Cate Blanchett Pays Tribute to Heath Ledger

The Australian actress says he was "on his way to being a master"

Though she didn’t get a chance to know Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett acknowledged the late actor’s thriving career while accepting the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“I’d like to pay special tribute to Heath Ledger who I think was an extraordinary actor and was well on his way to being a master himself” she said as the audience erupted in applause. “We will all miss you enormously.”

Both Blanchett and Ledger starred in I’m Not There, a film depicting different characters of musician Bob Dylan, and although the two never shot scenes together she recollects a cheerful Ledger during production.

“I didn’t have the great fortune of working with him but the last image I have, just this strong image, would be him dancing the first day he arrived on set,” she told PEOPLE at the award ceremony. “[He] was just so joyful and I just admire the way he kept evolving as an actor. I think it’s a tragic, tragic loss and everyone is reeling.”

Director Todd Haynes, who befriended and worked closely with Ledger on I’m Not There, also remembered the actor, adding that the past few days have been difficult.

“[Heath] was so special and so extraordinary and a really deep, amazing guy,” Haynes said. “It’s hard putting this in the past tense. I know everyone, even those who never knew or met him, is finding this really, really hard.”

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