Heath Ledger is an actor, a Hollywood heartthrob and an Australian. He’s also a smart-ass. Don’t fall prey to TV propaganda. He may be Australian but he does not drink Fosters.
“I’ve never had a Fosters in my life,” Ledger said in a recent Hatchet interview. “You can’t even find a Fosters anywhere in Australia, Victoria Bitters is Australian for beer, not Fosters.”
OK, so we know he’s touchy about his beer. That’s fine, I’m a professional and well researched to boot. Why not ask a little about his hometown?
“Where you grew up it’s a rumored tradition to build homemade cannons and fire them off every second Sunday of the month,” I said. “Can you tell me how I would go about building a cannon?”
A bit taken aback, Ledger returned with only confused stutters.
“Yeah, umm, listen, that’s actually one of my favorite hobbies is getting together with all my friends to build cannons and fire them off. It’s something that I take great pleasure in doing really, but I umm, don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before,” he choked out. “Where did you get that from anyway?”
“Just something I picked up, so tell me, is it true?”
“Well, I guess some people down there do it, but I, umm . ”
“But have you ever built a cannon?”
“I, uh, don’t know.”
Given the sarcasm in Ledger’s voice, I knew to let it be. Granted, my imagination was running wild with the thought of this teen idol running around Australia blasting off homemade cannons, but a smart interviewer cuts his losses and hopes that he can get away without offending. How about a look at Ledger’s new movie?
Ledger’s latest film, Four Feathers, follows a British Soldier (Ledger) who initially refuses to go to war in the Sudan because of personal beliefs. Labeled a coward by his friends, Ledger’s character ventures into the Sudan to save his friends from inevitable death.
“There was only one thing that lived out there, this little desert blossom that I couldn’t see very well,” Ledger said about the environment while filming in the Sudan. “So I kept tripping my ass off all over these things throughout the shoot.”
Ledger had a look at the scenery and also got a taste of the local culture by playing guest drummer to a Sudanese tribe.
“We all bought bongos and beat the hell out of them while getting drunk off of red wine,” Ledger said. “In the end we’d all just be smashing into things.”
Discouraged from making it big as a Sudanese drummer, Ledger shed light on his current acting career.
“I don’t really think about my career that much.” Ledger said “I mean as soon as this is over all I’m going to do is watch TV, cook, clean, that sort of thing. I’ve never been calculated about that sort of stuff.”
In regards to pressure about the Four Feathers actually doing well, Ledger was also quite straightforward.
“I don’t care,” Ledger commented “It’s not my money that’s on the line, I’ve been paid so my job’s done. I just don’t think that I should have to take that sort of thing on my back.”
With Ledger’s previous acting role alongside Mel Gibson in The Patriot, he said believed that he and Gibson, both Australians, had a common appreciation that not too many other people know about.
“We get along great, you know, we meet every Sunday and build cannons together,” Ledger said.
At that point, it was very clear that he had turned the cannon question around on me, his sarcasm is deepened. He was not going to let me off the hook.
As a last ditch effort, I asked a final question, a sort of failsafe that has proven innocuous in even the most chaotic of interviews. The question: What would you be if not an actor? His answer:
A cannon maker.
This article appeared in the September 19, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.