Heath Ledger was a complicated actor who quit using marijuana and alcohol and came close to giving up the sleeping pills that may have killed him, friends and colleagues tell Vanity Fair in a profile. Though he was leery of summer blockbusters—“He was afraid it would define him and limit his choices,” says his agent—he found some compelling reasons to appear in The Dark Knight.
His pay-or-play deal ensured he would be compensated regardless, and the long shoot enabled him to turn down other films. One cinematographer says Ledger wanted to play the Joker as such a wild character that the performance would get him fired—but still paid. “He was ready to bust out of the gate, but he didn’t want to step on the gas and become something that he didn’t want to become: a matinee idol,” says his agent.