one day," a soft-spoken and fidgety Ledger told the assembled media, though he also said that any such aspirations had "faded away."
But in an eerie postscript to the actor's own death on Tuesday, MTV News has learned that Ledger recently shot and edited a music video for a Drake song called "Black Eyed Dog," so titled because of a Winston Churchill quote describing depression as such. It is also reportedly the last song Drake recorded before overdosing on antidepression medication in 1974 at the age of 26.
A representative for Drake's estate described the "gorgeous" and "extremely moving" clip as a stark black-and-white composition, consisting mainly of the director turning the camera on himself. In the end, Ledger is seen drowning himself in a bathtub.
The video, which has not been released commercially and has apparently not yet leaked to the Web, has been screened just twice, once last Labor Day weekend at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle and a second time in October at "A Place to Be," an event honoring Drake held in Los Angeles.
Ledger also directed Ben Harper's video for "Morning Yearning" and announced plans to start a label with the singer called Masses Music Co. last year. The label's first signing was a singer from Ledger's hometown of Perth, Australia, named Grace Woodroofe; Ledger also directed a video for her cover of David Bowie's "Quicksand."
While Drake garnered just a cult following during his life, his music has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. In 2000, Volkswagen scored a ubiquitous television ad with the title track from his 1972 album, Pink Moon, after which Drake's albums reportedly sold more in one month than they had in the previous 30 years. This past November, fans were treated to a limited-edition box set that included not only the three albums Drake recorded in his short career, but also a book and a DVD documentary about his life.
Leading and Contradictory Media Coverage of Ledger's Death
Excerpt: (Untitled Heath Ledger Project)
New York Magazine
In which the protagonist dies mysteriously, and the audience analyzes his final days for clues to his real character.
By Chris Norris
Feb 18, 2008
By Tuesday afternoon, we knew all about Heath Ledger. He’d been found in Mary-Kate Olsen’s apartment, naked on the floor, wreathed in pills, dead of apparent suicide. By Tuesday evening, he’d been found under the covers, in his own home, with the pills prescribed and in bottles. By Wednesday, he’d been alive until at least noon, when the maid heard him snoring. The masseuse who found him called Olsen once—no, three times—before dialing 911. Olsen’s bodyguards arrived before the EMTs. No, they arrived before the cops. A rolled-up $20 with drugs on it was by the bed. No, the bill was clean.
The sad, surreal story of Heath Ledger’s death was being written in real time, on a 24-hour news cycle, with digital cameras and RSS feeds. Television-news crews, online videographers, and cell-phone “citizen journalists” were participating in a dreamlike spectacle that was in its way more grotesque than the Hollywood Babylon tableau in Ledger’s apartment: Nearly 300 strangers on Broome Street, filming the removal of a body bag. One hundred more outside an Upper East Side funeral home, a scrum of cameras around a wooden box—all looking straight at each other.
According to Google News, there were 24,267 stories about Heath Ledger in the three weeks following his death. But for all the intensive coverage, there was no cohesive narrative. Two diverging accounts of his last months in New York were vying against each other—Ledger the saint and Ledger the sinner. An inconclusive autopsy allowed the conflicting reports to fester for weeks, with members of each contingent trotting out their theories and prophesying the results of the coming toxicology report that would surely prove them right.
“Don’t write one of these disgusting stories,” a Hollywood agent had warned me, after attesting to Ledger’s kindness, beauty, sensitivity, humility, and sobriety. A non-disgusting story would presumably reflect the innumerable accounts I heard of Ledger’s sweet nature, his immense talent, his love of Matilda—and make frequent mentions of Pellegrino water and Diet Coke.
A disgusting story would be like the one published by the U.K. tabloid the Sun the day after Ledger’s death, quoting Rebecca White, a 33-year-old former assistant to Naomi Campbell who claimed to have seen Ledger doing drugs. “The first time I met him, at Puff Daddy’s house in Los Angeles, Heath asked Naomi for cocaine,” she said. “At another party in Paris, Heath took at least six Ecstasy pills, popped them in his mouth all at once, and swigged them with a bottle of Champagne.”
As it happens, White, who was also a key witness to Kate Moss’s drug use when a video of the model snorting cocaine surfaced in 2005, seems to be the source for many accounts of Ledger’s Bunyanesque consumption. Her interview with the Sun was picked up by the Australian Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail and other papers. Then, in an interview with England’s Daily Mail, White elaborated, claiming that Ledger’s drug use had recently spiraled out of control because he was afraid of losing custody of his daughter and adding this striking comment about Ledger’s former fiancée, Michelle Williams: “Heath was an Adonis and she was dowdy and not in his league—career-wise or looks-wise—and no one could understand why they got together.” That version of the story was picked up by dozens of other publications, not to mention those to which she spoke anonymously as a “member of Ledger’s entourage.” She also offered to provide information to New York for a stipulated fee of $1,500 (an offer that was declined).
Whatever the sources—“friends,” “clubgoers,” “insiders”—such stories were spreading as fast as Ledger’s publicist Mara Buxbaum could deny them. By the last week in January, it seemed that there had been two Heath Ledgers living in New York. One, a chaste, sober, unkempt choirboy who bought his daughter organic breakfast sausages at the Gourmet Garage. The other, a womanizing, drug-hoovering rake last seen by, yes, “a clubgoer,” dancing at the Beatrice Inn “in a ski mask with holes cut out at the eyes and mouth and a hood over his head.” The debate over his last few months was about his legacy, about which kind of fallen star he would be: tragic hero (James Dean) or self-destructive burnout (River Phoenix). More than that, it was about what kind of person he was—loving or noncommittal, open or secretive, good father or careless lout, true or false. His cause of death, it seemed, would somehow define the meaning of his life. ...