NPR logo The Last Days of Heath Ledger... Sort of.

The Last Days of Heath Ledger... Sort of.

Who really knows what Heath thought?

Who really knows what Heath thought? Source: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Source: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

So, the other day I read Heath Ledger's personal "diary", the entries he wrote after his death. After his death. Whaaat? Yes, you read that correctly, but here's the catch, of course: It was written by a reporter for Esquire, Lisa Taddeo. Esquire's calling it reported fiction — Taddeo researched Ledger, then wrote a fictional account of his last days — and it's sort of rough. Jack Nicholson and Mary Kate Olsen make cameos, and those parts are entertaining. Their media personas are practically caricatures as it is, so I just found those parts vaguely scintillating. When Taddeo gets into Ledger's relationship with his daughter, Matilda, and ex-girlfriend, Michelle Williams, however, my stomach churned...

I walk to Mulberry. I get the steak and eggs and a coffee for breakfast at the only place in Little Italy that's open early enough for me. I'm catching up on my e-mails. There's one from Michelle, with an attachment. It's Matilda in a little Swedish milkmaid outfit. I sit there for a while trying to think of the right thing to respond.
On Prince there is a beetle-faced Asian woman half my length with a little stand of children's T-shirts. There is a white one, Matilda-sized, that reads, "Somebody in New York Loves Me." I think, This is appropriate, because after all she isn't in New York, she's in Sweden with her mother, and wouldn't it be cool if I FedEx'ed it over? (Ignoble intentions: It wouldn't be for Matilda but for her mother.)

To me, there's something about those relationships that just seems sacred, and (here I go speculating, when speculation is what's got my hackles up now) it seems as though Ledger felt the same way. He never appeared in anything akin to a People spread with Michelle and Matilda a'la Joel Madden, Nicole Richie, and baby Harlow. There's more to it than my own squeamishness, though... As Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism at Washington and Lee University said,

The biggest problem I see is you are sacrificing the biggest strengths from each of the genres. You are losing the veracity of journalism, and you are losing the imaginative license of fiction. You run the risk of ending up with something that is neither true nor interesting.

An astute observation, to be sure. What do you think? Is it in poor taste, or a good idea published too soon, or just an inevitable blurring of the line between fiction and reality that happens all the time on television?



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I really dont like it.

Sent by katie | 3:59 PM | 3-11-2008

I like the thought of fictional reporting. Like the dude said about putting your charactor in a place like NOLA during Katrina, but when you take someones life and speculate and exargerate, that might cross the line a little.

Having said that, "Nonfictional" reporting also crosses that line way too often, by implying things and taking things out of context.

Sent by travis | 5:04 PM | 3-11-2008

i'd like to go to the vatican at the time of marco polo. apparently the zenghis khan asked the pope to send him 250 wise men, so that he could learn about, and convert to chritianity. there was no pope then, so the khan never converted to christianity; his descendants later became muslims when he conquered what is today's middle east. think about it, if he had become christian, conquered the middle east, islam might not exist!

Sent by PR Ganapathy | 7:30 PM | 3-11-2008

Just from the little snippet that you read, this
sounds pretty disgusting. It's like a painter using a
corpse as his canvas. Equally repugnant is the obvious
publicity ploy involved in this. Esquire is not being innovative in their journalistic approach. Rather, they are simply attempting to cash in on the current "reality show culture." But even the worst reality show doesn't exploit death in this way.


Sent by Tom | 8:26 PM | 3-11-2008

After listening to Mr. Granger's rather smug defense of the fictionalized "last hours" of Heath Ledger, I was truly appalled in a way I haven't been in quite a while. It's one thing to support fiction, a nobel goal, and another to shamelessly use the tragic death of a young actor/father to promote your magazine's readership. Mr. Granger admitted he hadn't thought of the effect of this fiction on Mr. Ledger's family, but for someone who apparently was so private in life, it smacks strongly of vampirism. If Mr. Granger feels fiction is being overlooked or ignored, how about publishing a piece of fiction that isn't a rip-off of a recent family's tragedy.

Sent by JKB | 10:56 AM | 3-12-2008

Looks like Lisa Taddeo is ready to write her memoir. She seems to have the genre nailed.

Sent by keri | 3:18 PM | 3-13-2008

I have no interest in "unauthorized" biographys either..I remember reading one on Georgia O'Keefe that talked about feelings she had for certain colors while she sat on a quilt in infancy. I stopped reading there. I have no interest in reading this "diary" even though I was a fan of Heath Ledger and think his last days were very mysterious.

Sent by cynthia | 6:32 PM | 3-22-2008

Both poorly written and written in poor taste, Ms. Taddeo's piece is simply a sad example of fanfiction pimped out to a sick degree. Esquire should be embarrassed.

Sent by Lisa | 12:13 PM | 3-26-2008

I'm not sure if i like it. Its good how it informs you about his last days, but the way how it has the F word in it non stop isn't in my opinion correct.

Even people who were in his position, sleepless and depressed with his traumatic life, wouldn't keep saying (or thinking) the F word every second.

Sent by Jack | 5:15 PM | 4-13-2008

Taddeo made a very bold decision to write the piece in the first person. Esquire made an even bolder decision by publishing it. I don't think the article will go down in history. Rather, it will be forgotten in about as much time as it took Taddeo to research it (4 days).
Personally, Ledger's role in Brokeback made my question my sexuality, and for that I will never forget him.

Sent by Robert | 3:50 PM | 4-17-2008