Heath Ledger Is Not There

Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell will step in and finish playing Heath Ledger’s role in the new Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

I’m intrigued. The recent Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There, played with the same technique, but on purpose. The fact that Heath Ledger died is forcing Gilliam to rethink his entire movie. But why not replace him entirely for the sake of continuity? Or find a look-alike?

Ticket sales. Obviously dead Heath Ledger is going to sell more tickets than an alive replacement. And public goodwill will be for watching the last days of Ledger, even if he is pretending to be someone else. Gilliam can’t replace him. People want to see that footage and it’s worth more in a box office than it is on the internet.

Of course the irony of Ledger appearing in Todd Hayne’s Dylan biopic is not lost. Ledger as representation of Dylan. Depp filling in as Ledger’s representation on another project: the one’s who is actually not there is Ledger. Dylan and Depp are both still around. The ease with which Gilliam is adjusting his game plan does bother me a little. The impact of the Dylan biopic was in the deliberateness of the casting. Casting became art. In just conducting a swap-out, is Gilliam undermining the artistry of Hayne’s? Or he is revealing that art can be born of necessity?

There’s something both fascinating and unsettling about the possibilities that Gilliam faced. A CGI Ledger, a body double with photoshopped head, Celebrity look alike, or elimination of the actor or the film itself. Maybe a little borrowing seemed to behoove the production.