The Patriot director Roland Emmerich has revealed details about Heath Ledger’s smoking habit while shooting the film. Released in 2000, The Patriot‘s star-studded cast included actors like Mel Gibson, Jason Isaacs, Heath Ledger, and Adam Baldwin. It is further distinguished by being one of the few large-budget films about the American Revolution. The blockbuster hit was nominated for several Academy Awards and also contributed to elevating Ledger’s career.
Ledger plays Gabriel, the son of Gibson’s character, who is dedicated to achieving independence from Great Britain. A majority of Ledger’s scenes feature him acting opposite Gibson due to the fact that their characters are not only related, but also serving as soldiers in the same unit. However, while the fight against the Redcoats was waging on camera, Ledger was fighting a personal battle offscreen.
Even at a young age, the actor struggled with anxiety issues. Unfortunately, Ledger began to smoke on set to help cope. It became such an issue that a producer had to talk to him about it. Although he was told that he needed to stop, Ledger refused to comply. Emmerich, the film’s director, recently talked about the incident in an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment. While Emmerich didn’t explicitly state it, he implied that Ledger was smoking weed. Emmerich recalled:
“He was so young…He was just still a kid and he brought one or two of his friends to the set. And they were smoking a lot of stuff. So, at one point, Dean Devlin, my producer, had to [intervene], and it didn’t work. So, we had Mel talk to him about it and that worked…[Heath] was super nervous about starring opposite Mel Gibson, which [was] his all-time favorite actor…That was just incredibly nerve-wracking. He wanted to calm his nerves.”
The up-and-coming actor was only 20 years old while working on The Patriot. Emmerich made the decision to hire Ledger, however, Gibson had advocated for another finalist to take the role. This fact and that Gibson was his favorite actor may have only amplified his worries. Luckily, the Braveheart actor quickly came to terms that Ledger was the right man for the job and was even entrusted to help curb the young star’s on-set habits. That was apparently enough to stop Ledger’s smoking on the movie’s set.
Sadly, Ledger’s life was cut short only eight years later when he passed away due to an accidental prescription drug overdose shortly after shooting The Dark Knight. Several anti-anxiety medicines were found mixed in his system when he died. Though Emmerich says Gibson managed to help Ledger on the set of The Patriot, mental health issues are often life-long struggles. The career that seemingly caused Ledger so much pain is now considered some of cinema’s greatest acting.
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Source: Yahoo! Entertainment
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