Actor Heath Ledger.
Actor Heath Ledger. EPA/DANNY MOLOSHOK

Sister adamant Heath Ledger had no demons

KATE Ledger says critics who have accused the new Heath Ledger documentary of "whitewashing” obviously didn't know her brother.

Reviewing the film for Variety, Owen Gleiberman said the Oscar-winning actor's "demons remain behind a closed door”.

But, according to Heath's sister Kate, those demons simply didn't exist.

The Perth-based publicist says she is genuinely shocked by references to her brother's dark side.

"He was a really happy person and he had huge plans for his future,” she said ahead of the release of I Am Heath Ledger next week.

"I spoke to him the night before (he died) and we were laughing and joking.

"He was so proud of what he had done in Batman. And I know he had plans for another Batman. He loved working with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale and Gary Oldman. He just had the best time ever doing that film.

"When he came home at Christmas he couldn't wait to tell us all about it and he was doing the voice and laughing, showing me all the rushes.

"We had a great time.”

Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose just a few weeks later on January 22, 2008.

A number of filmmakers have approached the family in the intervening years about the possibility of making a documentary about Ledger's short but incredibly prolific career.

They turned them all down. They even turned down the directors of I Am Heath on their first approach.

"Now it's done and we are really happy.”

Ledger's family will attend the Australian premiere of I Am Heath Ledger at Perth's Luna Cinemas on Tuesday (May 9) ahead of a short theatrical release from Thursday (May 11).

"It's been incredibly emotional for all of us but actually something that we are extremely proud of and something that I think has been necessary,” says Kate Ledger.

"We feel that it's kind of given Heath a voice, and our family, and can really talk about the truth of who he was.”

Much of the film is made up of footage shot by Ledger, a keen photographer/cinematographer who began documenting his journey from an early age.

It portrays the young actor as a creatively driven and extraordinarily generous free spirit whose LA home became a crash pad for visiting Australians and other assorted actors in between jobs.

Former partner Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn share their recollections from that time.

Making the documentary, says Kate Ledger, was a bitter-sweet experience.

"We couldn't and wouldn't have done it any earlier, that's for sure.

"It was painful, of course. But I think our whole family has come to realise that he is never really going to go away.

"He is always there when you switch on the TV or when you hear someone talk, so I think it's been a really lovely way to embrace his life and to reflect on how wonderful he was and what an amazing time we had with him.”

When she gave the documentary project her blessing, Heath Ledger's former partner, Michelle Williams, said that the couple's 11-year-old daughter Matilda had reached an age where she had begun ask questions about her father.

But the extended family has closed ranks around the mother and daughter in a bid to shield them from further media scrutiny.

"Look, that's something that you can ask Matilda when she is older but I am certainly not going to go down the path of answering those questions, you know why? ... because I love Michelle and Matilda and I am so incredibly protective of their privacy and I know it's something that Heath would want, too,” says Kate Ledger.

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