By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
“Heath was very confident and fun,” Younce says. “He had that booming voice, and his presence was so great on set. But there was this really lovely irreverence.”
They continued at the same pace for Grace Woodroofe’s video for “Quicksand,” by far Ledger’s most accomplished video. Shooting at the Edison in downtown L.A., Ledger created a surreal, curious little psychodrama, filled with vivid reds and greens. Each cut feels perfectly executed and moves along with a carefree confidence.
“I had never seen him so completely focused,” Younce says of encountering Ledger during the editing of that piece. “It was almost like there was a tunnel between him and the monitor. I remember coming in, and he’s like, ‘Hey Bryan,’ but he could barely even look away.”
Thirty miles outside Marfa, a nine-person breakaway group has landed in Fort Davis. While the musicians on the trip are crashing in the old officers’ quarters in Marfa’s Building 98, half of us have set up quarters in a little compound called the Trueheart Neill House, an old Victorian guesthouse that doubles as some sort of museum when it’s not being rented out. The nights are so clear in Fort Davis that you can see every star, the evidence being that the University of Texas has located its McDonald Observatory out here. The days are as bright, and the group, which blossoms further when Shannyn Sossamon and two of her friends arrive (she was screening one of her films), spends lazy mornings lounging in the West Texas solitude. Soon, a few start hatching an idea.
As Sossamon, Doi Todd and Ramos take turns playing an acoustic guitar, everyone starts talking about the screeching backyard windmills scattered throughout Fort Davis. Trevor DiCarlo, a longtime friend of the Masses and Ledger’s best mate since age 5, is recording the session — he's kept his digital camera running almost nonstop since arriving at the Trueheart Neill House.
“The cries of the Marfasaurs,” someone calls out.
Soon Bayer is brainstorming the makings of a horror film. “Okay, you guys. Where are the Marfasaurs from?” he asks. "And why are they here now? What are the Marfasaurs? We know what they sound like, but what else?”
In true Masses fashion, Bayer is suddenly hell-bent on staying a few extra days in Fort Davis with the camera, the actress, the musicians and the directors: His goal is to toss off a little flick.
“We gotta do this, you guys.”
The day Heath Ledger died, Matt Amato was in the woods outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, shooting a video for the band Bon Iver. He’d flown in that morning, and had been out with singer Justin Vernon, near the home of the singer’s parents. The two were in the middle of their first shoot for a song called “Wolves (Act I & II),” when they returned to the house to warm up. Amato checked his phone and found 36 messages on his voice mail. The first was from Brady Corbet, who was at Sundance promoting his role in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The two had spent the day with Ledger a few weeks before in New York. Amato called him back.
“He said, ‘Heath’s dead. He’s dead,’” Amato remembers. "And then he starts going on about Mary-Kate [Olsen] and all that — nobody knew anything yet.”
A friend of Vernon’s was taking a bath in the Eau Claire house, and when she heard the tone in the newcomer’s voice as he spoke to Corbet, she instinctively rushed out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her hair dripping, and put her arms around him as he broke down.
“She didn’t know what, but she knew something terrible had happened,” Amato recalls.
From there, all was chaos. Amato’s cell phone, which on slow days beeps with text-message alerts every few minutes, was ablaze as friends and relatives called to check in. Meanwhile, Vernon and a few of his friends sat around watching some Hollywood director they’d met a mere 45 minutes earlier weep uncontrollably.
“It was a very tense situation,” recalls Vernon, on the phone from Wisconsin. “Here am I, not really knowing what to do for this stranger. When he said that Heath had died, all these things started racing through my head. A: Heath Ledger has died. B: I’m in a kitchen with one of his best friends and business partners, and he’s in the middle of winter in Wisconsin, a million miles from anyone he knows.”
The solution: Vernon broke out a bottle of whiskey and made Amato an ice cream sandwich.
The thought of making a video made Amato sick to his stomach, but he couldn’t even think about driving back to Minneapolis to catch a flight. Plus, he remembered that Ledger had loved Bon Iver. The director decided to stay and film.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city