Heath Ledger's Final Days Among the Masses 

L.A. Art Collective Struggles to Go On After Actor's Death

Wednesday, Jul 9 2008

Page 3 of 11

Furnished with a mishmash of mostly European modern furniture — bought with money Zane earned from her roles on L.A. Law, ER and other projects — and Campbell’s paintings, not to mention the wall painted with a beautiful diamond pattern by a dominatrix who doubled as a muralist, the place they called Orange Avenue Studios was the kind of Hollywood setting you’d picture Katharine Hepburn or Grace Kelly gliding through. Close your eyes and conjure Bertolt Brecht poking at the upright piano pushed against the northern wall, or William Faulkner passed out on the daybed-sized blue-velvet sofa trying to sleep off last night’s party. Now shift forward a few decades, and imagine Heath Ledger inhabiting this space with Zane, Campbell and especially Amato, the classic Hollywood bon vivant and intellectual whose spirit overflows with a magical blend of profound generosity and grand, glorious self-absorption, a fountain of ideas and opinions that pours from morning to night. His primary goal in life, it seems, is to champion the work of the people with whom he surrounds himself — in addition, of course, to getting his first feature film financed.

And so, when Ledger entered Amato’s galaxy, things started to happen. After hearing that his friend and screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith had sold a script she’d co-written and was starting to cast it, Amato immediately thought of Ledger. “There was a part for a kid from Oklahoma,” Amato recalls, “and I called Kiwi and said, ‘You know this character from Oklahoma? Could he be from Australia?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, he only needs to be from out of town, really.’ She was like, ‘If he’s a nice guy, give him the script.’”

Ledger got the part, the leading role in 10 Things I Hate About You, and quickly signed with CAA’s Steve Alexander and bought a new car (only to crash it soon thereafter).

click to flip through (13) TREVOR DICARLO - Marfa bound: Alex Ebert and the Masses on the road.
  • Trevor DiCarlo
  • Marfa bound: Alex Ebert and the Masses on the road.

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“And then,” Amato laughs, “he came back and sat on the couch for two more years. He didn’t want to do any of the TV shows. They wanted him for Smallville. That’s when I was working on TheX Files, and he would come visit me in between his auditions. He was just about to leave town, when the idea to play Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot came up. He got the part, and then the drums started rolling. The Vanity Fair cover, the billboards. That was a strange time. His image was plastered all over Hollywood. And there he was on our couch.”

“I started to feel like a bottle of Coke,” Ledger told Rolling Stone in 2006. “And there was a whole marketing scheme to turn me into a very popular bottle. And, you know, Coke tastes like shit. But there’s posters everywhere so people will buy it. So I felt like I tasted like shit, and I was being bought for no reason.” After suffering a panic attack during a meeting, Ledger resolved to be more proactive with his future. “I was like, ‘Well, now, how am I gonna make this a career I would like to have?’”

Though he was traveling, making connections all over the world, and had moved on to his own place in Los Feliz Hills, he still found time to hang on South Orange.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Out of the Masses: Matt Amato's "Lovers in Captivity" video for Ima Robot; below, Bon Iver's "Wolves (Act I & II)"

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