Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Fond Farewell To A Friend

Chris Nolan's Goodbye To Heath Ledger:

"One night, as I’m standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for “The Dark Knight,” a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I’d fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you’d asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn’t know. That’s real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That’s what Heath had.

Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren’t many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.
One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they’d really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It’s tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there’s plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they’d given him.

Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He’d brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he’d made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I’ve never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn’t take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.

When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.

Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it’s Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can’t help but smile."

When we cherrish the memories that we shared with someone, we create a small place in our hearts for them. They never truely leave us. I can't put into such illustrious words what it was like losing my great grandmother two weeks ago, however, I can say that I know she's still around. The things she taught me about life, the way she laughed, the face she made when she was serious...they will be here forever. You can't easily forget what has helped to shape you into who you are today. Like this message from Chris Nolan, when I look back on all the great times we had together, GG Grandma and I, I can't help but smile.

She made a great impact on the lives of everyone around her. Just this past weekend, while moving things out of her appartment, my grandfather and I were stopped by another elderly lady who asked what we were doing. When we told her that we were moving things out for my great grandmother, she instantly broke out into praises. She talked about all the wonderful stories of the adventures that my GG had in her 94 years on earth. The one I had heard that stuck out the most to me was that my Great Grandparents would hop on freighters and just go wherever they were going. If the boat was taking cargo to Beijing, then they were going to Beijing. They spent years as missionaries, dedicated their lives to the Methodist church, donating countless hours working for their local church up in Lake Arrowhead. When my Great Grandfather passed away a couple of years ago, you could tell that it took some wind out of her sail. But a few months later, there she was, another great smile on her face. She was never at a loss of smiles.

I know now that she is in a better place than this, and rightfully so. She was ready to finish her role here on earth, and she did a great job. While she will be missed by us all more than she probably knew, she will never be fully gone. I've locked these memories up tight, because every now and again I know that I'll need a good smile. I love you GG Grandma.

Luke 1:46-49 - And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name."

Mary Williams may angels take you in with open arms so you may rest forever with the Lord.

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