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Hard 'Candy' for Heath Ledger

By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun



Heath Ledger in a a scene form the Aussie drama Candy. Ledger plays a heroin addict in the film that depicts his gradual descent into a drug user's hell.

TORONTO - It turns out heroin and sex have one thing in common, at least in the world of movie censors -- penetration is a no-no.

"I did one scene they didn't end up using," says Heath Ledger of the junkie-romance Candy, which debuts tonight at the Toronto filmfest. "It was near the end of the movie when I inject again (after being clean). There was a shot that we had, a tight shot of my arm, and I slipped the needle in and pulled back until you saw the blood, and then they went off it onto my face.

"I actually injected. It had water colour and sugar in it to make it look watery brown. And then we found out that was the difference between a (Mature) rating and an R. The penetration. When it looked like it was going in and it didn't really go in, that was okay."

Based on a best-selling novel by Australian Luke Davies (who also scripted), Candy is the story of a junkie poet (Ledger) and his artist girlfriend Candy (Abbie Cornish) and their descent in acts called "Heaven," "Earth" and "Hell."

Ledger was at TIFF last year with another tragic romance you might have heard of called Brokeback Mountain. You'd normally follow something like that with a comedy, and Ledger did with the movie Casanova.

"That's why I had the energy to be dark again, because I'd been in bloody Venice drinking too much wine and eating."

By way of research, he says "Abbie and I went to this narcotics users association in Australia, and we met a guy who'd been addicted to heroin for, like, 20 years. And he took us through the steps of how to shoot up. He took a prosthetic arm with veins and blood bags and showed us how to find the vein and the angle to slip the needle in.

"I've smoked pot before, and I know what it feels like to be high. But I've never been addicted to anything other than cigarettes, although that's quite a f---in' addiction. Also the subject of heroin ... there's so many television documentaries and shows and movies and books, you kind of feel you know how they do it, even if you've never been anywhere near it."

Candy is actually the first Australian movie Ledger has been in for eight years -- quite a long time to bury his Aussie accent. "And I'm constantly looking for material in Australia just for that reason. It's so liberating to perform without an accent. But all the good writers and filmmakers in Australia get swept up and go to Hollywood. So we're kind of left with the very fresh and up-and-coming filmmakers." (Candy director Neil Armfield is a veteran theatre director new to feature films).

Candy marked a hiatus of another sort as well. It was the last movie Ledger would do for 18 months -- a paternity leave he breaks next Tuesday when he starts filming Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan-inspired surrealist movie I'm Not There with Michelle Williams, his fiancee and mother of their 11-month-old daughter Matilda. In fact, he found out she was pregnant while filming Candy.

I'm Not There (for which Dylan has agreed to provide music), has been called a biopic. "But no one's playing Bob Dylan. Even the title, I'm Not There ... well, he's not there. There are sort of Dylan -inspired characters, but Cate Blanchett looks the most like Bob Dylan. In fact, she looks exactly like Bob Dylan. It's very surrealistic and incredibly ambitious. I'm more curious about this than anything else I've been a part of."

Come January, he starts playing the Joker, in Christopher Nolan's next Batman film The Dark Knight. "It's definitely going to stump people. I think it'll be more along the lines of how the Joker was meant to be in the comics, darker and more sinister."

As for the maternity/paternity leave "we've just been living in Brooklyn and really committing our time to Matilda. We've just been letting it kind of consume us. We wanted to distance ourselves, and we couldn't think of anything better to do than wake up to play with our child.

"That's the biggest gift this industry has given us, is the ability to do that."



This story was posted on Fri, September 8, 2006