Two years ago, when Heath Ledger and his girlfriend Michelle Williams traveled with their new baby an hour and half north of L.A. to accept the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Breakthrough Performance of the Year Award, it was just another stop in what had been a seemingly endless award season for the young actor.
(Click here to hear Ledger’s speech.)
Coming off of what would be his career zenith with Brokeback Mountain, he was clearly uncomfortable, and more than a little blindsided, with all the attention. “I am hoping it all sinks in later once it is all over,” he told the audience that night, referring to daughter Matilda. “Fortunately, we have the most beautiful distraction at home. When we are home, it all melts away. But we are so exhausted from it too.”
After spending an hour and a half looking back on his still nascent career, Ledger accepted his award with humility, gratitude and a seldom heard eloquence that made everyone in the audience excited about the possibility of what he might say a month later on Oscar night, should he have been lucky enough to win. He never got a chance to make that speech, but if that night in Santa Barbara was any evidence, it would have had the same elegance and honest emotion that he showed in his best performances.