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THAT was off the major theatre chain

The first time I saw Heath Ledger,camping mats Manufacturers it was by accident. My date and later to-be husband, Nick, took me to see The Sixth Sense, finally succumbing to peer pressure to guess ‘the big surprise ending’. By now, The Sixth Sense was off the major theatre chain circuit and only screening in small suburban independent theatres, which led us to experience one of those now rare events: a double-feature matinee. The first movie was 10 Things I Hate About You.Well passed ‘teen’ movies, even those with Shakespearian-based scripts, we shyly admitted to liking 10 Things. Wow, I really like the male lead, what was his name? “He’s Australian, you know”, replied Nick. And in typical Aussie-fashion, I was doubly impressed and now stupidly filled with national pride.

Another brilliant Australian up-and-comer to join the rapidly increasing queue to grace Hollywood screens. Years later, I would often grab the DVD to fill a cheerless afternoon and find myself watching and rewinding the same scene. Over and over and over again. My secret guilty pleasure. Heath sliding down the pole, microphone in hand, singing “You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you …” The brass band kicks in. And that charmingly defiant half-run, half-prancing across the school steps. The scene is brilliant. It’s inexplicable. He simply has that old-fashioned ‘it’ factor. I’m not a star-struck fan and was never one of those teenagers with movie-star idol posters plastered all over my bedroom walls, but this kid’s got talent.And then came those scene-stealing roles that totally blew us away. The Patriot. Monster’s Ball. And finally leading-man status and an Academy Award nomination. By now, we were just used to having another famous Australian up there with the rest of the world’s great talent churning out an endless array of diverse, yet illustrious film roles.We had no idea. It was not endless. It was not what we expected. It ended on 22 January 2008.When people who I’ve never met but greatly admire die, I’m sad. But I’ve never cried before. I have never before felt that heart wrenching overwhelming shock that lasted for days after I heard the news. This time it was somehow more personal. As soon as I read the detailed list of the first report of his deathbed scene, I intuitively knew how he died.Ten days later the final medical examiner’s report confirmed my suspicions.

Hollywood is ‘Xanax-city’. Feeling down, pop a Xanax. Feeling stressed, pop a Xanax. Need to perform at your very best, pop a Xanax. A-list stars feel the pressure to provide A-grade performances when working on multi-million dollar films. There’s too much money at stake. The intense stress, both internal and external, is immeasurable. The studios are risking billions, paying the stars millions, and the actors are unnaturally subjected to more pressure than we mere mortals can imagine.Heath Ledger, himself, admitted that after the worldwide release of A Knight’s Tale with its instant paparazzi-bulb-flashing stardom, his stress levels increased ten-fold.Xanax is the trade name of the generic anti-anxiety/tranquilliser prescription drug, alprazolam, listed in Ledger’s toxicity report.